Printer Friendly

Grow up! Grazia Deledda's Adult-Adolescent Males of Arrested Maturation.

"My husband is like a boy, still so handsome," Grazia Deledda remarked describing her spouse, Palmiro Madesani, in the very first paragragh of her biography (Balducci 1). Judging from her life and her life's work, one indeed suspects that her husband was like a boy in many other ways as well, just as were Deledda's two brothers, if we can extrapolate from her autobiography. (1) In this context I propose to discuss Grazia Deledda's male protagonists as examples of a psychological syndrome which for the purposes of this study, I will label "arrested maturation." (2)


Known to clinical psychologists sometimes as "borderline adulthood," and at times as the "Peter Pan" syndrome, this serious problem afflicts the adult male who exhibits some, many or all of the following characteristics. (3) Grown men, the victims are usually the sons of relative privilege. Parented by well-to-do but cold and emotionally detached mothers and often harsh and equally absent and psychologically distanced fathers, these adult-adolescents who refuse to grow up lack a strong identity; they rarely experience feelings of self-worth. They almost never value themselves or their work. They learned young to be peer-oriented. They turn to coeval friendship for the love and secure identity that they never experienced as children. They are unduly influenced by friends' decisions, opinions and desires, not by their own convictions, of which typically they have few, not having had in their childhood an adult model by which to mature.

As adults these men are attracted sexually to nurturing women who through their own cosseting behavior enourage narcissistic irresponsibility in their male partners and who invariably rescue the men from their problems. Unwittingly, together the couple creates an emotional co-dependency of the strong and dominating woman who needs for her psychological fulfillment the petulant, self-centered, overly dependent, baby-figure of her man (Kiley). [] Once married to these stronger women, the men are then inclined to take their love for granted; eventually they treat their women more like mother-servants than lover-partners. As grown men, the adult/adolescents are incapable of giving love or receiving it in a mature way. They remain self-centered adolescents throughout adulthood; their emotional maturity stopped in their adolescence despite their advancing physical years. In their adulthood they remain the narcissistic boys of their preteens, like walking time-capsules of themselves. (4)

As adults the men are spendthrifts. They learned young to purchase the attention and (they think) love of their adolescent friends with lavish gifts, with wanton spending sprees, and with acts of largesse and extravagance. For these sufferers of arrested maturation the pursuit of others' acceptance is the only means to self-acceptance, the only way to procure an identity. Their cravings for peer-approval transfer to adulthood and often lead the subjects to financial disaster, as they engage in an impetuous and prodigal lifestyle of pure self-indulgence. They have never experienced love as children; their only model is the pseudo-love of their purchased friendships. The man of arrested maturation never learned what love means; consequently he does not love himself, believe in himself, or listen to himself; as well, he never learned to love others, believe in others, or really listen to others, as mature adults are normally expected to do.

Sufferers of arrested maturation are unusually charming. They know it; and they beguile others deliberately in order to obtain what they want, especially from those women who are most susceptible to the emotional machinations of an enchanting man. They rely on their personal charisma to sail them through life's problems and to avoid shouldering the blame for the disasters of their own making. They are irresponsible; they refuse to be accountable for their own actions or problems which are predictably self-inflicted. They engage in endless blame-a-thons to avoid responsibility. They fear adulthood and its attendant duties. In general these male adult-adolescents are promisers who never deliver on their commitments or live up to their undertakings, personal or professional. Concomitantly they are procrastinators. When confronted for their failure to fulfill obligations, they engage in temper tantrums in the form of indignant assertion, raging bluster and splenetic fits of pique. They are experts at the cutand-run: they usually disappear when trouble arises.

Psychologically the prognosis is not optimistic, for only rarely can the sufferer turn around his problem, even with the most sophisticated of clinical help. Very few cases have been helped by therapy; for the sufferers are hampered, sometimes even doomed, by their own inability to grow up. Ironically that very incapacity precludes their seeing the problem for what it is. Indeed, many refuse even to consider their behavior problematic. Usually their marriages end in divorce; and their suicide rate is very high, especially when these men reach middle age. There is never a really "classic case" (although doubtless most people think they know one personally). As is true of any syndrome, psychological or medical, typically not all sufferers exhibit all of the recognized symptoms. (5)


Throughout her some 35 novels and 350 short stories Grazia Deledda presents a spectrum of male characters who exhibit most of the above symptoms. If her protagonists were a composite man, together they really would constitute a "classic case." Having begun writing almost 100 years ago, amazingly Deledda afflicts her men with the very same "modern" syndrome which is today under clinical study. In fact her protagonists even exhibit several collateral symptoms that have yet to be added formally to the modern syndrome. For example, most of Deledda's men are described with terminology most appropriate for depicting babies rather than adults. In many instances Deledda's men are mamma's boys; and in numerous cases, they are quite effeminate both in behavior and appearance. Many of Deledda's men are devout and ardent misogynists, some of whom engage in quite surprising rape fantasies ("surprising," in that she was able to write about such things, given the social mores and the times in which she lived).

