Bread and Wine and Italy’s Past

Ignazio Silone’s novel Bread and Wine, is an honest work about the totalitarian regime’s in Italy. It follows the character of Pietro Spina, a communist party leader who has returned from hiding to revolutionize the peasant population. In the pages, Silone writes a fascinating story about several different populations in both North and South Italy and how the are reacting to the Fascist regime and living their lives.

A major theme of the Fascist movement is the rebirth of Italy’s greatness. Mussolini desired to bring Italy back to it’s glory days of the Roman empire. The Fascist Manifesto by Mussolini himself states that expansion and war are the most fundamental and important ways to progress. Silone does a great job of portraying this in Bread and Wine. On page 195 in Zabaglione’s speech, he addressed the people: “descendants of eternal Rome…..who carried civilization to the Mediterranean and to Africa.” Here, it is understood the fascism glorifies the past as a means to the future. The people are perhaps mobilized with the promise of greatness. There also seems to be strong themes of nationalism, especially in regards to their imperialist claims.

Why did the Fascists want to return back to the greatness of ancient Rome, instead of forging their own path to greatness?


3 thoughts on “Bread and Wine and Italy’s Past

  1. I am glad that you brought this theme up, because the idea of Italy’s “rebirth” is another theme that has conflicting depictions in the book. Spina clearly feels that change, rather than a resurgence of old Roman ideals, is the way towards progress for Italy. Conversely, Zabaglione works to popularize the opinion that “our country [Italy] has grown greater after every war, and in particular every defeat,” thus advocating a return to Roman military prowess. In between these two extremes lie the cafoni, who are equally disinterested and malleable in their convictions towards political and military issues, making them excellent fodder for propaganda. In this sense, a return to the “greatness of Rome,” was the ideological path of least resistance for Fascist propagandists in that it combined the familiarity of the past with a concomitant nationalist sentiments that accompanied those military successes. “Forging a new path” would entail convincing the public to support a future that was uncertain, which, as evidenced by Spina’s frustration in attempting to mobilize the cafoni to revolution, would be a much more difficult feat.

  2. Nice connection between the characters in the book and Mussolini. I think that Fascists attempted to regress to the greatness of Rome the inspire nationalism. Rome controlled the majority of Europe at one point, and Fascists wants to relive this through imperialism. The regression of Italian society may also be related to the more traditional roles for women that were instituted, which was a step backwards from modernity.

  3. Great connection to Mussolini’s definition of Fascism. The Fascists focused on returning to the greatness of the past in order for a better future, and Bread and Wine definitely does a good job of capturing this sentiment. Traditional values dominate many of their lives, especially in the case of women like Cristina, whose only two options are becoming a nun and staying to help her family.

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