Study Guide

The Leopard Marriage

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa


"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.