So many of Deledda's men are charmers. Consider Giacinto of Canne al vento. Even his arch-enemy, zia Noemi, is seduced by his magic; his charisma gets him through all of his delinquent behavior, and he knows it. When she looks at this captivating, irresistible good-for-nothing, all the bad things he has done disappear "per lasciar posto all'immagine di lui buono, pentito, appassionato" (Canne al vento 144). [] She is as duped and conned as everyone else by this ne'er-do-well's ability to endear himself. Similarly in La madre, when Paulo can no longer stand to listen to Agnese's correct reasoning, he kisses her to stop the flow of her unbearable words (La madre 112). [] He deviates her logical arguments by using his sexual wiles, knowing how much she craves him physically, how she finds him so appealing, and how easily she can be seduced by his charms.

Deledda's adult/adolescents are promisers: in L'edera, Paulu is an unemployed heavy drinker (alcoholism and gambling addiction are also typical of arrested maturation), but for the nth time, he promises to change, not to drink anymore, and to find a job. Annessa knows "quanto valevano le promesse di Paulu, non esclusa quella di cercarsi un impiego e di mettersi a lavorare" (L'edera 133). [] Naturally he never does change; he never stops drinking; he never gets a job. This is despite his claim to have reinvented himself. Paulu senses Annessa's skepticism. "Ah, tu non credi che io possa tenere una promessa? Non sono piu un fanciullo: in questi ultimi giorni ho pensato ai casi miei, e ho deciso di finirla con tutte le sciocchezze" (133). And she is right to be wary of his promises; for he never keeps them.

In Canne al vento, Giacinto too makes promises he will not want to keep, including that of marrying Grixenda. When his mentor, Efix, tells him he must marry her to save the family fortune, Giacinto protests at length against being held to his word. Marianna Sirca, on the other hand, knows better than to really believe Simone when he promises to return to her: "Lei pero sapeva bene che egli non era padrone della sua parola" (Marianna Sirca 807). [] Eventually she becomes exasperated by what she considers the "vane promesse di lui" (846).

Deledda's men are irresponsible; they are never at fault. Elias Portolu finds himself drawn inexorably to Maddalena "come una farfalla intorno alla fiamma" (Elias Portolu 104). [] Has he no control over himself? No, he is ammaliato; something external is the problem. He concludes irresponsibly that "il demonio" is the one who tempts him (105). He blames his troubles on destiny. "Quale fatalita aveva il diritto di giuocarsi cosi degli uomini?" (106). He engages in all manner of adolescent rationalization to explain away what he thinks is beyond his control. In his mind, Elias is led into temptation by other forces; he is not directly accountable for his own behavior: "Eh, le feste son belle e i Santi son buoni, ma il vino, la gente, lo spasso, accendono il sangue, e se uno non e savio molto, ma molto, puo commettere grandi errori ed essere indotto in tentazione" (55).

There are many reasons for Elias's problems, but self-discipline is never an option for him. Whatever goes wrong is never the fault of the Deleddean male. In La madre as well, Paulo's failure is also someone else's responsibility: "Se avessi continuato a studiare sarei diventato qualche cosa, ma gia mio padre, mia madre, i miei nonni, tutti, tutti hanno commesso un grave errore cacciandomi in seminario. Ti ripeto sono rimasto un bambino; tutto in me si e fermato nel meglio del suo sviluppo; sono come quei frutti che si seccano prima di maturare" (98). In his favor (and quite uncharacteristically), Paulo does show a great deal of selfawareness in this instance; at least he acknowledges the problem. He is immature; but almost none of his Deleddean fictive peers share this rare insight.

