This novel has been criticized for it's character analysis in that it "often relies too heavily upon psychological explanations, a kind of rational reductionism that reduces matphysical speculations to Freudian solutions." Most of the pages are spent trying to explain the motive behind these actions using psychological analysis.
Styron starts at the end of his story, comes back to the beginning, and then tries to explain the outcome by hopping from one place to another in the plot. . Peter Leverett, the narrator, travels to the small Italian village of Sambuco at the invitation of his childhood friend, Mason Flagg. Flagg is a shallow and manipulative multi-millionare. Within a day of Leverett's arrival, Flagg commits suicide, after murdering and raping a local Italian girl. The remainder of the book deal with Leverett's attempt to understand what happened at Sambuco, both through his own recollections and those of the artist Cass Kinsolving, another resident of Sambuco and friend of Leverett's.
Through Leverett the reader learns about the the events that occurred which impacted Mason Flagg's personality. A few Freudian observations can be drawn from the narrator. Firstly, Flagg had a strange relationship with his mother, Wendy. He was kicked out of three private schools in his youth, causing the family to relocate and start anew. The third time he was expelled, he was in a Catholic school, and was caught having sex in a church. His mother and father protected him, and he received no punishment for this unholy act. However, Flagg's repeated failures in school inflict pain on Wendy . She was an alcoholic, and they had a close relationship. Unfortunately, she would always complain to her son about her troubles and past misdeeds. Flagg's relationship with his mother resulted in his disrespect for women as an adult.
Leverett manipulator, but most of the story is told by Cass Kinsolving, explaining how...