Confounding and Doubling the Self:
Sharing the Role of the Protagonist
in La cognizione del dolore

Borislava Vassileva

Of all the prosthesis that mark the history of the body, the double is doubtless the oldest. But the double is precisely not a prosthesis: it is an imaginary figure, which, just like the soul, the shadow, the mirror image, haunts the subject like its other, which makes it so that the subject is simultaneously itself and never resembles itself again, which haunts the subject like a subtle and always averted death. (1)

J. Baudrillard

A quick look at a sufficiently comprehensive dictionary of the French language, yields two intriguingly divergent results for «prothèse»:

1. Appareil, dispositif servant à remplacer un membre, une partie du membre amputé, ou un organe gravement atteint ou détruit, reproduisant la forme et si possible la fonction de l’origine.

2. (en linguistique) l’adjonction, à l’initiale d’un mot, d’un élément vocalique non étymologique, sans modification sémantique (ex. Esprit: «E» prothètique à «spiritus»). (my emphasis)

A minimal rephrasing outlines the crucial difference. The first prosthesis is a functionally meaningful completion of a damaged yet recuperable whole; the second, an addition to something already complete, which thus results inconsequential, semantically void. At the very core of the term, therefore, we find something very similar to an opposition, a bond that is certainly imperfect yet insoluble too. In his typical style, Baudrillard makes full use of this initial complication by simultaneously affirming and negating the analogy: the double is and is not a prosthesis. As far as the relationship to the subject is concerned, no possibility is precluded: the addition of the double may denote an incompleteness or come as a redundancy. What haunts the subject could be the urgency to reconstruct a pre-given, currently dysfunctional meaning or state, or something quite different, the superfluity of any additions to the self.

In the slippery wording of Baudrillard’s passage, the initial association prosthesis-double slyly but surely accumulates a variety of meanings. While in fact the double is explicitly identified as «a moment in the history of the body», the passage makes no mention that, with regard to the body, history is itself already prosthetic. Even before it crystallises in a particular image, the immortal soul or the Platonic shadow, the double does demonstrate the impossibility of the subject to coincide with itself.

The distance between existence and the image of it or, rather, the host of images in which the subject can catch a flickering resemblance of himself, presents the individual with two very great and real risks: that of not being recognised as oneself, and that of someone else being mistakenly recognised as him – i.e., of having one’s existence usurped or, alternatively, not even acknowledged. Gonzalo Pirobutirro, the protagonist of La cognizione del dolore, confronts this condition as someone already too aware of the dangers of doubling. When, during the Doctor’s visit, Gonzalo begins to lose his reserve of a well-bred signore, his long pent-up anger is unleashed precisely on the organising force of character as on an old enemy:

La forza sistematrice del carattere.... questa gloriosa lampada a petrolio che ci fuma dentro,.... e fa il filo, e ci fa neri di bugìe, di dentro, di bugìe meritorie, grasse, bugiardosissime.... e ha la buona opinione per sé, per sé sola.... (RR I 632)

The individualising consciousness is certainly not the only enemy the sick engineer tries to demolish. Yet, with no exception, its shadow can be discerned behind all his other grievances. Initially the aggressive impulse appears still quite contained; it is clearly communicable, even if only in the harsh terms of Gonzalo’s satirising detachment. However, as the Doctor receives the first wave of protest with dismissive silence, the attack is renewed in increasingly more scathing, less controlled outbursts. Things take up a threatening profile for Gonzalo, with apparent randomness: the sound of the church bells, the mother’s ageing, his own physical being, personal pronouns, the numerous appearances of undistinguishable Josés and Beppinas – all of these are attacked in turn.

Yet the violence is not directed exclusively outward. Self-incrimination is voiced without any hesitation: «I think, già; but I’m ill of thinking» (RR I 636). The constitutive move of thought to distinguish and divide is blamed for both its baseness («la bassezza della comune dialettica») and its inefficacy in guaranteeing the subject. Like the crumbling wall around the villa, thought isolates without protecting: «l’essere si parzializza, in un sacco, in una lercia trippa, i di cui confini sono più miserabili e più fessi di questo fesso muro pagatasse.... che lei me lo scavalca in un salto» (RR I 637-38). The unreliable enclosure of the wall parallels the structure of what appears to be Gonzalo’s moral problem. The subject must in fact own his acts, even if the porous contours of its identity are as helpless against the inflow of circulating impurity as the wall is inadequate to stop the criminal from breaking in. No matter who actually perpetrates the pre-announced crime, the responsibility will fall on the would-be owner of the land and of the thought.