Elias Portolu, for example, swears that he is, "innocente. I cattivi compagni mi avevano traviato, ed e perche praticavo con male compagnie che sono stato travolto in quella disgrazia" (21). He allows no possibility that he, himself, might bear some of the accountability for his own behavior. It is all his friends' fault; it is all the prison's fault. It never occurs to Elias that he made clear choices which led to negative results, that the blame should be placed within not without. Against his own principles Elias falls for Maddalena, but the onus is on her for their love affair: "perche mi guarda cosi? Perche non mi lascia in pace?" (44).

Elias confesses his sin of incest to his mentor, zio Martinu, (6) and blames the whole mess on fate and the devil: "Cosi vanno le cose del mondo, zio Martinu! Ed e la sorte, e il demonio che ci perseguita" (124). He even asks zio Martinu to tie him up physically to prevent him from returning to Maddalena and from escaping to "andare a fare quello che vuole il demonio" (124). Zio Martinu diagnoses the problem and tries to force Elias to grow up: "Il demonio! Il demonio! Tu ce l'hai col demonio! Sono stufo di sentirti parlare cosi. Chi e il demonio? Il demonio siamo noi!" (124). But Elias is having nothing to do with zio Martinu's advice.

The next day Elias learns that his brother has a critical infection; his very first thought is that if his brother dies, he can finally marry his lover/sister-in-law, Maddalena. He repents of that thought, but is tormented nevertheless. "Ah, qual mostro lo assaliva? Perche, appena egli si dimenticava un istante, quel mostro gli sussurrava parole di gioia, gli dava desideri colpevoli, mostrandogli di continuo l'immagine del fratello morto, sepolto?" (150). The culprit has become a monster, but heedless of Zio Martinu's advice, Elias fails to see that the monster resides within.

In La madre, Paulo's adolescent view is that it is all Agnese's fault that they have illicitly fallen in love. "Riconosceva pero ch'era stata la prima lei a guardarlo. Fin dal primo loro incontro gli occhi di lei avevano cercato i suoi con uno sguardo che implorava aiuto e amore. E a poco egli s'era lasciato prendere da quello sguardo" (31). Paulo is ever the passive one; Agnese is the ensnarer. For Paulo the woman makes all the moves and is the aggressor who will eventually land him in trouble: "E la donna gli aveva proposto di fuggire dal paese, di vivere o morire uniti. Nell'ebbrezza egli aveva accettato la proposta" (32). Emotional drunkenness caused it to happen. Paulo even blames his own mother. It is all her fault; she made him become a priest (although as a man he had plenty of choice in the matter). "Senti voglia di gridare, di rinfacciare e rimproverare alla madre di averlo portato via dal paese per avviarlo in una strada che non era la sua" (37). Later in the novel when he goes back in thought to his amorous dilemma: "E il demonio che mi ha preso col suo laccio" (88). This time it is the devil (most probably the same one who is assailing Elias Portolu), but always the responsibility is external to the protagonist.

In a short story entitled, "La porta aperta," (7) Simone Barca confesses to a priest; he attributes his sins to the fact that as soon as his mother died, "i cattivi compagni mi hanno assediato come le mosche un granellino d'uva" (584). He enumerates his crimes for his confessor and realizes that he will have to serve time in prison; he adds, "Tutta la colpa e dei cattivi compagni, i quali adesso mi hanno abbandonato" (585). Simone is a true fictive brother and kindred spirit of Elias and Paulo; cut from the same Deleddean cloth, the men deny all responsibility at every possible opportunity. They even share the same excuse of having had delinquent companions in their youth.

Deledda's men are petulant, emotional weaklings. Her heroes are what we would today call spoiled brats--juveniles who cut-and-run as soon as difficulties arise. In La madre Paulo thinks of escaping with his mother to avoid the scandal of a priest having a dalliance with a parishioner: "che ella mi riporti una seconda volta con se, come da bambino" (119-20). This is a grown man who as a cleric is a respected pillar of the community; yet he is such a juvenile. He thinks that running away will get him out of the sticky situation that he has created but cannot control. And when that does not work, he just wants to be a baby again and rest his head in his mother's lap. He just wants to run away with mamma: "aveva voglia di piangere ... di posarle la testa sulle ginocchia" (157). Yet he has to face saying Mass under Agnese's threatening glare. To avoid facing his responsibilities, he thinks he is still in time to "fingersi malato e non celebrare la Messa" (121). And Paulo is not the only Deleddean male who resorts to playing sick when he cannot face his obligations.

