A Literary Analysis

The Wager

Another Literary Analysis by Tristan

A.     Citation/Bibliographic Entry

Napoli, Donna Jo. The Wager.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2010.

B.     Reliability

This novel is published by Henry Holt and Company, which began publishing in 1866, so it is one of the oldest publishing companies in the United States.   It is known for publishing books that win awards and are written by famous authors, such as Robert Frost and Robert Louis Stevenson. The author of this book, Donna Jo Napoli, has won at least two literary awards, so I expect to find this novel to be well written.

C.      Category

This novel is an example of a chronological pattern, main character, and problem-solving pattern book.  The events in the story build on each other in a chronological pattern, with events related to each other.  There is a main character, named Don Giovanni, who used to be the richest man in all of Sicily until a tsunami destroyed everything he had.  He made a wager with the devil in order to regain what he had lost.  I’m not sure you can call it person vs. person or person vs. nature, since it is the devil with whom he is wagering.  There is one main problem throughout the story, which is solved at the very end of the book.   Cultural concepts about Italy include continual references to a breakfast of stale bread and milk.

D. Short Annotation

I enjoyed the descriptive language that created clear visualizations that helped me to understand the story.  The story was set in Messima, Italy, and that also grabbed my attention and appealed to me.  I liked the unique struggles that occurred throughout the book.  It was unpredictable and I found that kept my attention.

E. Point of View

The story is told from the third person, observer point of view. 

  • It was only fair; he’d served that one family for a month-so he’d earned those shoes and cape (59).
  • He headed for the Jewish section of town (143).
  • Pain exhausted him (201).
  • Don Giovanni shook his head vehemently (231).

F. Tense

The story is told in the past tense. 

  • The first thing he saw upon opening his eyes was Ribi, sitting against the wall, staring at him (154).
  • On All Saints and All Souls Day of 1171, Don Giovanni gave the biggest feast that Sicily had ever heard of (170).
  • That afternoon Don Giovanni had his servants buy enormous wagons (196). 

F. Literary Excellence

Sounds of Words

  • alliteration – repeating the beginning consonant sounds in words
  • ·The shards still lay by the rock. Don Giovanni summoned every drop of strength…” (244).
  • ·The room was full, floor to ceiling” (147).
  • From every side sleet slashed like the thinnest knife blades” (153).
  •  “The girl who answered was neither pretty nor plain” (249).
  • assonance – repeating similar sounds, especially vowel sounds
  • “Disrespectful. Disgraceful” (244).

Choice of Words

  • personificationgiving human qualities to nonhuman things
  • “It buffeted him.  It whipped him.  In the end it beat him senseless” (154).
    similecomparing things not alike by using the word ‘like’ or ‘as’
  • “The woman turned around and clasped her arms around the child and stared with a terrified face at Cani and Don Giovanni, as though they were the devil incarnate” (130).
  • vocabulary using precise nouns and verbs to describe scenes/emotions
  • “A recluse in questionable clothing” (85).
  • “They ranged from dirt poor to the king, from raving lunatics naked in the alleys to the most refined scholars and statesmen in their carriages” (128).
  • “Not only was his food delicious, he’d managed to rid Don Giovanni of worms with a week’s regimen of garlic and hot peppers” (149).
  • ” Summer rain was a phenomenon” (152).
  • “The little cloud of flies that had come with the summer’s heat and circled his head right now could be his crown” (159).

Arrangement of Words

  •  appositivesphrases inserted into sentences to add details
  • More than a month later, on Christmas morning, Don Giovanni stretched out on the ground in the center of the courtyard of his villa, surrounded by the porticoed colonnade, and closed his eyes” (148).
  • ·The man threw another orange, thump, at Don Giovanni’s forehead…” (244).
  • length of sentencesdiffering lengths to create a mood
  • “But you don’t dress like my other visitors expect. I get complaints” (84).
  • “You showed up. Empty-handed.  I knew you didn’t have the money” (146).
    repetitionrepeating sounds, words or phrases for effect
  • “Three years, three months, three days” (112).
  • “Rain. Cold rain” (152).
  • “Nonsense.  Just nonsense…” (155).
  • “Stealing is wrong….Stealing is wrong” (247).


G. Connection

This story was more difficult for me to connect with, due to the fact that it is set in the past, in Italy, where I have never been, and that the challenges the character faces are based on a wager with the devil.  I haven’t read any other books with the devil, nor do I know anyone who has wagered with the devil that I can connect text to text, world or self with.  The part that I could connect with was that the agreement Don Giovanni made was a contract. This I have two connections with.  In a text to self connection, I have signed a behaviour contract for school, but also when I attend CISV mini camps and when I went to CISV Village in Fredericton for a month.  I had to follow that contract and if I broke it, I would have consequences – the most severe being sent home from camp.  I didn’t have a problem with following most of the rules, but at times I would have liked to have been able to email home and check my mom was okay.   It wasn’t allowed in the contract, so I had to wait it out, like Don Giovanni had to wait until the time ran out on his wager.

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