Surprisingly the notion of the double is scarcely included in dictionaries of literary criticism; it is mainly through related rubrics that its critical applications must be retrieved. (2) The present work is based on the conviction that such critical neglect is not only puzzling but also undeserved, for, as the double can be used both in the analysis of formal plot structures (narratology) or in that of character (Freudian analysis), it provides access to an expanded range of issues. Faced with a figure as far outside every standard as Gonzalo Pirobutirro, I will therefore try to combine both approaches by looking in particular at how the character relates to others. Gonzalo’s secret suffering, his male invisibile, comes sometimes in a philosophical rejection of the way things are, sometimes in an unresolved sense of personal guilt. The neurotic oscillation between rejection of the world and self-incrimination is one of the signs that for him the dividing line between self and other is itself in question. Against this backdrop, I will attempt to show that unless we treat Gaetano Palumbo, at first glance a secondary character, as integral to the figure of the protagonist, the latter remains incomplete.

As a narratological function, the double is one of the classes of actors occupying distinct structural positions in the narrative, such as Subject, Object, Helper, Opponent. On the formalist assumption that texts are decomposable into basic narrative functions, then, this approach is primarily interested in locating the double as a structure of plot. (3) The need for such a concept is obviously greatest in extended works of fiction, where sub-fabulas and the ways they are co-ordinated to form the main plot can constitute a dauntingly complex structure. (4) In a text such as Gadda’s La cognizione del dolore, in contrast, in which plot is of secondary importance, the doubling of sub-plots helps highlight the fragmentation of the narrative. The scarcity of proper events makes their repetition or variations stand out even more. Shared attributes or patterns of behaviour between Gonzalo and Gaetano are often indirect or coded; their amount and quality, however, point us again to the need to read these two characters in parallel: distant yet indispensable to each other.

Gonzalo, as the central figure of the novel, and the family villa, as the stage of the crime, do not appear close up for the reader until Chapter 3. Fuelled by a seemingly inexhaustible supply of local curiosities and a proportionate enjoyment in deforming them, the text goes a long way without disclosing unambiguously where precisely authorial attention is leading. Without a measure yet to determine the relative importance of these mini-stories, the reader is compelled to collect them as free-standing episodes, whose connection will be established only retrospectively. Some of them, such as the extravagant adventures of the ghost, remain precisely that: virtuosic digressions, brilliant specimens of a narrative economy whose standard is excess. Others, however, already in the opening pages, seem to various degrees to be pre-announcing something, namely the Signora, the son and the villa. The bareness of their determination gives all three an almost archetypal aura. This intentionally postponed entry of the main characters and setting forces the reader to gather and piece together even more avidly what scattered evidence he comes upon in anticipation of the actual introduction. Not only does he reader accompany Dr. Higueróa on his slow-paced walk to villa Pirobutirro and in his ruminations about his patient. In the process, he is also artfully trained to adopt the Doctor’s constant striving to be ahead of the news. The more the protagonist is kept back, the more important rumours about him become.

The most striking story to come up from the reservoir of local gossip in these first two chapters is the one of the mini-scandal of Pedro Mahagones, unmasked as Gaetano Palumbo before his identity has yet had time to set for the reader. Bigger and more elaborated than any of the gossip so far shared, this scandal is not distinguished from the rest by stylistic markers such as tone or register. If it stands out, it is because its protagonist, Pedro/Gaetano, receives a preferential treatment. Among the rapidly growing crowd of Josés and Beppinas, in which individual eccentricities never coalesce sufficiently to form a character, the figure of the night-guard is set apart by the repeated insistence on his individuality. The nature of the scandal immediately draws attention to the character’s full name, the false one first, and then the real.

