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The Leopard, Guiseppe Tomasi (document anglais)

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The Leopard was published in 1958 and is the only work from Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, duke of Palma and Prince of Lampedusa, descendant of one of the greatest noble families in Palermo. Through this novel, the author portrayed a lucid and disillusioned look about an episode that truly marked the nineteenth century in Italy; most particularly, in Sicily: the invasion of the island by Garibaldi’s Red Shirts in order to free the land from the Bourbon Monarchy. Therefore, the change of Regime will cause the decline of the Italian aristocracy and the rise to power of the bourgeoisie. It is the same in the novel where the collapse of the aristocracy, represented by the Salina family, will see the bourgeoisie, represented by the Sedara family, triumph. This distressed hierarchy throws an impression of mournful nostalgia due to the theme of decline, lucidly observed and experienced by the hero, the Prince of Salina. Also, reading this novel involves the attention to a fundamental point, which is the class relations and the “traumatic transition to modernity across several dimensions” such as “ideological, political, social, cultural, religious” and “economic”. It is important to ask ourselves who these characters are and discuss the role they play in the story. How do they change throughout the novel? On one hand, the aristocratic cast is represented by the Salina family, more precisely by Don Fabrizio who is the main character of the novel; and on the other hand, the bourgeoisie is embodied by Angelica and her family.

Then, the hierarchy is largely disturbed at the end of the novel by the social decline: the image of the Sicilian aristocracy, which was great and important was now just a “souvenir” of the past and the bourgeoisie has become more significant and more triumphant than ever.

“It’s a beautiful family!” thought Don Fabrizio talking about his family. Don Fabrizio, father of seven children, appears as the representative of the Sicilian aristocracy in this novel. Indeed, this “immense and sturdy” man is always present and plays an ideological and symbolic role at the same time. He is considered to be the prototype of a noble: imposing stature, authoritarian and knows how to play with his charm. Moreover, the author places the hero in a sort of game where Don Fabrizio follows the rules and does not cheat. Undeniably, better be lucid with the events that are taking place when someone is part of such an important social category. Rightly, Don Fabrizio is different from other nobles because of his lucidity and ease: he hesitates to despise his brother in law, Malvica. On the other hand, he is conscious of embodying the heritage of the family and his entourage does not hesitate to refer him as “The Leopard”, which compares him to this powerful, majestic and dominant animal. The author does not vacillate to state: “The Leopard, of course, the Leopard, but limits should exist also for this dirty beast full of beauty” and that “the greatest Gods (…) willingly supported The Leopard shield”. Thus, Don Fabrizio is the true master of his class and claimed himself as a member of the old ruling class: the aristocracy. If the Prince seems to be the living symbol of this powerful social class, his family as well has its importance in this class. Indeed, if we take the example of the Prince’s nephew, Tancredi, who is considered to be the hero’s “twin” but younger (note nonetheless that Tancredi is a noble, but ruined). Like his uncle, Tancredi is smart, attractive and flatters Angelica using his charm; the aristocrat should be naturally attractive. In addition, the Salina family is perceived at all time in the shadow of Don Fabrizio, the hierarchy in the couple is very distinct: on the romantic aspect, the Prince always comes in first, systematically followed by the Princess in second, which makes the dominance of “The Leopard” throughout the novel. Therefore, the Salina family is representative of the social condition of the noble class, which has always been emphasized. We cant take the example of their arrival at Donnafugata, which triggered a real euphoria: the municipal musical band played their songs, the bells were ringing, flowers were brought to the Princess when she got out of the carriage and the crowd was silent impressed by their status and magnitude. However, the success and triumph of the Salina family will not last long as the family becomes the principal target for criticisms coming from another raising class: the bourgeoisie “d’affaire”.

The Sedara family on the other hand is an authentic clan that is constituted of people that is always seeking for their own interests. Indeed, this bourgeoisie “d’affaire” is not looking for the good of the people, but simply wants to have more power on the political and economical aspect and take the place of the aristocracy. Angelica, daughter of Don Calogero, is somehow regarded as the representative of the Sedara family and fills her role brilliantly. After falling in love with Tancredi and after marrying him, she can therefore take full benefit of the aristocracy’s advantages’. Her beauty, attractiveness, wealth and her husband’s nobility are sufficient assets so that she can feel at ease among people who had no idea about her mother’s savagery and her father’s avarice. Unfortunately, the victory of cynical interest and money will take over. In addition, we see and find as the story goes on that the bourgeoisie is not on the same footing as the aristocracy and the members of the bourgeoisie class do not feel as highly ranked as the aristocrats. The example that supports this argument is the fact that as a lector, we can see a recurrent piece of cloth, the frock coat, always worn by Don Calogero. He, therefore, becomes a real character of comedy because of his coat; which for Don Fabrizio’s point of view is a “disaster” as he can never be taken seriously. This garment symbolizes the will of Don Calogero to reach the aristocratic world even though he will never have the poise and elegance to reach it. What the author is trying to prove here is the fact that the appearance cannot disguise the natural. As a result, the characters belonging to the bourgeoisie “d’affaire” are not valued. Angelica is presented in an ambiguous way, as a character pretty unsympathetic. Her masterly arrival on scene is immediately tempered by the narrator, who describes how people were in shock in front of her beauty, and that men were unable to analyze and see her vices, and she has some. Narration also highlights the greed and ambition of Angelica, who seems to know very well what she wants and how to use her beauty in order to manipulate people. Therefore, the bourgeoisie is far from equaling the prestigious world of the aristocracy but has, nevertheless, its share of importance in the novel.

While the aristocracy


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