Point of View
The use of first-person point of view in this story is critical to creating the nightmarish, surreal feeling of a man completely adrift, without identity. The reader must have access to the main character’s thoughts and feelings to experience his bewilderment and horror at the strange events that occur. In addition, if Pirandello had used a viewpoint that allowed the reader access to the thoughts of the other characters, who know facts about the main character’s identity that he himself cannot access, the atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty would be lost. Through the first-person viewpoint, the reader collects clues to the character’s identity at the same time as the character does, thereby sharing his difficult journey.
Pirandello purposely avoids using direct dialogue in the story; the main character paraphrases the few conversations he has, with the restaurant proprietor and the bank staff. The one line of direct dialogue in the story occurs when the main character says to his children, ‘‘‘There, that proves it’s all a joke. You’ve white hair, too.’’’ The rest of his conversation with his family is all paraphrased: ‘‘They immediately rush over and tell me to lean on them. Lovingly they reprove me for having got up out of bed.’’ This gives the story the quality of a fairy tale, being recounted orally (when a person tells a tale, dialogue is usually paraphrased). It also further emphasizes the connection with his children and grandchildren; the only spoken words in the story are spoken to them, and in these few words he expresses a similarity between them (that they both have white hair). Though he is alienated from the rest of his life, at the end he finds some comfort in this connection with his children.
An allegory is a story in which the events symbolize or represent something other than their literal meaning. For example, ‘‘The Three Little Pigs’’ is not meant to be a literal tale about three pigs building houses but rather a moral allegory about the value of hard work and patience, warning the reader against the temptation of the ‘‘quick fix.’’ In Pirandello’s tale, the meaning or moral is vague, but the reader can tell by the bizarre nature of the day’s events that this is not meant to be the story of just one day in a man’s life, but rather an allegory of a man’s life from birth to death (or very near death). For instance, the opening of the story shares many features in common with birth; he is ejected from a closed-in vessel (the train) into the dark station, he has no memory of the journey, and he has nothing with him. He muses, ‘‘Am I to deduce that it’s the most natural thing in the world for people to get out at this station in that particular way?’’ Childbirth certainly could be described as ‘‘the most natural thing in the world.’’
In the next part of the story, he struggles to establish an identity, to fit in with the world around him (‘‘I must contrive to act like the others.’’). He is aware of being different, set apart. Still he manages to achieve financial success and the respect of the community (represented by the large banknote and the deferential treatment given him at both the restaurant and bank). He has a beautiful wife, though she is taken from him too quickly. In his concentration on work and success, time passes him by, and ‘‘overnight,’’ he becomes an old man.
He does not ‘‘discover’’ his family until he is too old and infirm to work any longer. There are many parallels between the tale and Pirandello’s own life. Pirandello felt throughout his life a keen sense of alienation from others, and he worked obsessively. His wife, Antonietta, was ‘‘taken’’ from him by mental illness after barely ten years of marriage. ‘‘A Day Goes By’’ was written just a few months before his death in 1936, and according to his biographer Gaspare Giudice, ‘‘In his last months Pirandello found more and more serenity with his family, especially with his grandchildren.’’ Given these parallels, the story can be interpreted as an allegory of Pirandello’s life.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 30, Luigi Pirandello, Published by Gale Group, 2010