But this distinction with respect to other characters is supported by yet other forms of narrative attention. As the origins and growth of the scandal are investigated, Pedro/Gaetano is in fact provided with a rather detailed, if sketchy, personal history: from early childhood to his military adventure, from random acquaintances (the wool merchant episode) to established personality traits («Pedro era un semplice, un puro di cuore», RR I 579). Despite being dismissively referred to as a «scandaletto» in the beginning (RR I 574), Palumbo’s story slyly and surely becomes the focus of narration. Not only are its factual details duly collected, but so are also the modalities of its narrative distribution; its sources, variations and claims to authenticity are revisited time and again. For any reader familiar with novelistic conventions, at the end of the first two chapters the night-guard with a double identity is positioned to occupy a central place in the course of events. When Gonzalo finally appears, coming down from the villa to meet Dr. Higueróa at the end of Ch. 2, it is with Palumbo that he must share the first place in the reader’s attention.

And yet the subsequent development of the narrative leaves this expectation unfulfilled. After a distinctly privileged introduction, Gaetano Palumbo is just as decisively dropped out of the centre of events. He is mentioned a few more times, in the oblique and striking way typical of Gadda, but he can be seen directly involved in the events only once. The episode I am referring to is situated toward the end of the medical visit, when, just as his name has come up in the conversation, the night-guard makes an uncanny appearance in person. (5) The encounter with the son is brief and remains the only one in the whole book, but its object, emotional charge and position in the narrative deserve to be examined closely, for they are related to the possibility of treating the two characters as doubles.

In the case of Gaetano’s sudden appearance at villa Pirobutirro, the simulated omnipotence of thought works in a rather diffused, depersonalised way. It is as if the situation itself evokes him, and not the thoughts of either the Doctor or Gonzalo. At other junctures, however, it is expressly Gonzalo’s obsessive absorption in his inner space that is associated with the neurotic tendency discussed by Freud. The representation of this mental process is often times exploited for its humorous potential: «Il dottore sorrise […] non tanto per le battute in se stesse, quanto per il tono di severa violenza e di indignazione con cui don Gonzalo aveva estromesso l’invettiva, scambiando il fantasma per un suo nemico politico» (RR I 654). Other times, however, it is used to probe into the most troubling aspects of the character’s existential malaise:

«E se il nipotino crepa, dopo una indigestione di fichi e di cioccolatini, sono io ad averne colpa. E dovrò pagare, come sempre. Pagargli il posto in Purgatorio, allo scemo. Perché la colpa ce l’avremo noi; noi Pirobutirro. E dunque dovremo pagare. Dacché siamo colpevoli d’ogni cosa. Abbiamo noi la colpa di tutto.... qualunque cosa succeda.... anche a Tokyo.... a Singapore.... la colpa è nostra.... Dei Pirobutirro marchesi di Lukones.... E dovremo pagare. Pagare tutto a tutti....» Si riabbandonava al suo delirio. Idee coatte cerchiavano quel cranio della loro corona di ferro. (RR I 645)

In this case, what starts as a protest against an absurd devolvement of responsibility onto him ends, with characteristic dynamics, as self-accusation and loss of control. In the pages preceding Gaetano’s appearance, between one outburst and the next, the son’s thoughts keep returning on the mother: «La mamma non ritornava! […] Ma la mamma, dove era?» (RR I 648-649). This virtual call, however, is not answered. It is rather the negative thought, Gaetano, that materialises.

As the narratological model requires, Gonzalo Pirobutirro and Gaetano Palumbo are not full-time opponents, on the contrary; their characters and existential positions make them very unlikely to formulate or compete over the same objectives. Their life trajectories do not come into contact, except for this one point of intersecting interest: the payment of the insurance subscription. From what they say or do in these introductory chapters, one can deduce that they are aware of each other’s public reputation, yet nothing points to them having had a history of personal interaction. When the Doctor summarises the true story of Gaetano for his patient, the apparent lack of interaction between the two is suddenly overshadowed by two prominent thematic analogies, namely the intertwined issues of illness and sociability.

