The Late Mattia Pascal

The Paradox of Consciousness in The Late Mattia Pascal

Near the conclusion of The Late Mattia Pascal, after Mattia has returned from his two-year absence and reclaimed his name, he wonders what the point of his extraordinary life was. Mattia's fellow librarian, Don Eligo, contends, "it proves that outside of the law, and without those individual characteristics which, happy or sad as they may be, make us ourselves, we cannot live" (243). Interestingly, Mattia begs to differ, claiming that far from regaining his individuality, he has become a social free-floater, a position that ironically gives him peace and stability.

Through the rest of Luigi Pirandello's novel, Mattia's multiple lives lead him on a journey of discovery, beginning with his feeling of waywardness and ignorance and concluding with his more mature conception of the limits and options forced on him by his environment. His experiences are a paradox of self-awareness: As Mattia becomes more conscious of the elements of his identity that make him who he is, he also begins to understand the futility of trying to change his identity because he cannot control the entire past, present and future context of his life. However, by realizing and accepting his impotency, Mattia gains a greater degree of...

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