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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

by Italo Calvino

Innocence Theme

Innocence comes in all shapes and forms, but have you ever thought about being an innocent reader? If on a winter's night a traveler introduces us to this idea by exploring Ludmilla's desire to avoid authors, publishers, and anyone else who has any part in the creation of a book. She wants to remain innocent—i.e., reading only for pleasure. In this way, Ludmilla is always contrasted with her sister, Lotaria, who is a very analytical, political, and intellectual reader.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Does the novel in fact side with Ludmilla over Lotaria? If so, how much does it side with her? Which sister do you like more? Why?
  2. Do you think Mr. Cavedagna from the publishing house has any chance of recovering the lost innocence of his youth? In a symbolic way, will he ever truly be able to go back to his family's chicken coop and read in the corner?
  3. Do you sympathize at all with Ludmilla's decision to stay away from the publishing house? What legitimate reasons does she give? Is she just being weird about the whole thing?
  4. How does being a professional writer ruin the pleasure of reading for Silas Flannery?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.


Innocence in reading is the highest value put forward by If on a winter's night a traveler. It should be pursued at all costs.

Even while Ludmilla, Cavedagna, and Flannery all have some desire to read innocently, Calvino recognizes that this type of reading could be considered ignorant and irresponsible.

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