The decision to tell Gaetano’s story in full to Gonzalo is connected in the Doctor’s mind to the matter-of-fact recognition of this analogy: «Ma è guarito [Pedro/Gaetano]! da un pezzo!.... più guarito di lei!» (RR I 655). The Doctor, of course, knows that the analogy is imperfect. Gonzalo’s suffering is twofold, the ulcer and the «male invisibile»; his physical and spiritual ailments are equally non responsive, the former to treatment, the latter to the call of reason. Gaetano’s illness, on the other hand, becomes doubled only at the level of appearance, the meaningful distinction being that between a successful and a failed simulation of a disability.

Yet the crucial difference between their respective conditions seems to reside in the impact illness has on their relation to others. In Gaetano’s case, deafness at first — with its physical cause narratively documented for the receptive audience at the village tobacconist — does not prevent him from being a night-guard; on the contrary, it makes him a local celebrity. The discovery of the hoax deprives him of a certain government pension, but this is adequately supplemented by side activities and even more fame. (6) Neither the loss of hearing nor the subsequent loss of deafness are thus suffered as diminutions of personality. Through all these vicissitudes, Gaetano’s face conveys the unfaltering self-certainty of someone who is in the right:

[…] gli occhi rimanevano soli al comando, ferivano l’interlocutore con una espressione di richiesta e di attesa, si aveva la sensazione di dover assolutamente pagare qualche cosa, una specie di multa virtuale. (RR I 576).

In the perspective suggested by the Doctor, Gaetano’s skill to make the most of any circumstance dramatises even more Gonzalo’s incapacity to navigate through existence. The son experiences the world in a mode of hostile rejection, only momentarily softened by a virtual cry for help, yet a half-hearted one, almost resigned to its defeat. Co-operating with the world is not even a temptation, yet remaining outside brings no solace either. (7)

In so far as Gonzalo and Gaetano are used to explore the interlacing themes of illness and socialisation, simulation and functioning, they do work as functional doubles. The moment one becomes interested in the specifics of this thematic doubling, however, the exclusively structural concerns of the narratological approach appear limiting. In a novel persistently haunted by the fear of matricide, one cannot help noting, in fact, that the incidental opposition over which protagonist and double confront each other coincides with the figure of the mother. «Cercavo la signora» are the words with which the night-guard addresses the son, instead of a greeting. The previously established relative criteria for comparison recede in the background, the opposition in this case is clearly constructed around an issue of access. Annoyed by the repeated demands to pay, Gonzalo plays the firm, rightful plenipotentiary of his mother. It is precisely this identification, however, that Gaetano refuses to acknowledge; to him the son cannot represent the mother, he simply obstructs access to her.

The clash of interests projects the son in the dual function of usurper and protector, a duality of perception which is also confirmed in the way the mother is portrayed. When the presentation centres on her extreme solitude and fragility, the son is drawn into the background as the only person who could make a difference in her shrinking world. No effective call for help is uttered, yet it is his benevolence that is being sought. Other times, however, it is just as clearly fear that dominates their relationship; long before Gonzalo pronounces the threat in a spell of anger, the mother moves around the house as someone whose punishment is simply postponed. Attracted by the scandalous tinge of violence and fear between mother and son, the local community exploits it to complete Gonzalo’s reputation as a monster. Ironically, however, in the end the mother’s murder happens not through him — as he himself dreads when he utters the threat — but through his failure to protect her. He errs in fact on the side not of violence but of irresponsibility. In order not to commit the crime, that is, Gonzalo makes it easier for others to perpetrate it. In what sense, then, would Gaetano be other, if he fulfils Gonzalo’s secret desire?

At this point one must pick up again the thread of our Freudian reading and try to uncover precisely the forbidden connections, the mechanisms through which what is expelled from one’s desire returns to haunt. In his classic essay on The Uncanny, Freud develops the notion of the double along two distinct lines: the specific manifestations or appearances of doubles, and the dynamics linking these particular manifestations to the uncanny feeling (8). While the double as physical semblance is always a particular, contingent marker of the experience of the uncanny, the double as a figure of the compulsion to repeat is constitutive of psychic life. It is with this dynamic principle — which brings to mind something that is neither completely present nor completely absent — that we must now engage.

