(Short Story) Sardinian Fox by: Grazia Deledda
(Reaction) One Foxy Lady by: Antonio Conejos
One is often cautioned to look beyond the surface of things, to not judge a book by its cover or that beauty is only skin deep. This is time honored wisdom, an acknowledgment that the eye is easily lead astray by what glitters and shimmers.
The doctor in the Sardinian Fox is certainly one who is easily deceived by appearances. He is quick to judge based on the appearance of things and people. His patient's home is diapidated,
everything indicated the direst poverty., thus he assumes the family to be poor. Similarly, he is smitten with Zana's beauty, and assumes her personality to be as fair as her appearance.
Certainly there is none fairer than Zana,
Then the girl raised her head and looked into his eyes, and he felt a sensation that he would never forget.. Zana's beauty is further emphasized by its reflection in the sensuous landscape;
spring sent its breath of wild voluptuousness up there' the huge moon and a star almost scraping her head' [she] reminded him of an asphodel blooming at the mouth of a cavern. Even nature seems to crown Zara with beguiling feminine qualities.
Yet in both instances the conclusion based on surface appearance is incorrect. The doctor quickly learns that the family is quite wealthy after all. However, the true extent of how wicked Zana is on the outside, in contrast to her outward beauty, is only revealed to him towards the end of the story. This contrast, the inner heart of Zana, is what makes her truly the Sardinian Fox.
Ostensibly Zia Lenarda is the Sardinian Fox. Zana describes the fox which
comes and steals our newborn lambs. Jacu, who is Lenarda's husband and Zana's paramour, is certainly young,
tall, ruddy, clean-shaven, with green eyes so bright that women lowered theirs'. The much older Lenarda has
stolen the young Jacu as she has enticed him with her wealth. (To use modern parlance then, Zia Lenarda is a cougar.)
Zana specifically calls Lenarda a fox in front of Jacu,
Am I ever jealous of your wife? The old crow, the fox. But it's going to end' soon. At this point it is clear that Zana has been using all her wiles on the doctor in order to obtain a poison to administer to Lenarda,
Always the same, since the first evening there by the low wall of the courtyard; she led him on and repulsed him, half ingenuous, half treacherous, and asked him always for the same thing: some poison.
There is a slight foreshadowing early on of Zana's desire to poison Lenarda when the latter fakes illness.
Zana waited on her neighbor, poured out the dosage' and murmmered: 'It's not poison, is it?'
In cunning then and deceit, Zana is truly like the fox she claims to be hunting.
The ending of the short story carries with it a double meaning of both acceptance and rejection. In calling out that he sees a fox, the doctor accepts that he has been duped, that Zana does not love him. This biting realization unsettles him, so much so that his warning of a fox is practically a salute to Zana; an acknowledgment of a seduction well played. She is, even more so than Zia Lenarda, the Sardinian Fox.
In the same breath though the doctor cannot admit his love is lost and rejects his new found knowledge of how deceitful Zana has been. Thus, in shouting for a fox he makes fiction real for himself and gives credence to Zana's story that there really is a fox roaming about. So convinced is he in the lie that he shouts a might warning, and even
the dogs started to bark as if a fox had really gone past.
A story which begins with deception (Zana cloaking who she is and her real intent) ends with deception as well (the doctor hiding from himself what he has learned). Likewise, outward appearance too is inherently deceptive. Our eyes see only skin deep.
This story is entertaining because it's predictable, sort of like how one is transfixed by an accident about to occur. It uses age old themes (love triangles, beauty being skin deep, jealousy, betrayal) which the reader instinctively grasps. When Jacu is introduced one is almost certain that the strapping young lad would have caught the eye of Zana. What ensues is the perpetual companion of love, sadness.