The Narrative Function of Clothing in Elena Ferrante’s Troubling Love

Carmela Pesca


Elena Ferrante’s first published novel Troubling Love deals with the dark side of the mother-daughter relation as no other of her works. The narration takes the form of a painful assembly of events, dealing with both rupture and continuity between the narrator Delia and the story’s protagonist, her mother Amalia. Essentially, Delia sews images together as they emerge from her visceral, rather than intellective or even imaginative revisiting of her childhood and adolescence. Amalia’s drowned body is progressively dressed by Delia’s pieces of memory, equivalent to clothing items that shape the narrative’s fabric. Part of the communication among different characters happens through exchange of clothes, fabric and lingerie, corresponding to their attempts to tailor Amalia’s narrative in the name of their troubled love, which comes in different patterns. Delia’s recollections of episodes of domestic violence, however, convey laceration and amorphousness, as she continuously stitches and makes adjustments, whereas no clothes or narratives can contain the true Amalia. This essay intends to highlight the path along which the narration’s thread runs. It explores the correspondences between the text’s form and content, and analyzes the narrator’s struggle to come to terms with a character whose very substance remains unreachable, encrypted in her old garments that have resisted violence, manipulation, and imposition of forms.

Parole chiave

Mother-daughter relation; Elena Ferrante; narrative body; clothing; amorphousness

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