Day 5The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
February 25, 2023 by Michael F. Moore
Page 56. Poverty and oppression in a single image. Keep this in mind when we reach the banquet at the palace of Don Rodrigo.
A scrawny girl… stooped down quickly to steal some herbs to feed her family, having learned from hunger that men, too, can subsist on grass.
Manzoni introduces us to Padre Cristoforo, the champion of the poor, by giving us his back story. I’m fascinated by this interweaving of history—which in Italian is “Storia” with a capital “s”—the story of the young couple (lowercase “s”), and the past histories (capital and lowercase “s”) of individual characters.
Page 57. In this spirit, I wonder at the use of “bourgeois” to dismiss a class of people who earned their wealth through work. Again and again we see Manzoni, himself a noble by birth (though he refused to use his title), attacking the institution of aristocracy and its pretensions and abuses.
In his newfound leisure, the former merchant’s body was slowly penetrated by shame over all the time he had spent making a living in the world. Obsessed by this thought, he studied every possible way to make people forget that he had once had to work for a living.
Page 68. The bread of forgiveness. The one little crust will accompany Padre Cristoforo until almost the end of his life (and the end of the novel).