In Bread and Wine, author Ignazio Silone recounts the tale of Pietro Spina, an Italian youth whose work as a revolutionary caused him to be exiled from his home by the prevailing Fascist state in the interwar period. Beginning in media res, the first sixteen chapters of Bread and Wine find Spina having infiltrated his homeland once again several years later, concealing himself with a cosmetic agent that makes him appear much older than his years. With the reluctant aid of his boyhood friend Nunzio, Spina assumes the false identity “Don Paolo” and returns to his peasant home region, Abruzzi, under the guise of a traveling priest. While there, however, Spina’s revolutionary spirit cannot help but show through; “Don Paolo” begins to use his incendiary intellect and misappropriated messianic reputation amongst the locals to urge his new community of cafoni to believe in the possibility of what he perceives to be true liberty: freedom from fascist rule.
One of the most prominent themes addressed in these opening chapters is the value of youth. The varied perceptions of this subject are expressed most pithily in the exchange between Don Paolo and a number of local officials and men of stature in the Abruzzi community in chapter fifteen. In discussing the desire for a “second revolution,” Don Paolo is assured that such sentiments are expressed only by young people. (Silone, 144, 151) This Zabaglione attributes to the fact that the youth are “taking theories literally,” saying that “the greatest of evils is when the young start taking seriously what they read in books.” (Silone, 145) Given his ideals, Don Paolo takes caution in concealing his disagreement, asking only “what would happen if men remained loyal to the ideals of their youth?” (Silone, 146) Dismissing this scenario as unthinkable, Don Luigi allegorically explains that when in the throes of “poetry,” young people feel the need to eschew the “bread and wine” of their native culture and ideology in order to seek that which exists “at the crossroads of the great highways.” (Silone, 146) Conversely, it is only when people mature to the phase of “prose” that their thoughts begin to bear any semblance of rationality. (Silone,146)
Do you feel that remaining loyal to the ideals of one’s youth indicates dedication to one’s beliefs or simply close-minded inflexibility?