Study Guide

The Leopard Quotes

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa

  • Society and Class

    Between the pride and intellectuality of his mother and the sensuality and irresponsibility of his father, poor Prince Fabrizio lived in perpetual discontent under his Jovelike frown, watching the ruin of his own class and his own inheritance without ever making, still less wanting to make, any move toward saving it. (1.12)

    Here's the central conflict of this story: Fabrizio sees his entire social class going into the toilet of history, but he can't bring himself to do anything to stop it. His two main reasons for doing nothing are: 1) He can't stop history even if he wanted to, and 2) There's not much about the lazy, entitled aristocracy that's worth saving. After all, it's hard to argue that you deserve all the money and power in the world because you were born into the right family.

    "For the King, who stands for order, continuity, decency, honor, right; for the King, who is sole defender of the Church, sole bulwark against the dispersal of property." (1.22)

    When asked what a young Sicilian soldier has died for, Fabrizio's friend answers that the young man died for order and decency, which are just general concepts that don't really mean a whole lot to Fabrizio. This friend is obviously just anti-democratic, meaning that he doesn't think the opinion of the masses should decide important issues. That, plus he doesn't want all the aristocrats' property to be divided up more equally among people. That's what you call looking out for yourself.

    The Prince gave a start of annoyance; so touchy is the pride of class, even in a moment of decline, that these orgiastic praises of the beauties of his future niece offended him. (3.52)

    Fabrizio knows his class is dying, but that doesn't mean his pride is completely gone. He still gets really annoyed when people speak a little too candidly to him. It's as if he's saying, "Hey, I'm still entitled to a little respect!"

    "How foul, Excellency! A nephew of yours ought not to marry the daughter of those who're your enemies who have stabbed you in the back! […] It's the end of the Falconeris, and of the Salinas too." (3.54)

    Fabrizio's friend Ciccio is aghast when he learns that Fabrizio's nephew Tancredi is going to marry the daughter of the mayor of Donnafugata. For Ciccio, the aristocracy should never mix with the commoners, no matter how rich these folks might be. On top of all that, he blames democratically elected idiots for pushing the elegant, intelligent aristocrats out of power.

    "[Till] I came along we'd been an unlucky lot, buried in the provinces and undistinguished, but I have the documents in order, and one day it will be known that your nephew has married the Baronessina Sedàra del Biscotto." (3.82)

    Don Calogero is sensitive to the fact that his daughter is marrying a man from a noble family (Tancredi). To show his respect, he tells Fabrizio that his daughter is actually descended from a noble family, too, and that he can secure the necessary papers to prove it. Turns out that this guy has a little more social tact than anyone's willing to give him credit for.

    [Free] as he was from the shackles imposed on many other men by honesty, decency, and plain good manners, he moved through the jungle of life with the confidence of an elephant which advances in a straight line. (4.1)

    In a way, Fabrizio respects Don Calogero for not caring about all the mannerisms that aristocrats care about. Don Calogero marches through life clumsily and ignorantly, but he always gets where he's going, kind of like an elephant marching through the jungle.

    [But] from that moment there began, for him and his family, that process of continual refining which in the course of three generations transforms innocent peasants into defenseless gentry. (4.5)

    As Lampedusa tells us, Don Calogero doesn't realize what he's getting into when his daughter marries Tancredi. Over time, her life of luxury and idleness will make her family just like the Salinas. They'll all get totally lazy and complacent, and they'll end up losing everything to more competitive people. It's a good point to make, but Lampedusa is also kind of showing off the fact that he knows everything that'll happen for a hundred years after this story.

    "I am a member of the old ruling class, inevitably compromised with the Bourbon regime, and tied to it by chains of decency if not of affection." (4.93)

    When offered a position as a senator in the new Italy, Fabrizio refuses because he's just not competitive enough to muck around with all of Italy's social climbers. He'd just as soon get out of the game altogether and fade into the background of history.

    "They're just different; perhaps they appear so strange to us because they have reached a stage toward which all those who are not saints are moving, that of indifference to earthly goods through surfeit." (5.19)

    For Father Pirrone, aristocrats are like a completely different type of human. They have no interest in money or property, but only because they've never lived without these things. That's like standing on a boat while someone drowns and saying to him, "Meh, oxygen is overrated."