When Elias Portolu falls in love with Maddalena, he too is terrified "come un bimbo lasciato solo nella selvaggia solitudine notturna della brughiera" (45). Seeing the love of his life, Maddalena, marry his brother, Elias Portolu gets physically sick, and he too takes to the bed. During the wedding reception in the next room, from his sick-bed Elias hears the invited guests having fun. He thinks: "non si davano pena per lui" (89). Ever the narcissistic youth, that no one is paying attention to him and him alone makes Elias feel even worse.

So his sympathetic mamma makes him un brodo, which, "infantilmente lamentoso" (91), he stubbornly refuses to drink. He is playing the sick child; the enabling mother is playing her part. The scene borders on a chicken-soup parody as his brother's bride, and Elias' own secret lover, Maddalena, comes in to his room from her wedding reception to urge him to drink his mother's brodo: "Elias, perche fai cosi? Perche non prendi qualche cosa?--Non sei piu un ragazzino. Perche addolori tua madre? Su, fa il savio, come dice lei" (92). Sulking, he agrees to drink his brodo, but only for her and no one else.

Deledda's men are overly dependent upon their mothers. They are incorrigible mamma's boys. In many cases the woman for whom the Deleddean man falls is years his senior; it takes no great leap of the imagination to see the Freudian implications: we are dealing with a boy who needs to sleep again with his mother. In the short story, "La porta aperta," for example, after the male protagonist marries, "in poco tempo la casa del giovine parve un'altra, ripulita, col forno spesso acceso e il cortiletto animato di galline ... come quando era viva sua madre" ("La porta aperta," 590). [] So rather than to grow up, he merely chooses for his bride another nurturing mother. The result after their wedding? "Lui pareva di essere tornato ai tempi felici quando viveva sua madre ed egli, ancora innocente a vent'anni, andava a letto con lei e ripeteva le preghiere che ella gli suggeriva" (591).

In some cases Deledda's men are aware that they, themselves, are just boys; the women know it too; but those very women enter willingly into this destructive co-dependency. When Paulo of La madre accepts his first assignment as a priest, he thinks back to his initial entry into town and to his "madre che lo seguiva trepida come si segue un bimbo che fa i primi passi" (83). This is not far removed from the Maddalena-chicken-soup scene in Elias Portolu. Both their mothers and their girlfriends or wives are the strong ones in their relationships. This is markedly true in Anime oneste, where Cesario's mother indulges him with the best of foods, particular laundering techniques used only for his clothes, even a special bed just for him. Deledda's women give the men tacit permission to behave as they do; they egg them on; they humor them, nurture them, cosset them and dominate them.

Perhaps partly because of their intensely close relationships with their mothers and mother-figures, many of Deledda's boys eventually grow up to become misogynists. At times their hate for women is so strong that they engage in vivid rape fantasies. They day-dream about overpowering their women in chimerical scenes of rage and force, most often brought about by their own powerlessness over the dominating women they have chosen to love. In Marianna Sirca, all of Simone's loathing for the class system that forced him into banditry and emarginated him from society is personified by Marianna; he does not love her, but he does need to rape her, to possess her, to violate her to wreak revenge on a society that kept him poor and in his place.

Simone takes great pleasure in making Marianna cry: "provava in fondo un piacere crudele a vederla cosi umiliata e vinta" (822). Simone's rival-in-love, Sebastiano, also has plans for Marianna: "Fossero stati soli! Si sentiva capace di afferrarla per la vita e spezzarla sul suo ginocchio come una canna" (841). In Costantino's perceptive opinion, Simone's love for Marianna is "fatta piu di odio che d'amore" (847). At times in the novel various men think about dominating Marianna in situations of rage, usually brought about by episodes of Marianna's controlling personailty.

Marianna Sirca's own thoughts turn to her position of having the upperhand and to her ascendancy over Simone: "ed ecco di nuovo Simone accovacciato ai suoi piedi. Allora le parve di portarselo attorno come un bimbo in braccio" (767-68). The women are just as enabling of these adult-adolescents as the men themselves are immature. It is a symbiotic co-dependency that must be broken to be cured. With Deledda it is often a mother-son relationship; he is just a boy; the mother-figure is nurturing, but very strong and emotionally controlling. Simone stirs and says, "Marianna, sono ancora il tuo servo; ti metto la testa in grembo, e tu puoi prenderla fra le tue mani come il frutto del castagno che fuori e tutto spine e dentro e dolce come il pane" (753).

