Now we enter into the moral heart of the novel, which interrogates the concept of God and of “the good.”
Lucia makes a vow (a “promessa,” in Italian, resonating with the title of the novel, I promessi sposi):
“Help me to escape from this danger and lead me back to safety with my mother, oh Mother of God, and I vow to you to remain a virgin for the rest of my life, and to renounce my poor love forever, and belong to no one but you.”
The Nameless One passes a dark night of the soul:
“But as he sought a reasonable explanation for even a single deed, the tormented self-examiner found himself engulfed in an interrogation of his whole life.”
On the verge of committing suicide, he remembers the words of Lucia:
“God will forgive many things for an act of mercy!”
Regret, remorse, repentance: is there any way the Nameless One can atone for a lifetime of murder, crime, and sin? Should there be?
Thank you for reading APS Together. We are reading The Betrothed with the translator Michael Moore. Subscribe to receive his daily notes.
One of my favourite moments in this chapter is when the Nameless One, after his dark night of the soul and examination of conscience, arrives at the realization that: "In his newly awakened conscience, each crime reappeared stripped of the feelings that had made him want to commit it, and with a monstrosity that those feelings that kept him from seeing". I like the way Manzoni shortly afterwards links this epiphany with 'distant ringing of bells of celebration'. The contrast between the darkness, distress and constriction of the first part of the chapter and the ending, with its joy, movement and celebration reminds me of the words from Luke: In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over 99 good people who don't need to."
It's interesting how Lucia is the cause of this change of heart in the Nameless One. Lucia means a bearer of light
My favorite line from today: "She was no longer his prisoner, or a supplicant, but his guide, dispensing grace and consolation." The shift in the power dynamics is so well described it's almost visual.