    "[If], as has often happened before, this class were to vanish, an equivalent one would be formed straightaway with the same qualities and the same defects; it might not be based on blood any more, but possibly on… on, say, the length of time lived in a place, or on greater knowledge of some text considered sacred." (5.29)

    Father Pirrone is pretty cynical when it comes to social classes. He knows that the moment Fabrizio's class vanishes, another one will rise to take its place. This new class will just have a different standard of measurement for "greatness," like how long a person has lived in a town or how much they know about a certain book. Or in other words, he believes that the world will always have snobs and cliques, which are just part of human experience.

  • Marriage

    "When we married and she was sixteen I found that rather exalting; but now… seven children I've had with her, seven; and never once have I seen her navel." (1.68)

    Fabrizio isn't all that enthusiastic about his marriage now that he and his wife are old. When they were younger, he found his wife exciting. But over time he's come to realize that she's a prude and that he wouldn't mind someone will a little more passion in bed—and not the religious kind of passion.

    In the matrimonial bedroom, glancing at poor Stella with her hair well tucked into her nightcap, sighing as she slept in the huge, high brass bed, he felt touched. (1.74)

    Fabrizio isn't a totally cold, uncaring guy. As we can see here, he has moments of true tenderness for his wife, even though he usually finds her cold and prudish. It's like Lampedusa is throwing us a bone here and saying, "Okay, so maybe being married doesn't guarantee that two people will get sick of each other."

    "Let's keep to the point, shall we? I wish to talk about this marriage, not about marriage in general. Has Don Tancredi made any definite proposal, by any chance, and if so, when?" (2.44)

    Fabrizio suspects that his nephew Tancredi is going to propose to his daughter Concetta. Unfortunately, Tancredi falls in love with Angelica just when his romance with Concetta is at its peak, and he ends up breaking the poor girl's heart by marrying Angelica.

    "Love. Of course, love. Flames for a year, ashes for thirty. He knew what love was…" (2.50)

    Fabrizio is a realist when it comes to love and marriage. He thinks that true passion lasts about a year before the real stuff of marriage comes out. That's when you have to spend the next thirty years living a boring, predictable love life without much fiery passion in it.

    The secret of Tancredi's matrimonial intentions, although still embryonic until a few hours before, would certainly have been told then had it not been luckily camouflaged. (3.50)

    There is a point in this book when no one really knows what Tancredi is thinking as far as marriage is concerned. He tends to keep to himself about this stuff. But that's the style with these Sicilian kids nowadays, running around and doing whatever they want. Oh well, Fabrizio accepts that this is the way things are now.

    "[Till] I came along we'd been an unlucky lot, buried in the provinces and undistinguished, but I have the documents in order, and one day it will be known that your nephew has married the Baronessina Sedàra del Biscotto." (3.82)

    Don Calogero knows that it's special for his daughter to be marrying into an aristocratic family, and that's why he makes the gesture of telling Fabrizio that his daughter actually has some noble blood in her. This information helps soothe whatever concerns Fabrizio might have had about Angelica ruining his family bloodline.

    Those days were the preparation for a marriage which, even erotically, was no success. (4.41)

    The narrator lets the cat out of the bag as far as Tancredi and Angelica's marriage is concerned when he tells us that despite all of the romance we've seen between the two lovebirds, their marriage isn't going to be all that great. This is Lampedusa's skepticism coming out, basically saying that passion can never last in the long run. We're curious to know what his wife thought about passages like this one.

    "Oh, I don't know! I think I heard something about half of Chibbaro!" (5.65)

    Father Pirrone shows how scheming he can be when he convinces his distant cousin to marry his niece. How does he do this, you ask? By promising his cousin's father all of the land he was originally supposed to get in his father's inheritance. Okay, so maybe that sounds a bit confusing. All we need to know for the purposes of this passage is that marriage here is way more about the transfer of property than it is about love.

