I Malavoglia
I Malavoglia is the best known novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Giovanni Verga
Giovanni Verga
Giovanni Carmelo Verga was an Italian realist writer, best known for his depictions of life in Sicily, and especially for the short story "Cavalleria Rusticana" and the novel I Malavoglia .-Life and career:The first son of Giovanni Battista Catalano Verga and Caterina Di Mauro,...

. It was first printed in 1881. An English translation, The house by the medlar-tree (1890) by Mary A. Craig was published in the Continental Classics
Continental Classics
-Contents:Volume ITaras Bulba: A Tale of the Cossacks by Nicolai V. Gogol translated by Isabel F. HapgoodVolume IISebastopol by Leo TolstoyVolume IIIThe Crushed Flower and Other Stories, by Leonid Andreev translated by Herman Bernstein.Volume IV...


This work belongs to the Ciclo dei vinti, together with Mastro-don Gesualdo, and La Duchessa de Leyra, L'Onorevole Scipioni and L'uomo di lusso, works which deal with the problem of social and economical advancement. La Duchessa de Leyra remained only a draft, while the last two novels planned for the Ciclo, L'Onorevole Scipioni and L'Uomo di Lusso, were not even started.

I Malavoglia deals with a family of fishermen
A fisherman or fisher is someone who captures fish and other animals from a body of water, or gathers shellfish. Worldwide, there are about 38 million commercial and subsistence fishermen and fish farmers. The term can also be applied to recreational fishermen and may be used to describe both men...

 who work and live in Aci Trezza
Aci Trezza
Aci Trezza is a town in Sicily, southern Italy, a frazione of the comune of Aci Castello, c. 10 km north of Catania, with a population of around 5,000 people....

, a small Sicilian
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 village near Catania
Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is the capital of the homonymous province, and with 298,957 inhabitants it is the second-largest city in Sicily and the tenth in Italy.Catania is known to have a seismic history and...

. The novel possesses a choral aspect, and depicts characters united by the same culture, but divided by ancient rivalries.

Verga adopts the impersonality technique, reproducing some features of the dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

 and adapting himself to the point of view of the characters. In doing so, he renounces the customary mediation of the narrator
A narrator is, within any story , the fictional or non-fictional, personal or impersonal entity who tells the story to the audience. When the narrator is also a character within the story, he or she is sometimes known as the viewpoint character. The narrator is one of three entities responsible for...


A film, based on the story of I Malavoglia, La Terra Trema
La terra trema
La terra trema is a 1948 Italian dramatic film directed by Luchino Visconti...

, was directed by Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard and Death in Venice .-Life:...

in 1948. In the book by Silvia Iannello Le immagini e le parole dei Malavoglia (Sovera, Roma, 2008) the author selects some passages of the Verga novel I Malavoglia, adds original comments and Acitrezza's photographic images, and devotes a chapter to the origins, remarks and frames taken from the film La terra trema.


In the village of Aci Trezza in Catania lives the Toscano family, who, although extremely hardworking, has been nicknamed (for antiphrasis) the Malavoglia (The Reluctant Ones). The head of the family is Padron Ntoni, a widower, who lives at the house by the medlar tree with his son Bastian (called Bastianazzo, despite his being anything but tall), and the wife of the latter called Maria (nicknamed Maruzza la Longa). Bastian has five children: Ntoni, Luca, Filomena (Mena), Alessio (called Alessi) and Rosalia (Lia). The main source of income is "la Provvidenza", or the Providence, which is a small fishing boat. In 1863, Ntoni, the eldest of the children, he leaves for the military service. To try and make up for the loss of income which his absence will cause, Padron Ntoni attempts a business venture and buys a large amount of lupins. The load is entrusted to his son Bastianazzo, the plan being to sell them on in Riposto to make a profit. However, Bastianazzo and the merchandise are tragically lost during a storm. Following this misfortune, the family finds themselves with a triple misfortune: the debt caused by the lupins which were bought on credit, the Providence to repair and loss of Bastianazzo an important and loved member of the family. Having finished his military service, Ntoni returns to the laborious life of his family very reluctantly, having seen the riches and splendour outside of his small village, and does not represent any support to the already precarious economic situation of his family.

The family’s misfortunes are far from over. Luca, one pardon Ntoni’s nephews, dies at the battle of Lissa (1866), which leads to the breaking off of the betrothal of Mena to Brasi Cipolla. The debt from the lupin venture causes the family to lose their beloved “Casa del Nespolo” – the house by the medlar tree, and gradually the reputation of the family worsens until they reach humiliating levels of poverty. A further wreck of the Providence leaves Padron Ntoni near death, although fortunately he manages recover. Later Maruzza, his daughter-in-law, dies of cholera. The firstborn, Ntoni, decides to go away from the village to seek his fortune, only to return destitute. He loses any desire to work, turning to alcoholism and idleness. The departure of Ntoni had forced the family to sell the Providence to get the money needed to get back the Casa del Nespolo, which had never been forgotten.

The mistress of the Osteria Santuzza, who is already coveted by the sharkish Don Michele, becomes infatuated with Ntoni, serving him for free in the tavern. The conduct of Ntoni and the lamentations of his father convince her to turn her emotions from him, and to return to Don Michele. This leads to a brawl between the two; a brawl that results in the stabbing of Don Michele in the chest by Ntoni during an anti-smuggling raid. Ntoni ends up in prison. At his trial, after hearing rumours about a relationship between Don Michele and his granddaughter Lia, pardon Ntoni passes out and falls to the ground. Now old, his conversation is disjointed and he recites his proverbs without much awareness of what is going on. Lia, the younger sister, becomes the victim of vicious village gossip, runs away and becomes a prostitute. Mena, because of the shameful situation of her sister, feels that she cannot marry Alfio, even though they love each other, and instead remains at home to care for Alessi and Nunziata’s children. Alessi, the youngest of the brothers, has remained a fisherman and with hard work manages to rebuild the family fortunes to the point at which they can repurchase the house by the medlar tree. Having bought the house, what is left of the family visits the hospital where the old Padron Ntoni is being kept, to inform him of the good news and to announce his imminent return home. It is the last moment of happiness for the old man, who dies on the day he was to return. Even his desire to die in the house where was born is never granted. When Ntoni is released from prison and comes back to the village, he realises that he cannot stay because of all that he has done. He has excluded himself from his family by systematically denouncing their values.

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