Pietro Spina going incognito as a priest named San Paolo is most likely directly reflective of how Ignazio Silone felt as an anti-fascist socialist living in fascist Italy in the 1930s. In order to further his revolutionary socialist agenda, Spina sneaks back into Italy after fifteen years of being in exile, and refuses to return abroad, despite the access of ideological freedom which accompanies him there. An atheist himself, Spina becomes frustrated with the strong catholic sentiments and superstitious thinking which are the roots of the though processes of the peasants which he is trying to influence. During his journey, San Paolo falls madly in love with a girl named Christiana. “Dan Paolo took no notice of what Bianchina was saying because he was enchanted by Christina. A girl like this at Pietrasecca? He could not believe his eyes”. (80) This puts Don Paolo in a pickle, being that he is supposed to be a spiritual leader and Christina is most likely refraining herself from allowing to have feelings for him, although they may be present.
A part of the book which I found interesting was when Don Paolo goes to visit his friend Uliva, who’s morale is so low, and is so apathetic, he carelessly spits on the floor of his house as he wastes away. Uliva, a former cell mate and Don Paolo discuss their current thoughts about politics and life. Uliva is more interested in condescendingly criticizing Don Paolo’s optimism about the revolution than anything else, claiming his hopes are out of blind naivety. “I’ve seen you engaged in a kind of chivalrous contest with lie or, if you prefer it, with the creator…it requires a naivete that I lack. (172) I think it shows a lot about Don Paolo’s drive to stay optimistic about what he believes in as a communist trying to help the revolutionary cause, especially when he sees his former friend who used to share the same thoughts in such a state of disrepair.
How did the citizens of Italy view fascism in the 1930’s? Was the majority behind Mussolini? If the publics thoughts on him shifted dramatically, when did it and what was the event or events that caused it?