    [In] recent years the consequences of the frequent marriages between cousins due to sexual lethargy and territorial calculations, of the dearth of proteins and overabundance of starch in the food, of the total lack of fresh air and movement, had filled the drawing rooms with a mob of girls incredibly short, unsuitably dark, unbearably giggly. (6.25)

    No getting around it. You can't have cousins marrying cousins for generation after generation without some sort of genetic imbalance happening. In this passage, Lampedusa tries to explain the ill effects of inbreeding as well as he can, although he's definitely no doctor.

    All three were spinsters, and their household had been rent by secret struggles for hegemony, so that each, a strong character in her own way, wanted a separate confessor. (8.1)

    None of Fabrizio's three daughters ever gets married, and the book paints this as a sort of tragedy, since all three of them would have liked to get married. The truth is, though, that they have always been too shy and too proud to put their hearts on the line. The closest any of them has ever come is Concetta, who got her heart broken by Tancredi and never really got over it.

  • Mortality

    [He] was asking himself what was destined to succeed this monarchy which bore the marks of death upon its face. (1.42)

    From the beginning of the book, Fabrizio knows that his country is bound to disappear. He considers this a sort of symbolic death, since this country is the only one he's ever known. It's also the only reason he has power as an aristocrat, but instead of retreating into the past, all he can do is wonder what will replace the old kingdom in the years to come.

    [But] it was the religious houses which gave the city its grimness and its character, its sedateness and also the sense of death which not even the vibrant Sicilian light could ever manage to disperse. (1.59)

    Death is everywhere on the island of Sicily, but it's tough to determine whether this sense of death existed before the arrival of invading forces from Italy. On the one hand, Sicily is a source of vibrant light. But on the other, Fabrizio tells us later in the book the every Sicilian secretly longs for death. So maybe the country has both light and dark, life and death in it. That's deep stuff.

    Someone had died at Donnafugata, some tired body unable to withstand the deep gloom of Sicilian summer had lacked the stamina to await the rains. (2.52)

    It's not every day that someone associates the summertime with doom and gloom. But when you live somewhere as hot as Sicily, you know what it's like to look for gloomy shade whenever you can. It's the only way to keep cool in that kind of heat.

    Lucky person, with no worries about daughters, dowries, and political careers. (2.52)

    On some level, Fabrizio envies the dead because they don't have to worry about all the little, everyday stuff he does. He seems to spend most of his time worrying about his daughters and his political career (which is ending). But once he's dead, he won't have to worry about anything anymore.

    For the first time he felt a touch of rancor prick him at sight of Tancredi; this fop with the pinch-in waist under his dark blue suit had been the cause of those sour thoughts of his about death two hours ago. (2.55)

    Most of the time, Fabrizio loves Tancredi. But every now and then, Tancredi reminds Fabrizio about the fact that his own life and his family's status are going to come to an end someday. This leads him to wonder gloomily about what he'll leave behind when he's gone, and for most of this novel, the answer seems to be nothing.

    [He] had a feeling that something, someone, had died, God only knew in what corner of the country, in what corner of the popular conscience. (3.33)

    When a vote is taken and the people of Sicily decide to join Italy, Fabrizio can't help but feel as though someone has died. It's his country that's died, of course, since the nation technically no longer exists. But on top of that, he also knows that an entire way of life has died along with it.

    [Now] he knew who had been killed at Donnafugata, at a hundred other places, in the course of that night of dirty wind: a newborn babe: good faith: just the very child who should have been cared for most. (3.36)

    When he realizes that the vote to join Italy has been rigged, Fabrizio decides that it's more than just his country that's died. Everyone knows that Sicily would have voted to join Italy either way, but the fact that the government rigged the vote shows that they have no trust and no respect for the people of Sicily. Say goodbye to good faith and friendship moving forward.

    "[Our] sensuality is a hankering for oblivion, our shooting and knifing a hankering for death; our laziness, our spiced and drugged sherbets, a hankering for voluptuous immobility, that is for death again." (4.88)

    For Fabrizio, all Sicilians secretly long for death, which you can see it in the way that they eat whatever they want and indulge in every sensual pleasure they can imagine. Pleasing your body is a way of turning off your brain for a while, and there's nothing that turns your brain off better than death.

