Marcello Clerici the main character in 'The Conformist' wants more than anything else to be normal but something inside of him tells him that he is not. The story follows his struggle from early childhood where violent events scarred his personality, into adulthood as he tries to do everything he can to conform to his own idea of normality. He marries because he thinks this might help his conformity, he joins Mussolini's fascists in an attempt to deny his ability to make decision for himself and simply to follow orders and conform to the party line. This leads him to involvement in the politically motivated murder of an acquaintance of his, an intellectual who has become a problem to the fascist party. Moravia expertly gets into the mind of the troubled Clerici and allows the reader to understand his thoughts and his terror at the thought of being different. Although the character is not written sympathetically we do feel some allegiance to him and we get involved in his plight. Moravia has always is a strong critic of the Fascists and uses the story to describe the morally corrupt world in which they operate and the mindless devotion of the fanatic party members. This is a beautifully written, intelligent book whose comparisons to Camus' 'The Stranger' are not unjustified.
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