As for Marianna, "Si senti fiera di essere amata cosi, da un uomo come lui, di averlo ai suoi piedi" (753). The women are just as complicitous in this model of being codependents. Marianna especially prefers her men in subordination. The man is her baby and she likes it that way. Marianna Sirca's reaction to Simone's misogyny is consistent with this notion: "lo amo come un bambino addormentato; le sembro di poterlo proteggere, di salvarlo, di accoglierlo entro le sue viscere come un suo figlio stesso." (752). With Deledda it is often a motherson relationship; he just a boy; she is very strong. If that is not clear, consider what Simone does next. He stirs and "con un tremito nel collo tento di affondare meglio la testa fra le ginocchia di lei." (752). Classic literary returns to the womb could not possibly be clearer than this one. (8)

It is clear from her autobiography that Grazia Deledda modeled many of her male figures on the men she knew personally; but why would she create such psychologically true specimens precisely of this syndrome? Why would she be so consistent and insistent upon this as her dominant male model? In at least one instance she uses it as part of an exquisite strategy where her elegant depiction of a male character of arrested maturation serves an obvious subtextual purpose--one that the censors would never have allowed to appear in print.

In an incredible scene from Canne al vento, Deledda establishes throughout the novel that the male figure, Giacinto, is a baby by using various, scattered phrases such as "si diverte come un bambino" (95), etc. Then at one point in the novel undulations of baby-images connected to Giacinto follow one another. After this build-up of Giacinto being a bambino, at an intoxicating and sexually charged outdoor festa, his new girlfriend, Grixenda, immediately turns from a potentially sexual encounter with Giacinto and redirects her attention to a real baby: "gli bacio le cosce, affondando le labbra nella carne tenera ove i solchi segnavano striscioline rosee e viola; lo sollevo in alto, lo ribasso fino a terra, lo sollevo ancora, lo fece ridere, lo porto fuori stringendoselo forte al petto" (96).

In this unmistakable scene of oral sex, Deledda substitutes the real baby for another baby-figure, the grown man, Giacinto. This is especially evident when Grixenda lifts and lowers the baby repeatedly, with her face between his thighs--a lewd spectacle which Deledda never could have published uncensored in her times. The real baby in this scene serves no other narrative purpose, and he only appears once again, and once again only in connection with her desire for Giacinto. For not much afterward, the real baby "le morsicava i bottoni della camicia" (98). Deledda primes us to use our imaginations later when Giacinto and Grixenda really do embrace. Deledda cannot and does not need to embroider upon the sexual scene between the two real lovers; we have already seen the unspeakable encounter in the baby-scene which provided what could not be printed at the time.


In Canne al vento, Deledda puts into Efix's mouth a psychological explanation for arrested maturation that would be fully developed almost a century later by clinical psychologists who have expended entire professional careers studying this disorder: "Il ragazzo a me non sembra cattivo: E stato finora mal guidato; ha perduto i genitori nel peggior tempo per lui, ed e rimasto come un bambino solo nella strada e s'e perduto" (124).

The syndrome pervades our lives today just as it did Deledda's. The only difference is that we have given it a name. From her biography we recognize that as an autodidact who spent most of her formative years in sociologically forced seclusion, she could have known only what she saw and heard recounted, only what she read in her very limited library. Natalino Sapegno stresses that Deledda had "quasi nessun contatto con le esperienze letterarie, e culturali in genere, dei contemporanei." (9) What we know of her two older brothers indicates that they were her primary models for youths of arrested maturation. Santus, a serious alcoholic, suffered from lengthy bouts of depression. His inability to control his drinking brought about his early demise, but not before a life of dissipation and wasted opportunity. Her brother Andreas spent an entire lifetime in destructive adolescent pursuits; his own alcoholism eventually brought the once-proud Deledda family much public opprobrium and close to bankruptcy because of his profligacy. At one point, Andreas was even jailed for being part of a counterfeiting operation, consistent with his penchant for petty thievery and hooliganism. Perhaps precisely because of both brothers' prodigal behavior, Grazia Deledda became somewhat of an unwilling expert on every adolescent, juvenile ruse described today in the clinical studies. (10) Indeed Deledda knew the syndrome well, even the pessimistic prognosis. For she also recognized that there is little hope for recovery; few of her own protagonists mature significantly at the end of the story.