    [It] was to the rise of this man and a hundred others like him, to their obscure intrigues and their tenacious greed and avarice, that was due the sense of death which was now, obviously, hanging darkly over these places. (6.33)

    Fabrizio actually gets along with Don Calogero pretty well, but he also thinks that this man is greedy and conniving. He's the sort of guy who's going to take power once Fabrizio's class is swept away, and that leaves Fabrizio with a lingering sense of death.

    Immediately afterward he asked himself if his own death would be like that; probably it would, apart from the sheets being less impeccable (he knew that the sheets of those in their death agony are always dirty with spittle, discharges, marks of medicine). (6.39)

    Fabrizio might get philosophical about death now and then, but he's not idealistic about it. He knows that in real life, death is a very messy thing that ruins more than a few bed sheets. Just because Fabrizio has lived a life of luxury doesn't mean he's totally disconnected from the messy realities of death.

  • Dissatisfaction

    "I'm a sinner, I know, doubly a sinner, by Divine Law and by Stella's human love. There's no doubt of that, and tomorrow I'll go and confess to Father Pirrone." (1.68)

    Fabrizio has a bit of a Don Draper thing going on, since he knows he's doing something wrong when he cheats on his wife, but he does it anyway. He also figures that he can make it all better by confessing to his priest. At the end of the day, though, there's definitely some deep dissatisfaction at play here: both with his wife and with his life.

    The soul of the Prince reached toward [the stars], toward the intangible, the unattainable, which gave joy without laying claim to anything in return. (2.84)

    Prince Fabrizio is an amateur astronomer who loves gazing at the stars. As a guy who has always gotten what he wants, he truly desires something that is forever beyond his reach. It makes sense then, that he would reach toward the stars, since he knows that he'll never get anywhere near them.

    Who worries about dowries for the Pleiades, a political career for Sirius, matrimonial joy for Vega? (2.84)

    Whether it's his dog Bendicò or the stars in the sky, Fabrizio admires anything—living or dead—that doesn't have to deal with petty human concerns. When he thinks of the constellations in the sky, for example, he knows that the star Sirius never needs to worry about who's going to marry his daughter. It's this kind of search for peace that eventually leads Fabrizio to take comfort in the moment of his death.

    [Now] he knew who had been killed at Donnafugata, at a hundred other places, in the course of that night of dirty wind: a newborn babe: good faith: just the very child who should have been cared for most. (3.36)

    Fabrizio wants to be hopeful for the future of Sicily, but it's hard when he realizes that the vote for joining Italy has been rigged. Every time the poor guy has hope for the future, the world has a way of letting him down.

    He sat down a little among them; there instead of the name of the Queen of Heaven being taken in vain, the air was turgid with commonplaces. (6.28)

    Fabrizio is bored by all the aristocrats he tends to hang out with. It's not like he wants to go in the opposite direction and hang with a bunch of roughnecks, but things can get really boring when the only people you hang out with are too polite to ever say anything interesting.

    Don Fabrizio sighed. When would she decide to give him an appointment less ephemeral, far from carcasses and blood, in her own region of perennial certitude? (6.76)

    Whenever he needs true spiritual fulfillment, Fabrizio looks to the stars and asks for their guidance. This isn't the same thing as asking God for help, because The Prince could go to Father Pirrone for that. This is instead a more private type of faith that Fabrizio shows when he talks directly to the constellation of Venus, who never judges him the way that a Christian god would.

    Don Fabrizio had always known that sensation. For a dozen years or so he had been feeling as if the vital fluid, the faculty of existing, like itself in fact and perhaps even the will to go on living, were ebbing out of him slowly but steadily, as grains of sand cluster and then line up one by one, unhurried, unceasing, before the narrow neck of an hourglass. (7.1)

    Fabrizio can feel his life slipping away from him with every day he gets older. One of the things that makes this feeling so unsatisfying is how slowly things seem to be slipping away. If it were all over and done with quickly, he could deal with it. But the fall of his social class is something that happens by inches more than all at once.

    Sometimes he was surprised that the vital reservoir could still contain anything at all after all those years of loss" (7.3).

