Occurring at the same time as the unification of Germany, the unification of Italy in the late 1800s was a complete shock to all other states in the continent of Europe and a total victory for the state of Sardinia and Piedmont, changing the lives of the new foundation of the group known as the Italians. While Germany and Italy were similar in their formation of a unified state, nothing comes close to the description of Italian unification, through the eyes of Don Fabrizio, in the great novel, The Leopard. The Leopard, originally published in 1958 and written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, navigates through the unification Italy in the eyes of a prince in one of the nine states of old Italy, of which is represented, in his kingdom, by the symbol of the animal the leopard. In all, the text is a brilliant representation of the effect of this war-like and revolutionary defiling of the old ways of historic Italy and its result on the nobles, of whom resisted as long as they could and never saw it coming. Because of the brilliant use of history by Lampedusa, in The Leopard, the reader sees three of the foundational moments of the unification of this historic state, of which being the lack of presentation that the unification was going to occur in the first place, the course of action and trend in revolution that spread across the state, and the war-like manor of which unification occurred.
While The Leopard is a primary reflection of the suffering that followed the lives of the nobles, except for those leading the unification from Piedmont, through the eyes of Don Fabrizio, along with his family, a generalization of the unification that can be seen in the writing of Lampedusa is the condition that Italy was not destined for this process. Besides resistance from the nobles, historically, the unification of Italy was not predicted because of the traditional nine states within the future Italy and their traditional form of seperation, the wish for Austria-Hungary and the Concert of Europe to keep the potential power apart, and the cultural separation amongst the region; however, in the text, the most prominent factor lacking prediction of the unification focused on was the deep, rich establishment of the nobles and the nine states, each hoping to keep their languages and cultures separate. We first see this separation of states and unpredictable nature of Italy for unification when Don Colagero, in Donnafugata, states, “(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 Sedara del Biscotto” (Lampedusa, 130) Although Don Colagero, in the novel, is a member of this new revolutionary government, here, he reflects on the intense barrier that has been set against this revolutionary wave in the provincial, noble, and historic system. While he does not agree with it, he reflects here that it is intensely difficult to overcome, a reason to why it was not predicted to have a unification in Italy in the late 1800s. Earlier, we see Don Fabrizio, alternately the main noble in resistance to this impending battle, reflect on the class system that is unpredictably being taken down, when it is written, “Between the pride and intellectuality of his mother and the sensuality and irresponsibility of his father, poor Prince Fabrizio lived in perpetual discontent under his Jovelike frown, watching the ruin of his own class inheritance without ever making, still less wanting to make, any more toward saving it” (Lampedusa, 9). Here, despite recognizing the transition, Don Fabrizio shows how stagnant the noble and provincial system, prior to this unpredictable fate for the future unified Italy, was, not even accepting that he is an Italian with the rest of the peninsula yet. Lastly, we see a final moment of the shock that a unification is in action in moment where the prince is introduced to these revolutionary ways. We see this, when the Prince is reflected upon by the author, by stating, “The Prince felt humiliated, reduced to the rank of one protected by Russo’s friends; his only merit, as far as he could see, was being uncle to that urchin Tancredi” (Lampedusa, 34). While unification occurred and was unpredicted, this was not the only characteristic of the process reflected in the writing of Lampedusa. Just because the atmosphere was not predicting the unification of the states of Italy, does not mean that it did not occur, allowing for several other characteristics of the revolutionary movement to become present.
