A seven-year stay in Italy, the presence of two friends, carbonarians and the persecution of supporters of the national liberation movement that began in the 20s of the XIX century could not but be reflected in the work of Stendhal. The short story “Vanina Vanini” has become a literary bridge between reality and fiction, history and fantasy. In it, the writer proved himself both as an incredible romantic, and as an already emerging realist.
The combination of two literary trends allowed Stendhal to show the inner tragedy of two young people, embraced by multidirectional passions: love for a person (Princess Vanina Vanini) and love for the Motherland (poor carbonarian Pietro Missirilli).
The plot of the novel is based on a real historical event – the struggle of Venta (one of the cells of the organization for the liberation of Italy from foreign domination) of carbonaria and its death. The driving force behind the plot was the human (female) character – passionate, proud, who wants to achieve his goal at any cost.
The composition of the novel is a classic for romantic works of this genre. At the beginning, an exposition is given – a ball in the palace of Duke B., during which the reader gets acquainted with the beautiful princess Vanina Vanini and learns the news about the escape from prison of the Holy Angel of one of the prisoners. A foreshadowing of future events is the response of the main character to the question of the governor’s nephew Livio Savelli about who she might like: “A young carbonary … At least he did something, and not only gave himself the trouble to be born.” The plot of the plot is the mutual love of the main characters – Vanina Vanini and Pietro Missirilli, shown in development and equipped as a description of the characters’ characters (proud, ambitious, passionate, contemptuous of people below her spiritual development – Vanina and possessing a highly developed sense of self-esteem – Pietro), as well as the psychology of the development of relations (the princess’s initial coldness, the friendly treatment of a carbonarius who does not specifically speak of love in order to rekindle passion in the girl’s soul, quickly flowing hatred of Vanina, ending with an outbreak of love confession).
The passion underlying the characters of the main characters is due to their nationality – hot, southern Italian blood. Such social determinism indicates the realism of artistic images, but in all other respects the characters remain romantics. The character of Vanina Vanina practically does not undergo changes: she is embraced by passion and is ready for anything for her beloved – to support him with money and weapons, destroy her honor for him, send his friends to death and save him from inevitable death. Pietro Missirilli is not so static in his attitude to life: love for the beautiful princess becomes just an intermediate stage in his “career” carbonarius – a man who devoted his heart to serving the Motherland. Realizing that the thoughts directed to his beloved woman interfere with his political endeavors, Pietro gradually moves away from Vanina, and when his last vent is betrayed, he completely decides that the reason for all his failures is the sinfulness of such love.
The conflict of the novel is found in the betrayal of Vanina Vanini, committed in the name of love: wanting to bind Pietro to herself, she surrenders his comrades-in-arms to the cardinal legate, thereby revealing sheer indifference to the personal and spiritual interests of her lover. The outcome of the conflict seems to last forever: Vanina Vanini is tormented by remorse; terrified that her plan went to the detriment of Pietro, who decided to surrender and be with everyone; trying to find out the latest news about the fate of the young carbonary; places his people in key places (in the governor’s house and the Holy Angel prison); blackmails Savelli-Katanzar with death in order to save his beloved. At a decisive date in the prison chapel, Vanina Vanini acknowledges Pietro as perfect, but turns out to be abandoned long before the fateful words: without even knowing what her lover did, the carbonarius already understood the futility of trying to combine love for a woman with love for the Motherland, to replace but he never could one on another.
The novel ends, as it should be in this genre form, unexpectedly: while Pietro behaves like a desperate patriot, ready to kill his beloved woman for the betrayal of his comrades and Italy, Vanina Vanina – invariably passionate and ready to do anything for her lover, returns to Rome and marries Livio Savelli. Her passionate prayer for God and this romantic vow – to punish the traitor (that is, herself) in exchange for the saved life of Pietro – remains unfulfilled. Thus, Stendhal reaffirms the realistic beginning of reality, in which Vanina Vanini loves only as long as she has something to fight for. Having lost on the “field of feelings”, she again returns to the habitual state of her well-educated girl who has chosen the most profitable party among the suitors (Livio is the nephew of the governor of Rome and the Minister of Police). Pietro Stendhal does not say anything about fate, and this is not necessary, because the main character said everything about himself: he will either fight for the freedom of Italy, or end his life in prison. The young patriot has no other fate!