    Fabrizio has always had what he wanted out of life. But on the other hand, that means he has also had a lot to lose. And lose he has. By the time he's old, he has far less than he started out with, both in terms of relatives and in terms of prestige.

    And the pains, the boredom, how long had they been? Useless to try to make himself count those; all of the rest: seventy years. (7.25)

    In his 73 years of life, Fabrizio figures that he has spent two or three of them actually living. The rest he's spent submerged in a life of boredom and habit, which is definitely not a recipe for personal fulfillment.

    Still she could feel nothing; the inner emptiness was complete, but she did sense an unpleasant atmosphere emanating from the heap of fur. (8.55)

    Concetta knows that there's something weird about Bendicò, apart from the fact that he's a stuffed dog who died decades ago. He's a reminder of a bygone age, a time when her father was still alive and her family lived in lavish palaces. Those days are long over, though, so it's no wonder she finds the dog unpleasant as a reminder of them.

  • Pride

    The Prince felt humiliated, reduced to the rank of one protected by Russo's friends; his only merit, as far as he could see, was being uncle to that urchin Tancredi. (1.100)

    It ain't easy being a Prince, especially when there's a revolution happening and you need to rely on local peasants to make sure no violence comes to you and your family. This is a far cry from the days when Prince Fabrizio felt like he was in charge.

    [The] blow to his pride dealt by the father's tailcoat was now repeated by the daughter's looks. (2.70).

    Fabrizio doesn't like being one-upped by anybody, especially the likes of Don Calogero. It's humiliating enough that Don Calogero has come to his house dressed more formally than him. But the fact that Calogero's daughter is way prettier than any of his is almost too much to bear.

    The Prince gave a start of annoyance; so touchy is the pride of class, even in a moment of decline, that these orgiastic praises of the beauties of his future niece offended him. (3.52)

    On many occasions, Fabrizio does a good job of sitting on his pride and not getting too worked up. But when he hears his buddy talking sexually about his future niece, his pride flares up like a fire that's not quite out yet, and he quickly puts his buddy back in his place. Let's not forget that the Prince is a really big dude.

    Don Fabrizio was overcome with sincere emotion; the toad had been swallowed; the chewed head and gizzards were going down his throat; he still had to crunch up the claws, but that was nothing compared to the rest; the worst was over. (3.70)

    Fabrizio has a really tough time negotiating the marriage of his nephew Tancredi to a commoner. But deep down, he knows that this is the way things need to be so he really up for his nephew when the kid needs him most. For all of his bad qualities, Fabrizio is still capable of doing a good thing for someone he cares about.

    Anyone deducing from this attitude of Angelica that she loved Tancredi would have been mistaken; she had too much pride and too much ambition to be capable of that annihilation, however temporary, of one's own personality without which there is no love. (4.12)

    Angelica is happy to marry Tancredi, but that doesn't mean she loves him. She's way too proud to let herself love someone, which would involve putting her pride and her heart on the line. But who wants to do that?

    "Silly girls! With all those scruples, and taboos and pride, they won't get anyone in the end." (4.46)

    Fabrizio is worried that his daughters will remain single their entire lives because they're too proud and cautious to ever allow themselves to love someone. It's a big risk loving someone, and Concetta finds this out the hard way when Tancredi breaks her heart. In the end, Fabrizio is right. None of his daughters ever marry because they're just too prudish, shy, and proud to let anyone get near them emotionally.

    Flattery always slipped off the Prince like water off the leaves of water lilies: it is one of the advantages enjoyed by men who are at once proud and used to being so. (4.78)

    Fabrizio is so proud that flattery means almost nothing to him. People can compliment him all they want, but the fact is that he already thinks he's pretty great and he doesn't need them reminding him of it. How's that for ego?

    "Listen to your conscience, Prince, and not to the proud truths that you have spoken. Collaborate." (4.97)

    When he's offered a position as senator in the new Italy, Fabrizio turns it down. The man sent to convince him insists that he should learn to work with others instead of being so proud and stubborn. But Fabrizio holds firmly to his pride and sends the dude packing.

