Study Guide

If on a winter's night a traveler Gender

By Italo Calvino


The men in If on a winter's night a traveler love them some sexy women. The dynamic of male desire for a female sex object is actually present in every one of the ten phony first chapters Calvino writes into his book. And as a matter of fact, they become increasingly explicit and aggressive as the novel goes on. There's no question about it: for Calvino, there's a major connection between the pleasure of reading and the pleasure guys get from chasing women.

Questions About Gender

  1. Do you think that Calvino gives a fair portrayal of women in this book? Why do you think he chose to have only male protagonists for all ten of his fictional novels?
  2. Do you feel like you have a good general idea of what kind of person Ludmilla is, based on what the book gives you?
  3. Is Calvino's overall depiction of Lotaria, the angry feminist, downright sexist? Why or why not?
  4. What connection do you see between the male desire to possess and penetrate women, and the Reader's desire to have a final and definitive ending to a book? How is a sense of closure connected to both of them?

Chew on This

Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, both through its general depiction of women and specific depiction of Lotaria, is a sexist book.

In this book, the Reader's final scene with Ludmilla shows that the man has overcome his desire to possess women and books as objects.