In Freud’s formulation of the principle of repetition-compulsion, the recurrence of imperfect replicas of an image, motif or structure is clearly set in opposition to the pleasure principle. Against his will or enjoyment, that is, the subject returns to what should have remained secret. In the original expression, the unheimlich is derived from and still contains its exact opposite, the heimlich. Similarly, in the uncanny repetition, that which cannot the directly faced — the psychic repression constituting the subject — is simultaneously evoked and disguised.

The doubling thus occurs at the level of character but is not confined to the individual subject. Rather, by highlighting the mechanisms of repression, projection and transference, doubling makes it possible to identify the patterns, the ways in which the «confounding», «dividing and interchanging» of the self take place. The phrasing itself immediately reminds one of Gonzalo’s obsessive preoccupations with the boundaries of the self. At times, he inveighs against the idea of the subject as an indivisible unit (as in his outbursts against personal pronouns); at others, however, he is fully and totally engaged in policing the dividing line between the self and its environment (notably, in his Germanic manias for order, silence and purity). And yet, ignored, blocked, magnified, or mocked, such exchanges with the world cannot be suppressed. In the last part of this work, I will concentrate on how Gonzalo’s belligerent self-distancing from everyone encourages the reader to develop an even sharper eye for what connects him to others; in particular, I will look into the explicit or secretive links pointing us in the direction of the most unwelcome analogy, that with Gaetano Palumbo.

Gonzalo’s anti-democratic feeling, which needs minimal expansion to become a full-fledged misanthropy, is typically expressed in an almost allergic intolerance for the physical presence of lower-class people. Their sound, smell and movement are caricatured to the point of grotesque (9). Often times, it is nothing more than merely their entrance — constructed as an offensive sensory aggression — that throws Gonzalo off his strenuously maintained balance. As early as the Doctor’s visit, Gonzalo’s verbal assaults on humanity are occasioned or exacerbated by the appearance of outsiders: the colonel’s grandson first, then the peon.

Later on, one of the scenes of sharpest alienation — culminating in Gonzalo’s sullen contemplation of the banality of the sky — is triggered by a servant’s annoyingly incompetent attempt to light the fire. In the decisive scene in which the threat of murder is spoken, it is again the contaminating presence of others, «popolo e pulci», «quella pluralità sconcia» (RR I 729), that unleashes the son’s fury. The violence of Gonzalo’s reaction testifies that his intellectual dislike for the peasants has permeated his very perception of them. It is not really an opinion that drives him when he explodes, rather a sense of organic incompatibility. He cannot help rejecting them any more than he can soften his perception. Indeed, the policy he typically adopts with respect to such offenders, expulsion, is made to appear natural enough, justified. The threat toward the mother — «Se ti trovo ancora una volta nel branco dei maiali, scannerò te e loro» – is attenuated by its complementary phrase: «perdonami! Mamma, sono io!» (RR I 737), a phrase which Gonzalo does not pronounce, but which the author supplies for the reader to round off the portrait of the character. Nothing, however, is inserted to mediate the judgement of the visitors as «maiali»; with respect to them, the reaction of the son seems to need no excuse.

The obviousness of the expulsion is predicated on the indubitability of the difference: the Pirobutirro son is what the others are not. Surrounded by overwhelming noise and smells, the son is described in contrast as not participating in this pandemonium. The local fables, picturing him as a shameless, insatiable glutton, are proven to be calumnies when paired with the scene of Gonzalo’s actual dinner, scant and sombre. If only his fits of rage could be edited out, Gonzalo would be exemplary: «cominciò a recare il cucchiaio alla bocca, senza che l’introito del liquido sfigurasse la gentile figura del silenzio» (RR I 709).

The image evoked by the negation — that of disfigured gentleness — constructs the everyday existence of the various Josés and Beppinas as a crime, involuntary yet irredeemable. Only he, Gonzalo, the «sin vergüenza» (RR I 601), tries to offend less with his lower physical existence. Before it bursts into a spasm of anger, his denial of the physical is relentless. It is a regime of self-censorship: when Gonzalo is irritated, he becomes extremely courteous; at times, even, the anger is sealed under a deadpan face (10). Despite such self-disciplining measures, however, the stamp of lower nature has not been erased from his features. As a sadly ironic comment on his efforts, the impenetrable face of the hidalgo has the animalesque inscribed on it: «il muso d’una malinconica bestia» (RR I 618).

