By E. L. Voynich
The Gadfly is a novel by Irish writer Ethel Voynich, published in 1897, set in 1840s Italy under the dominance of Austria, a time of tumultuous revolt and uprisings. The story centres on the life of the protagonist, Arthur Burton, as a member of the Youth movement, and his antagonist, Padre Montanelli. A thread of a tragic relationship between Arthur and his love Gemma simultaneously runs through the story. It is a story of faith, disillusionment, revolution, romance, and heroism.
Arthur Burton, an English Catholic, travels to Italy to study to be a priest. He discovers radical ideas, renounces Catholicism and leaves Italy. While away he suffers great hardship, but returns with renewed revolutionary fervour. He becomes a journalist, expounding radical ideas in brilliant satirical tracts published under the pseudonym "the gadfly." The local authorities are soon dedicated to capturing him. Gemma, his lover, and Padre Montanelli, his Priest, show various forms of love via their tragic relations with the focal character of Arthur: religious, romantic, and family. The story compares these emotions to those Arthur experiences as a revolutionary, particularly drawing on the relationship between religious and revolutionary feelings. This is especially explicit at the climax of the book, where sacred descriptions intertwine with reflections on the Gadfly's fate. It is debatable to what extent an allegorical comparison can be drawn between the Gadfly and Jesus.