The next characteristic of the unification of Italy, preceding the unlikely future of unification provided by the structure of the soon-to-be unified states prior, is the surprising outcome that the state was unified through one force and spread like the plague throughout the provinces as a movement, of which, in the text, Don Fabrizio is accompanied by. This continued outcome was also seen during the unification Germany, occurring around the same time. This spread of revolution amongst the provinces, influenced through the one character uniting the state, the kingdom of Sardinia, is seen, in the text, in the nobles, especially with the nephew of Fabrizio, along with the public. We first see this spread of support for this primary actors war-like process of revolution and unification, when the author reflects on the thoughts of Fabrizio, when the author states, “(Now) he knew who had been killed at Donnafugata, at a hundred other places, in the course of the night of dirty wind: a newborn babe: good faith: just the very child who should have been cared for most” (Lampedusa, 111). Here, the reader can make a comparison that the dirty wind, the revolution spawned by the single “dirty wind” actor, Sardinia, spread across the hundred places amongst the nine states of Italy and the new borne baby “killed” was the innocent historical noble and provincial culture. Although in the form of an artistic metaphor created by the author, the comparison is made reflecting this one-actor action of unification and revolution and the spreading of its ideas amongst the public and every inch where the ideas can take their grasp. Secondly, we see this continuous theme throughout Italian unification in the text when Don Fabrizio realizes that the wind of revolution, from Sardinia’s influence, has reached his province, when it is said, “Don Fabrizio sighed. When would she decide to given an appointment less ephemeral, far from carcasses and blood, in her own region of perennial certitude?” (Lampedusa, 238). He is seeing this influence of the primary unifying region in his own kingdom here in this moment in the text, despite his wish to save his province from this revolutionary moment. Finally, in relation to this classification of the era of Italian unification, a final moment where we see the continuation of unification through the one dominant province and its spread of ideas like a “dirty wind,” as the author states, through the public and even the private eye of the noble class, is seen, when it is stated in the text, “(The) blow to his pride dealt by the father’s tailcoat was now repeated by the daughter’s looks” (Lampedusa, 77). In this moment in Donnafugata, the guests and the new governmental figures arrive as guest to Fabrizio’s abode and it is clear, in his reaction, the wave of revolution and the new culture of the unifying power has expanded, reflecting this overall characteristic of the era of Italian unification; however, despite becoming a characteristic of the revolution like the prior unpredictable-of-the-revolution statutes of the states and this single unifying and highly influential status of the power of the primary force, Sardinia, one more common characteristic during this period was the fact that unification occurred through the force of warfare, not mutual agreement.
Along within Germany and the continuation of several other factors throughout the unification of the Mediterranean bordered state, warfare was the main form of force in this process, clearly through the perception of Don Fabrizio, in The Leopard, with sole support by the kingdom of Sardinia. Although diplomatic means had and have been used in other states to unify, while warfare is usually primary, given the status of the nine states before and the unlikelihood of previous unification, that being the first characteristic discussed, this was the best and most effective option found by the primary actor and unifier, Sardinia. We see a reflection on this warfare process, when it is stated, by Don Fabrizio, “Sleep, my dear Chevalley, sleep, that is what Sicilians want, and they will always hate anyone who tries to wake them, even in order to bring them the most wonderful of gifts” (Lampedusa, 177-178). As seen previously in the metaphor with the newborn, once again a metaphor is used to reflect the Sicilians being awaken by the military and warfare force that is bringing about this revolution. Don Fabrizio, here, attempts to use the violent war-like force in his argument against unification and this revolutionary movement, while still reflecting the war-like state none the less. Next, Fabrizio reflects on this military like state in a more direct statement, when he, once again, reflects, “(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” (Lampedusa, 178). Here, through the use of the verbs like “shooting and knifing,” we see the military and war-like state that enabled the unification. Although speaking on the state of human nature, especially with reference to Sicilians, clearly, the war-like nature of this movement, against his will, is reflecting on his way of thinking about human interaction, natural conduct, and life in general. Lastly, a final reference, in the body of the of text, reflects the characteristic of a war-like unification process, when it is written, “ The soul of the Prince reached toward (the stars), toward the intangible, the unattainable, which gave joy without laying claim to anything in return” (Lampedusa, 83). Once again, the language used to depict a situation and to narrate the lives of Don, Prince Fabrizio shows how the war-like nature of the unification process, through the single actor of Sardinia, of Italy was used in this movement towards a this new structure. While directly and indirectly stating in all areas of the text, despite reflecting on the one angle of unification through the eyes of this noble family, we see the common characteristic of the historic movement that was associated with war-like process.
At first glance, the writing of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in The Leopard may just appear to be a historically accurate novel about a noble family during the time of the Italian unification during the late 1800s; however, it is much more than that when critically read. As discussed above, the text is increasingly accurate in depicting several characteristics during the era of unification within Italy, extremely similar to the also occurring German unification, including the lack of ability to predict unification before it occurred, due to the established culture of the region, the coordination of one single force to complete the revolutionary movement, and the war-like nature of which it occurred. In conclusion, while the text of The Leopard may have not had the intention of being used as an educational source to review the unification of the new state, through the reflection of the life of Don Fabrizio and his noble family of the old, it is a clear reflection of this monumental era in European history and is a great insight into the lives of those who experienced it in the moment.