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Is "Sicilian truth” an oxymoron?

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  1. Lampedusa's irony on the narrative level.
  2. Partial insight into Tancredi's consciousness.
  3. Truth and interpretation.
  4. Conclusion.

Tomasi di Lampedusa's Il Gattopardo is by no means the kind of text that invites the reader to take it lightly and straightforwardly. The subtle irony running through the piece constantly implores the reader to interpret and re-interpret various scenes and the characters within them?in fact, in a letter to his friend Enrico Merlo dated May 30, 1957, Lampedusa writes of Il Gattopardo that ?ogni parola è stata pesata e molte cose non sono dette chiaramente ma solo accennate.? More specifically, I plan to argue that Lampedusa employs irony on the narrative level through the ordering of scenes, and that he furthermore facilitates ironical interpretation on the part of the reader through the narrator's limited presentation of characters' inner consciousness. While initially it is unclear how Lampedusa intends the reader to extract the truth of a scene from the irony layered over it, he ultimately provides his reader with the means for doing so through both the narrator's commentary and character behavior and dialogue.

[...] It is important to note that Lampedusa injects an ironical twist immediately after Tancredi's comment when he adds fosse proprio ?basta' non era vero; però Tancredi parlava sincero; con l'abitudine atavica ai larghi possessi gli sembrava davvero che Gibildolce, Settesoli e i sacchetti di tela fossero stati suoi dai tempi di Carlo d'Angiò, da sempre? (pp.169-70). The irony, however, targets the mindset common to nobles like Tancredi, not the wealth or background of the Sedàra. p.264. p.139. p.169. Consider the scene, for example, on page 156 in which Cavriaghi presents Concetta with the book of poetry. [...]


[...] Accordingly, when Don Calogero mentions Sedàra ?nobility? to the Prince in the subsequent scene, the reader cannot help but recall the still-fresh image madri selvagge e di nonni fecali.?[4] Lampedusa could have just as easily placed Don Ciccio's account sometime after Don Calogero's improntitudine; in placing it immediately before, he urges the reader to interpret the entire conversation between Prince Fabrizio and Don Calogero with an eye to the complete irony of the situation?that is, that Angelica is not only a commoner but the descendent of Peppe 'Mmerda, and that Prince Fabrizio has this knowledge fresh in mind as Don Calogero babbles on about the attacco mancato of Sedàra nobility. [...]

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