Study Guide

The Leopard Mortality

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa

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.