Deledda taught herself practically everything she knew. She was a remarkably intuitive woman even to have recognized that within her own purview there was a pathology waiting to be examined in her fiction. Her work is purely experiential; she had no psychological training; yet psychologically she got it absolutely right, using all but the professional terminology in use today. Prophetically Grazia Deledda recontextualized the man/woman relationship for us. Her literary foresight is reassuring. For has there ever been a time when we have needed more a woman's visceral, instinctual, and insightful analysis of male/female relationships?

The University of Kansas

Opere citate

Akhtar, Salman and Anderson Thomson. "Overview: Narcissistic Personality Disorder." American Journal of Psychiatry 10 (1982): 32-48.

Aste, Mario. Grazia Deledda: Ethnic Novelist. Maryland: Scripta umanistica, 1990.

Balducci, Carolyn. A Self-Made Woman: Biography of Nobel-Prize-Winner Grazia Deledda. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975.

Deledda, Grazia. Anime Oneste. Milano: Cogliati, 1896.

--. Canne al vento. Milano: Mondadori, 1969.

--. Cosima. Milano: Treves, 1937.

--. L'edera. Milano: Mondadori, 1971.

--. Elias Portolu. Milano: Mondadori, 1965.

--. La madre. Milano: Mondadori, 1966.

--. Marianna Sirca. Milano: Treves, 1915.

--. Romanzi e novelle. Milano: Mondadori, 1941.

--. Romanzi e novelle. Milano: Mondadori, 1971.

Dowling, Colette. The Cinderella Complex. NY: Pocket Books, 1982.

Elkind, David. The Hurried Child. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1981.

Ellis, Albert and William J. Knaus. Overcoming Procrastination. New York: Signet, 1979.

Emmons, Robert. "Narcissism: Theory and Measurement." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52 (1987): 11-17.

Gunderson, Ronningstam and Bodkin. "The Diagnostic Interview for Narcissistic Patients." Archives of General Psychiatry 47 (1990): 676-80.

Janus, Sam. The Death of Innocence. NY: Morrow, 1981.

Johnson, Robert. Transfiguration: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness. San Francisco: Harper, 1989.

Kernberg, Otto. Aggression in Personality Disorders and Perversions. New Haven: Yale UP, 1992.

--. Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson, 1976.

--. Severe Personality Disorders: Psychotherapeutic Strategies. New Haven: Yale UP, 1984.

Kiley, Daniel. The Peter Pan Syndrome. New York: Avon, 1983.

--. The Wendy Dilemma. NY: Arbor House, 1984.

Kohut, Heinz. Advances in Self-Psychology. New York: International Universities Press, 1980.

--. The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders. New York: International Universities Press, 1971.

Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism. NY: Warner, 1980.

Levine, Judith. My Enemy, My Love: Man-Hating and Ambivalence in Women's Lives. NY: Doubleday, 1992.

Levinson, Daniel J. The Seasons of a Man's Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.

Masterson, James F. Comparing Psychoanalytic Therapies. New York: Brunner and Mazel, 1991.

--. Countertransference and Psychotherapeutic Technique. New York: Brunner and Mazel, 1983.

--. From Borderline Adolescent to Functioning Adult. New York: Brunner and Mazel, 1980.

--. Search for the Real Self: Portrait of a Narcissist. New York: Free Press, 1991.

--. The Emerging Self: A Developmental, Self, and Object Relations Approach to the Treatment of the Closet Narcissistic Disorder of the Self. New York: Brunner and Mazel, 1993.

--. The Narcissistic and Borderline Disorders. New York: Brunner and Mazel, 1981.

--, ed. New Perspectives on Psychotherapy of the Borderline Adult. New York: Brunner and Mazel, 1978.

Miccinesi, Mario. Deledda. Il Castoro, 105. Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1975.

Pyszczynski, Thomas A. and Arthur Greenberg. "Self Regulatory Perseveration." American Psychologist (January, 1987): 121-30.

(1) It is commonly accepted that Cosima is largely autobiographical (its original title was Cosima quasi Grazia). In it Deledda gives a good sense of what her two brothers were like: indulged sons of rich, cold and distant parents, they were raised without responsibilities or any accountability for their actions. It is understandable that Grazia Deledda, sheltered as she was, had only them as models for her male protagonists; they were the only men she knew closely. So when she presents us with the rich array of juveniles who protagonize her fictive world, it is unmistakable that Santus and Andreas Deledda helped create that model.

