The Demise of Purity

Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone is a historical novel that follows the journey of Pietro Spina, a young communist revolutionary. Pietro Spina returns to Italy from exile and is being hunted by police, so he takes on the identity of Don Paolo Spada, a priest, to avoid capture. It is clear that this novel’s goal is to denounce fascism and praise communism, while portraying a sympathy for peasants and landowners.

Cristina, Don Paolo’s love interest, is the character that intrigued me the most. In this novel it was obvious to me that Cristina was the symbol of purity. She was the glue that held her family together; she put off her dreams of becoming a nun to take care of her family and their home. In chapter 9, Don Paolo goes to Cristina’s house to meet her family and father, Don Pasquale. There, Cristina, Don Pasquale, and Don Paolo talk about Cristina’s youth. Don Pasquale tells Don Paolo that when Cristina was a baby he left her in the pram, and a wolf came. However, the wolf didn’t eat Cristina, which is strange because she would have been easy prey (98). Contrasting with Cristina’s experience in childhood, at the very end of the novel, Cristina dashes to the mountain to look for Don Paolo, who she now knows to be Pietro Spina. Through the snow she desperately calls out for him, looking for Pietro. Dishearteningly, when she calls out for Pietro, only the howl of wolves is returned.  She knows that they are coming to kill her. She makes a cross and sinks to her knees knowing her death is imminent (270). To me, this contrast symbolized that in a world such as Facist Italy, purity cannot survive. Eventually, the “wolf” will “eat you”, no matter how long you have escaped it before.

Is this symbol an over-dramatization of a socialst’s view of a fascist government?