“The She-Wolf” by Giovanni Verga Summary: “La Lupa” Summary

The She-Wolf by Giovanni Verga SummaryLa Lupa Summary
“The She-Wolf” by Giovanni Verga Summary: “La Lupa”

“The She-Wolf” is a short story by Giovanni Verga, first published in Italian in 1880 as “La Lupa”, with the first English translation appearing in 1928. Its title character is an example of the femme fatale archetype, a woman who torments and destroys men, sometimes with such power that the temptation seems otherworldly. It can be read in the sample of The She-Wolf and Other Stories (70% in). Here’s a summary of “The She-Wolf”. See also: “The She-Wolf” by Barbara Walker

“The She-Wolf” (“La Lupa”) Summary

In the village, there’s a woman, Pina, known as the She-wolf because she’s never satisfied. She’s tall and pale with big eyes and red lips. She sucks the blood of the women’s sons and husbands; even Father Angiolino lost his soul to her. Women make the sign of the cross when she passes by. The She-wolf’s daughter, Maricchia, is sad because no one will marry her.

While working out in the field in June, the She-wolf falls passionately in love with a handsome young man, Nanni. She follows him closely, not even stopping to drink. He notices something but she doesn’t say anything. One evening when it’s quiet she reveals her feelings to him.

Nanni wants her daughter instead. The Pina leaves without a word and doesn’t return to the threshing again. In October, Nanni works the press making olive oil near their house. She brings Maricchia out to him and offers her along with her father’s things and the house. The She-wolf only needs a corner of it to sleep in the kitchen. Nanni says they’ll discuss it at Christmas.

Maricchia, after seeing Nanni filthy from his work, doesn’t want him. Her mother says she must take him and threatens her life.

The She-wolf doesn’t prowl for the men anymore. When she gazes at Nanni he laughs and crosses himself. She works in the field with the men while Maricchia stays home with the babies. No one wanders during the heat of the early afternoon, except Pina who brings Nanni wine while he sleeps in a ditch, resting from his work. He reproves her for roaming at this time of day and orders her not to come back.

But she does come again and Nanni doesn’t complain. He even waits for her when she’s late, simultaneously ordering her to stay away.

Maricchia cries constantly with jealousy (she loves her husband now) and reviles her mother as a thief. She goes to the Sergeant, who threatens Nanni with jail and execution. Nanni doesn’t deny the wrongdoing and sobs terribly. He begs for jail or death to escape the temptation.

Soon after, Nanni is kicked by a mule and is near death. He confesses to the priest and receives Communion; the neighbors hear of his repentance and sympathize with him.

He doesn’t die in his newfound peace. Nanni recovers and pleads to be left alone for his own sake and Maricchia’s. The She-wolf’s gaze continues to overwhelm him.

Nanni seeks help from the priest and Sergeant. At Easter, he confesses again and does penance, licking four feet of pavement in front of the church. He orders Pina not to come see him again at the threshing floor, threatening to kill her if she does.

In the field, Nanni sees the She-wolf approaching with her hands full of red poppies. He grabs the ax and walks toward her. She sees him coming but doesn’t stop or look down. Her gaze devours him and he curses her.

I hope this summary of “The She-Wolf” by Giovanni Verga was helpful.