Having to carry the animal on one’s face when all has been attempted to expel it from one’s behaviour, parallels the necessity to commit the pre-announced crime when all has been done to avoid it. Gonzalo does try to exercise what self-control he can master: he takes himself away from the house to prevent the execution of the matricidal thought he has conceived. As with all good prophecies, though, the effort to circumvent fate fails. The aggression does take place, even if Gonzalo and his sense of guilt have left the stage of events. In the absence of the son, one is immediately reminded of the Nistitùos de vigilancia para la noche. The son’s opposition to being obliged to pay in fact has left the mother without their protection; his sudden departure leaves her unprotected from them.

The mechanism of insurance services in Maradagal is not the prime focus of the narrator’s attention, and yet it is not deliberately mystified either. When in the last two chapters it is drawn to the foreground through the burglary at cav. Trabatta’s, there can be no doubt left about its mafia-like methods, since those not subscribing are instructively exposed to all the risks they have refused to consider (11). It is precisely in this setting that, after an absence lasting several chapters, the night-guard resurfaces: suggestively under his false name this time, and engaged in a highly suspect enforcement of the law.

The indices that point toward Pedro/Gaetano as the perpetrator of the crime are of the order of hypotheses, gaining weight not from final proof but from their convergence on an already shady reputation. «Era un cane» is Gonzalo’s first impression of Palumbo when the latter comes looking for his mother. The invocation of the animal nature of the guard picks up a motif already introduced in the presentation of the son, but this time in a clearly aggressive, pejorative mode. Yet animality, in his case, is never an embarrassment, nor an inconvenience; on the contrary, it seems necessary to make him the public success that he is. The same aspect of character, which Gonzalo tries to suppress with so much effort, is given free reign in Palumbo: it is in fact put under the auspices of the law. Its likely involvement in the violence committed against the mother, more importantly, turns Gaetano into a psychic equivalent of Gonzalo’s suppressed but unextinguished matricidal impulse.

Examining some of the narrative details that are woven into the characterisation of Gonzalo and Gaetano respectively, one cannot help noticing how often the terms employed in the discussion of one character resonate with those defining the other. Except for a remote physical similarity — both are tall and corpulent —, the tendency is to describe them repeatedly as opposites. It is significant that a number of these oppositions are phrased in such a way as to evoke the connection they supposedly negate. Thus, two of the things Gaetano is announced not to be in his first introduction are conspicuously the foremost attributes of the protagonist: «non era un signore in villa […] e nemmeno, Dio liberi!, uno scrittore» (RR I 578).

Towards the end, reversely, one of Gonzalo’s negative portrayals has Gaetano’s profile in the background: «Non era un bimbo, non era neppure un sordo di guerra» (RR I 735). These categorical negations of the other are supplemented by a number of analogical connections, some of which can be thought synonymically (the medical complaints of both characters are associated with simulation, proven or suspected), or as complements (the lacerating hand-grenade of Gaetano’s invention does not damage his health, but conveniently matches the nature of Gonzalo’s ailment: the ulcer, a laceration of the gastric system).

A full catalogue of such connections between the two characters would require an extensive textual analysis which is beyond the scope of this work. What I am interested in highlighting here is the logic of their use: whether they establish an opposition or an analogy, the implied background of reference is constituted by what has been or will be said about the other character of the pair. As Gonzalo remains the psychological centre of the narrative, the prosthetic function of Gaetano is more obvious and more interesting to explore. What it amounts to, however, is the inclusion of the marginal character into the role of the protagonist. Without Gaetano’s committing the act of the crime, Gonzalo cannot be the matricide. The horror of the act is removed onto a different agent in order to be at all approachable. The prosthetic double keeps, then, Baudrillard’s contradictory promise. It is and is not the subject. It allows the self to trace its connection to things outside and, at the same time, to dissociate itself from things within.

Harvard University


1. J. Baudrillard, Clone Story, in Simulacra and Simulation, transl. by S. Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 95.