    The reason for the difference must lie in this sense of superiority that dazzles every Sicilian eye, and which we ourselves call pride while in reality it is blindness. (4.100)

    Fabrizio realizes that his Sicilian pride is just a type of blindness at the end of the day, since pride keeps us from ever seeing our true faults. That said, pride also gives us a sort of blind confidence to jump head first into everything we do, so there can actually be an upside to it, too.

    "With a word of apology he sat down next to the Colonel, who got up as he arrived—a small sop to Salina pride." (6.62)

    Even though his government has fallen and he no longer has any official status as a Prince, Fabrizio still gets the royal treatment from one of his old friends. He knows that it's just an empty gesture meant to save his pride, but he'll take whatever he can get at this point.

  • Sex

    There could obviously be no valid reason for visiting Palermo at night in those disordered time except for some low love-adventure. (1.52)

    When he gets frustrated with his family, Fabrizio leaves the dinner table and heads into town for sex with his mistress. His whole family knows what he's doing, but he's not ashamed. He figures that he's a man with physical needs that his wife can't always satisfy.

    This was what the Prince was thinking as the bays trotted down the slope; thoughts in contrast to his real self, caused by anxiety about Tancredi and by the sensual urge which made him turn against the restrictions embodied by the religious houses. (1.60)

    Plain and simple, Fabrizio has sex with his mistress as a way of relieving stress. Sex gets his mind off of things he doesn't want to worry about, even though it only does so temporarily. Plus Fabrizio feels like his style is cramped by hanging out with a priest all day, which is understandable.

    "I'm sinning, it's true, but I'm sinning so as not to sin worse, to stop this sensual nagging, to tear this thorn out of my flesh and avoid the worst trouble." (1.68)

    Fabrizio believes that committing adultery is okay because he would do even worse things if he didn't have sex as an outlet. (Like start punching people?) For him, cheating on his wife is actually a good thing because if he didn't do it, he'd express his frustration and anxiety in even more damaging ways.

    Toward dawn, however, the Princess had occasion to make the sign of the Cross. (1.75)

    After he gets home from having sex with his mistress, Fabrizio has sex with his wife, though it's not clear why. Maybe it's love. Maybe it's guilt. Maybe it's horniness. All we know is that his religious wife always feels as though she needs to make the sign of the cross and ask forgiveness from God whenever she has sex, even though it's with her husband.

    Perched on an islet in the middle of the round basin, modeled by a crude but sensual sculptor, a vigorous smiling Neptune was embracing a willing Amphitrite; her navel, wet with spray and gleaming in the sun, would be the nest, shortly, for hidden kisses and subaqueous shade. (2.53)

    While walking through his garden, Fabrizio lingers to stare at a statue of a Greek god and goddess in a lovers' embrace. According to this book, the Sicilians are a very passionate and sensual people, which you can tell by looking at many of their works of art. Lots of naked bodies hanging around.

    [But] this time it was not a matter of black stuff, but of milky white skin, and well cut, yes, very well indeed! (2.70)

    Prince Fabrizio compares Angelica's skin to a tailor's cloth when he first meets her. And yes, this sounds like something a serial killer might think. But for him, the comparison just makes him think about how nice it would be to get into bed with his future niece-in-law.

    "Had you been there, Signorina, we'd have had no need to wait for novices." (2.80)

    Tancredi doesn't hold back when it comes to hitting on women. He tells Angelica that he'd like to have sex with her the first time he meets her, and does it in front of both their families. How's that for Sicilian boldness?

    "Good for bed, and that's all." (3.46)

    Fabrizio's friend Ciccio isn't very generous in his comments about the mayor's wife. According to him, the woman is an illiterate commoner who is good for nothing except sex. Even by 19th-century standards, this is a really harsh thing to say about someone.

    "[And] she also wanted him as a lively partner in bed." (4.14)

    Angelica isn't some delicate little flower. Her main reason for wanting to marry Tancredi is because she wants a sex partner who can keep up with her in bed. In this sense, she's nothing like Fabrizio's daughters, who are way too proud and shy to ever admit they want this sort of thing.