(2) Throughout this essay I do not use the terms "borderline adult" or "Peter Pan" syndrome as described in Part I of this study because Grazia Deledda adds much more to the overall picture of the victim of this psychological affliction. As teased out from her prose, her description of the syndrome elaborates a picture of the adult-adolescent of arrested maturation which actually goes well beyond the syndrome as described by Masterson, Kiley, and others.

(3) The primary characteristics of this syndrome, as well as the description of its victims as summarized in Part I, are based on the work of the late psychologist Dan Kiley, and from personal conversations with him. I owe a personal debt of gratitude to Dan Kiley for his help with this precis and for his invaluable assistance in compiling a bibliography. The works of James F. Masterson are especially helpful as well (see below). See also Akhtar and Thomson; Dowling; Elkind; Ellis; Emmons; Gunderson and Bodkin; Janus; Johnson; Kernberg; Kohut; Lasch; Levine; Levinson; Masterson; Pyszczynski and Greenberg.

(4) Anecdotal evidence shows that in some cases even physical characteristics of adolescence, such as teenage acne, can erupt in adulthood during, for example, an adult/adolescent's fit of anger.

(5) Interestingly enough, the syndrome rarely appears in women of the same socioeconomic profile; no one has yet determined why.

(6) For an excellent analysis of this taboo in Sardinia see Aste 1990.

(7) See the collection of the same name, Chiaroscuro (1912), in Romanzi e novelle 1941.

(8) Miccinesi (Deledda) observes the following, prompting one to wonder why it is not "irrational" when men appropriate women in the same ways as described below. "I personaggi femminili nell'opera della nuorese, concepiscono l'amore quasi esclusivamente come possesso, come appropriazione dell'uomo. Non solo la loro passione e esclusa, unidirezionale nel senso che si dimostrano incapaci, una volta innamoratesi di un uomo, di dimenticarlo, nemmeno quando si rendono conto che quella stessa passione sara la causa della loro infelicita e addirittura neppure nel caso che si verifichi la morte dell'uomo (che l'unirsi in matrimonio con altri sara per loro un puro atto di rassegnazione alle convenienze o alla necessita economica), ma presenta anche il carattere di essere cosi forte da assorbire ogni altra facolta che non sia quella amorosa, di cancellare qualunque altro aspetto della vita che non abbia riferimento con il loro amore, cosicche assai spesso la donna si riduce nello stato di chi agisce unicamente guidato da un istinto cieco e assoluto: e in questo si ravvisa quella che abbiamo definito l'animalita del loro comportamento. Quasi sempre, quando si trovano in questo stato di pura irrazionalita, il loro pensiero diviene ottuso, dissennato, e si da della realta una rappresentazione del tutto falsa" (83).

(9) In his prefatory remarks in Grazia Deledda, Romanzi e novelle, Sapegno discusses as well the different contemporary literary movements (Naturalism, Idealism, Esthetism, Anti-Naturalism, Modernism) of Deledda's day and observes that, "non si avverte traccia nei primi romanzi della Deledda" (xii). While she could not have ignored these poetics, she remained "sempre estranea e come refrattaria, chiusa nel nocciolo di un'ispirazione che, col passar del tempo, finiva coll'apparire sempre piu appartata, remota e arcaica. In un campo di esperienze a lei piu affini, neppure si puo dire che la toccassero gli eventi in cui si concreta la crisi dei temi e dei procedimenti della narrativa europea, e anche italiana (dal Panzini al Pirandello al primo Tozzi)" (xii)

(10) Miccinesi is correct about the autobiographical links to Deledda's works: "Sino al confine (1910), puo essere ricordato per quanto di autobiografico e da rintracciarsi in esso: il personaggio di Luca, per esempio, dedito ad una rovinosa ubriachezza, riporta ad una esperienza assai triste che la scrittrice ebbe a fare nell'ambito della propria famiglia, e i genitori di Gavina possono essere considerati costruiti, come personaggi, sulla memoria dei genitori della stessa Deledda, per non dire che la casa in cui Gavina abita ha molti punti di contatto con quella in cui visse la scrittrice a Nuoro" (58).
COPYRIGHT 1997 Annali d'Italianistica, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Kozma, Jan
Publication:Annali d'Italianistica
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 1997
Previous Article:Brief notices.
Next Article:Le parole del Verbo: twentieth-century Italian literature and Christianity.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters