Free Will in Fascist Italy

When Silone moves Bread and Wine into the city of Rome, the reader begins to understand the tensions between city and countryside life. On page 179, Silone writes about how Free Will, or the fear of lacking it, drives men to act against oppression. He describes that fear as the true reason for Pietro’s rebellion against the fascist state, promoting the freedom of man as a communist. This is an interesting form of motivation for a character that is suppose to be seen as a semi-autobiographical work. In the context of Italian history, a region which for the past 2,000 years had limited forms of free will, (between the establishment of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church or the city states of the Renaissance) there is very limited free will. Every simple decision on paper in Italy has a thousand different strings attached to choosing the outcome. Nothing is simple in this country, even in the time of the Fascist state, even though it is an improvement over previous regimes.

Pietro’s motivation to promote communism in order to regain free will is another interesting thought. Because Pietro had lived abroad, he understood the need to break with the USSR’s Stalinism and promote true communism. However, in order to have free will within a truly communist society, wouldn’t one have to sacrifice his “rights” for the greater good of the state? These internal conflicts within the characters of Bread and Wine add another dimension to Silone’s story of a simple man, attempting to free his country from the oppression of a dictator.

2 thoughts on “Free Will in Fascist Italy

  1. I think it is important to make a distinction between aligning oneself with a political or religious ideology and entirely abdicating one’s free will. Spina, for example, identifies as a communist, but is frequently at odds with the other party members with whom he interacts. Although his ideals are “communist” in nature, he does surrender his heart and mind entirely to the party’s politics. Thus, Pietro Spina is a prime example of how one can maintain their free will in a highly polarized society.

  2. This is a very good post. You did an excellent job of explaining Fascism in the broader historical context of Italy. Also, you questioning of the character’s motivation and how this relates to the quasi-autobiographic nature of the novel is interesting. I don’t think that Pietro is a true communist. I think that he is attempting to stand up to the authoritarian government in a radical way, but if it came to practicing true communism, he would not be prepared to sacrifice for the greater good.

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