2. Many of the respectably voluminous dictionaries sitting on the standard library shelf have no separate entry for it – cf. The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism (ed. Chirders and Hentzi); Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (Ed. Cudden); Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs (ed. J.-C. Seigneuret); Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory (ed. Hawthorn); Dictionary of Modern Critical Terms (ed. Fowler). The Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms (ed. Quinn) presents one aspect of it under the heading «doppelgänger: German word used to describe a character whose divided mind or personality is represented as two characters […]». However, the two schools of criticism that have made the most extensive use of the term, narratology and psychoanalysis, are not explicitly discussed.

3. Mieke Bal terms it «anti-subject» and explains the connection to the protagonist as follows: «An anti-subject is not an opponent. An opponent opposes the subject at certain moments of the pursuit of his or her aim. It is this incidental opposition which determines the structural position. An anti-subject pursues his or her own object, and this pursuit is, at a certain moment, at cross purposes with that of the first subject […]. The appearance of a separate subject always indicates the existence of a sub-fabula». M. Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 32-33.

4. A typical example can be found in the novel of marriage, where it is not uncommon to introduce sub-plots presenting secondary characters on a trajectory similar to that of the protagonists: encounter, obstacle(s), test(s) of love, resolution. Pride and Prejudice, the novel of marriage par excellence, for example, sets the story of the protagonists, Elizabeth and Darcy, against the backdrop of three more variations of the theme: Jane/Bingley; Charlotte/Mr. Collins; and Lydia/Wickham. By multiplying the variants of the same basic situation, the author gives herself the possibility to elaborate the theme more fully.

5. «The omnipotence of thought» is one of the phenomena associated with the experience of the uncanny, discussed by Freud in The Uncanny: «[…] An uncanny effect is often and easily produced by effacing the distinction between imagination and reality […]. The infantile element in this, which also holds sway in the minds of neurotics, is the over-accentuation of psychical reality in comparison to physical reality — a feature closely allied to the belief in the omnipotence of thoughts». S. Freud, Collected Papers (New York: Basic Books, 1959), IV, 398.

6. In the account of the Doctor: «[…] il Manganones in particolar modo, tentò anche di meglio: cooperando con le più tese energie dello spirito al buon andamento, anzi crescente sviluppo, dell’organismo aziendale delle ben fortunate aziende […]. Facendosi, dico appunto il Manganones, oltre che guardia, ma anche imbonitore, procuratore ai contratti-lampo, ed esattore-lampo, o come chi dicesse à la fourchette, dell’azienda medesima […]» (RR I 669).

7. The Doctor himself notices this ambivalence (cf. «Distacco [dai vivi], opinò il dottore, più forse patito che voluto», RR I 618), but is incapable or unmotivated to offer any help.

8. The first mention of the double in the article is precisely in terms of themes, «[the most prominent] themes of uncanniness […] are all concerned with the idea of a double in every shape and degree, with persons, therefore, who are to be considered identical by reason of looking alike […]. And finally, there is the constant recurrence of situations, a same face, or character trait, or twist of fortune, or a same crime» (Freud 1959: 386-87).

9. The following is an excerpt from the portrayal of one of the numerous country-women, as Dr, Higueróa meets her: «Un quadrupedare tra i ciòttoli tolse il dottore ai pensieri: levò il capo, si vide guardato dalla Battistina in discesa. […] Aveva l’aria un poco sospettosa e intimidita, con quel desinare che le impiegava le mani, come un animale a cui possano contendere il cibo; e il gozzo pareva un animale per conto suo che, dopo averla azzannata nella trachea, le bevesse fuori metà del respiro, nascondendosi però sotto la pelle di lei come il fotografo sotto la tela» (RR I 609).

10. «La rabbia, una rabbia infernale, non alterò tuttavia la sua faccia. Aveva una speciale capacità d’odio senza alterazioni fisiognomiche» (RR I 727).

11. «Il Manganones difatti, da quando aveva assunto la sorveglianza della zona e perciò delle ville contigue al Trabatta, ch’erano abbonate, s’era del pari procurato una speciale pratica nell’escludere dalla sorveglianza le ville non abbonate: queste molto giustamente venivano abbandonate alla loro sorte» (RR I 720).

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