    "Then he embraced her again; sensual anticipation made them both tremble; the room, the bystanders, seemed very far away." (4.29)

    Tancredi and Angelica can barely keep their hands off each other as they wait to get married. But they manage to hold off on sex until their wedding, and they actually come to savor the anticipation of sex so much that they enjoy it even more than sex itself.

  • Inertia

    Between the pride and intellectuality of his mother and the sensuality and irresponsibility of his father, poor Prince Fabrizio lived in perpetual discontent under his Jovelike frown, watching the ruin of his own class and his own inheritance without ever making, still less wanting to make, any move toward saving it. (1.12)

    Fabrizio sees his entire social class collapsing, but doesn't feel like doing anything to stop it. In his mind, there might not be much about people like himself that's worth protecting.

    And thus eventually it cancelled itself out; this wealth which had achieved its object was composed now only of essential oils—and, like essential oils, it soon evaporated. (1.90)

    Fabrizio has been wealthy since the day he was born, so it makes sense that he doesn't care all that much about money. He knows that his family's money is going to disappear with time, but doesn't do anything to stop it because he figures there's no point.

    Don Fabrizio, in fact, could not see what else there was to do: whether treating it as a fait accompli or as an act merely theatrical and banal, whether taking it as a historical necessity or considering the trouble these humble folk might get into if their negative attitude were known. (3.25)

    Fabrizio advises all of the people in Donnafugata to vote "yes" for Sicily to join Italy, even though this will strip him of any royal status. He does this for several reasons. Two of the main ones are: 1) because it's going to happen either way, and 2) because he doesn't want any of his friends getting into trouble with the new government by voting "no."

    "[For] two thousand and five hundred years we've been a colony. I don't say that in complaint; it's our fault. But even so we're worn out and exhausted." (4.85)

    Fabrizio tries to explain to a visiting politician why he's not interested in becoming a senator for united Italy. Frankly, he feels as though his entire race of people is exhausted from thousands of years of being ruled by other people. It's in his blood, and he's got no fight left in him. Definitely not enough to become a politician.

    "Sleep, my dear Chevalley, sleep, that is what Sicilians want, and they will always hate anyone who tries to wake them, even in order to bring them the most wonderful of gifts." (4.88)

    According to Fabrizio, Sicilians just want peace and quiet. They don't want to work hard because they're not interested in making any money. They just want to live as cheaply and peacefully as possible, and they're not interested in any of the "progress" that modern, competitive people try to force on them.

    "[Our] sensuality is a hankering for oblivion, our shooting and knifing a hankering for death; our laziness, our spiced and drugged sherbets, a hankering for voluptuous immobility, that is for death again." (4.88)

    Fabrizio believes that deep down, all Sicilians are attracted to death. That doesn't mean that they all want to commit suicide. They just want to live with as little stimulation as possible. They want the intensity in their brains to be turned down as far as possible, which eventually brings them to a point that resembles death.

    [The] Sicilians never want to improve for the simple reason that they think themselves perfect; their vanity is stronger than their misery. (4.99)

    Pride can be a big motivator. In this case, though, it's a huge de-motivator. It's really hard to motivate someone who feels like they've got nothing to prove, and this is exactly what the Sicilians think. If they're already perfect, what's the point of being ambitious?

    "[He] says there's been no revolution and that all will go on as it did before." (5.33)

    Father Pirrone is one of the first people to truly understand Fabrizio's inertia. He knows that this inertia comes from the fact that Fabrizio doesn't think according to short-term goals. He looks at all of history, in which humanity itself is just the slightest of blips in the earth's existence. That's why he doesn't think it's really important whether his social class continues to exist or doesn't.

    And then these people filling the rooms, all these faded women, all these stupid men, these two vainglorious sexes were part of his blood, part of himself. (6.36)

    Fabrizio knows that the people of Sicily are all vain and ignorant because they want to be. He even admits to himself that he shares their blood and is a lot like them in most ways. It's these moments where we truly see how much he's given up on finding something meaningful to fight for with the time he has left.

