Category: Literature


The author of the novel The Mother (La Madre) Grazia Deledda is known as the first Italian woman who has received Nobel Prize in Literature. Though she has written many poems and novels, her novel The Mother is regarded by many critics as one of her deepest and best works among the others (Hallengren). The story tells about the strength of mother’s love and human’s doubts and their possible outcomes. The Mother is a special book not only because of the plot of the story but also because of the settings. The scene is late in a distant Sardinian hill village where the population is quite superstitious and half-civilized. The setting is left unchanged through the story, since the author concentrates on the inner world of his characters. The main idea of Deledda is to analyze the psychological aspect of the events, the reactions and attitude of the heroes to the events which happen in their lives. It is important to mention that the novel describes the story which happens quite rapidly, within two days, but it is the inner thoughts and dialogues with phantoms that make a reader trace the plot and understand the drama of the conflict between the human love and love to God. In the preface to the novel, some critics and also the translator Mary G. Steegmann mentioned that the story is “almost Greek in it is simple and inevitable tragedy” (Deledda). Nevertheless, it is highlighted that every opinion and thought has the right to exist, since the feelings have much to deal not only with the human’s ideology and beliefs, but also with the person’s environment. For instance, the main reason of the depicted tragedy is people’s ignorance and their primitive nature, which leads them to creating the laws which they cannot understand deeply. Consequently, many thoughts and deeds and actions of Paul, his mother, and Agnes are influenced by some other events, which may be called side stories. The stories, which are regarded as such and will be discussed further, are as follows: exorcising the devil from Nina Masia, King Nicodemus’ retreat to the mountains out of misanthropy, and description of Antiochus desire to become a priest.


Speaking about the above mentioned stories, it is important to pay attention to the fact that they all take place the next day after Paul asked his mother to bring the letter with his explanations to his beloved and after his decision to stop seeing Agnes. As a result, all these three side stories are connected with Paul’s doubts and confirm the duality of his mental and psychological state.

Although Paul has given a promise to his mother and wants to make himself believe that his feelings toward Agnes are the devil’s seduction, the scene of the devil’s exorcising from Nina Masia shows his doubts and the loss of faith. He does not believe the superstition of Nina Masia’s mother that the girl is obsessed with a devil; he is “reading the Gospel without belief” (Deledda). Paul cannot send away the thoughts of his secret desires and it even seems to him that all people around are watching not the girl, but his “utter wretchedness” (Deledda). Probably, the faith of the priest is disturbed by his doubts which are caused by his forbidden love and disappointment. However, it is essential that in the end of the story, the reader understands that Paul is very likely to be right about the girl and her mother, when not believing that there are devils inside the girl. It is proven by the fact that the mother places her daughter near the holy-water stout “on purpose that she might attract attention”, the same when she is deliberately crying and gathering people when exorcising the devils (Deledda).

Therefore, the miracle of Nina Masia is fake and the girl becomes “a primitive idol set up to be worshipped by those simple and credulous country folk” which “all wanted to touch” (Deledda). This acknowledges again how primitive people of the village are, and how easy it is to impose any beliefs upon them. Among many people around the priest, who sincerely and strongly believe in a miracle, a reader can find Antiochus. This character is in the center of another side story. Antiochus is much younger than Paul and has a strong belief and desire to become a priest. The boy wants “to serve the Lord” (Deledda). In contrast to Paul, whose trade was chosen by his mother, Antiochus’ parents let him “choose for himself” (Deledda). Regardless of the attempts of Paul to show the boy how many human pleasures he can loose if becoming a priest, the “youthful sacristan” is confident about his choice (Deledda). An important fact is that it is Paul who taught him “to be good, wise, and prudent”, to believe in God as he did, and, finally, Antiochus’ faith seems to be stronger than his teacher’s one (Deledda). The boy reflects quite wisely about all the limitations about which Paul and his mother earlier told him; he is well informed about the priests, who “held a meeting and decided against marriage” (Deledda). He states that he will not “want a wife, since God has forbidden it” (Deledda). Moreover, a boy understands quite well that he should have a merry childhood and says that he has much amusement: he plays with boys, he climbs the rocks, he rides, but his desire to become a priest is the only one which makes his eyes “glorious with the light of faith” (Deledda). It is Paul, who managed to teach Antiochus to be such person, and the boy resembles him. When Paul asks if he is sure whether he will not regret about his choice, the boy answeres: “Have you repented? No, and neither shall I repent.” (Deledda). At this point, the main thing is that Paul does not repent, but the boy trusts so sincerely in his vocation that his teacher seems to be saint to him. Due to such sincere confidence of Antiochus in God’s laws and in the priest’s, the doubts of the main hero are soothed a little, and he makes a decision to follow the divine love instead of the human one. Probably, the pure and strong faith of Antiochus becomes for Paul a conclusive inspiration to make a decision to help people, to refuse from human pleasures, and come to Agnes to treat her as a sister who is ill, refusing to leave the village in order to stay with her.

Another side story of the novel tells about a recluse Nicodemus, who is a hunter and lives high in the mountains apart from people. The dwellers of the village mostly judge negatively about his decision. Some believe that he lives “not how God orders us to live”, and some blame him for his cruel animals handling (Deledda). One more reason for people’s negative attitude is that he saves money which he does not need, instead of giving it to the poor. Nevertheless, despite his choice to leave people, he asks to bring a priest to him for a confession. This deed shows that though Nicodemus lives the life which is not appreciated by the church and people, it doesn’t mean that he does not believe in God. Any person needs faith in something. Another contradiction is in the attitude of people towards this man: some advise Paul to visit him, while some tell that he should not do it. Even Paul’s mother has some doubts about the necessity to go to King Nicodemus. Finally, Paul makes a decision to visit a man. On the way to the hut the priest observes the great landscape of the mountains and feels as if “the whole world belonged to him” (Deledda). The nice feeling, which one can feel in the mountains, is a pleasant human feeling of the freedom, but it is regarded as another pleasure, which is forbidden by the church or by God. It is possible to draw a parallel between the human love, which was forbidden to the priest, and lonely dwelling in mountains, which was not allowed by God to the old hunter. Both were considered as wrong. Another wave of doubts rushes at Paul with reflections about death.


Having analyzed the side stories, it is possible to state that all three of them are united by one main characteristic – Paul’s doubts, which were present in each of the events and either grew or soothed. All the time after he has made a decision to leave his beloved Agnes he tries to make sure that his decision is right, but the situation with Nina Masia’s miracle and his visit of the old recluse hunter make his doubts even stronger. All the time the young priest is thinking about Agnes, about God, if his decision is wrong or right, if Agnes will forget him or wait for him. Finally, only his promise to his mother and Antiochus’ faith in him and in God has brought Paul to a decision that the love towards God is higher than the human one.

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