Study Guide

The Leopard Inertia

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa


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.