    The portraits were of dead people no longer loved, the photographs of friends who had hurt her in their lifetime, the only reason they were not forgotten in death. (8.26)

    In her old age, Concetta keeps reminders of all the people who used to be in her life. She is one of the last remaining descendants of the Salina family, and she lives her life thinking about the past much more than the future. As far as the Salinas are concerned, there isn't really any future to look forward to anymore.

  • Religion

    "A fine thing, science, unless it takes to attacking religion!" (1.36)

    King Ferdinand is all about science, except when it goes after religion. For this reason, he should issue a royal decree ordering science to stay at least ten miles away from religion at all times. Unfortunately, his country collapses before he can do that.

    [But] it was the religious houses which gave the city its grimness and its character, its sedateness and also the sense of death which not even the vibrant Sicilian light could ever manage to disperse. (1.59)

    This passage paints religion in a pretty negative light. In fact, it's painted with no light at all. Instead, religion seems like this grim, totally un-fun presence in Sicily. Maybe it's all those rules about what people can and can't do.

    "I'm a sinner, I know, doubly a sinner, by Divine Law and by Stella's human love. There's no doubt of that, and tomorrow I'll go and confess to Father Pirrone." (1.68)

    Fabrizio knows that he's done wrong when he cheats on his wife. It's hard to tell how guilty he actually feels, though, when he decides to confess his sin to Father Pirrone the next day. Does he expect confession to make everything all better, or does he actually feel bad? It's really hard to know.

    "Then, of course, our property, which is the patrimony of the poor, will be seized and carved up among the most brazen of their leaders; who will then feed all the destitute who are sustained and guided by the Church today?" (1.114)

    One of Father Pirrone's main concerns about the collapse of his country is what will happen to all of the church's property. If the free market comes to Sicily, the church will be expected to create revenue and pay money for all its properties. In this case, the poor might have nowhere left to go, since the church is the only place that looks after them.

    [He] made the sign of the Cross, a gesture of devotion which in Sicily has a nonreligious meaning more frequently than is realized. (3.58)

    Making the sign of the cross is more a matter of habit than an actual token of belief in Sicilian culture, at least according to the narrator of this book. If you make the same motion enough times, Lampedusa thinks, you're bound to get a little complacent about it.

    In that room Giuseppe Corbèra, Duke of Salina, had scourged himself alone, in sight of his God and his estates, and it must have seemed to him that the drops of his own blood were about to rain down on the land and redeem it. (4.39)

    One of Fabrizio's ancestors used to whip and wound himself as punishment for all the sins he committed. That sounds pretty extreme, but there's also something poetic about the way the book describes it. All in all, it seems like the narrator doesn't know one way or the other whether we should celebrate or ridicule this kind of behavior.

    "But if that's what they're like, Father, they'll all go to hell." (5.20)

    Father Pirrone's peasant friend thinks that if the aristocracy is as indulgent and immoral as Pirrone says they are, they'll all burn in hell. After living with Fabrizio for years, though, Pirrone is more understanding. He knows that the Pince has always gotten exactly what he wants, but unlike many modern readers, he doesn't think that this is always a bad thing.

    Curiously enough, it was religion that drew him from this zoologic vision, for from the group of crinolined monkeys there rose a monotonous, continuous sacred invocation. (6.27)

    When Fabrizio looks at the painted murals in his ancestral palace, he finds that it's the religious symbols that draw his eye the most. This is probably because he's looked at these paintings every day of his life without ever giving them much thought. Now that he's getting philosophical about his place in the universe, he starts taking religion a little more seriously.

    He was absolved; his chin must have been propped on his chest, for the priest had to kneel down to place the Host between his lips. (7.21)

    In his final moments of death, Fabrizio receives a communion wafer from a Catholic priest. We're not sure how much he actually believes in this stuff, but his daughters are absolutely certain when it comes to their faith. They insist on him having a proper Catholic blessing before he dies.

    The reference to the Holy Father was not, actually, very opportune: Carolina was one of those Catholics who consider themselves to be in closer possession of religious truths than the Pope himself. (8.9)

    Carolina di Salina is so certain in her religious faith that she thinks she knows better than the Pope. This is ironic because according to Catholic faith, the pope can never be wrong. So Carolina's pride in her religious knowledge is actually a form of sin. So take that, Carolina.