Study Guide

Father Pirrone in The Leopard

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Father Pirrone

For a lot of this book, Father Pirrone is basically the voice of Christian morality who hangs around Prince Fabrizio to tell him when he's acting against God's will. Prince Fabrizio doesn't seem to care, though. He keeps Father Pirrone around mainly to help with his astronomy experiments. After a night where Prince Fabrizio hangs out with his mistress, Father Pirrone asks him to confess his sins by saying,

"Excellency, the efficacy of confession consists not only in telling our sins but in being sorry for them. And until you do so and show me that you do so, you will remain in mortal sin, whether I know what your sins are or not." (1.110)

For Father Pirrone, Fabrizio doesn't show nearly enough shame for the sins he commits. On top of that, Pirrone is worried about the formation of the new Italian government and how this will lead to a decline in the power of the church. Churches aren't as important in modern democracies as they were in old world aristocracies, and Pirrone can see what's about to happen to him:

The unhappy priest was breathing hard; sincere horror at the foreseen dispersal of Church property was linked with regret at his having lost control of himself again. (1.115)

We get a chance to learn more about Father Pirrone when he pays a visit to his home village and helps get his niece out of a jam—one that involves pregnancy and a shotgun marriage. Here, he shows us his playful, scheming side. But even though he might be able to save his cousin, he can't save the country he's lived in his whole life. Things change, and he's going to have to get used to that.