Critical Evaluation

Ignazio Silone was born in Pescina, a small town in the Abruzzi region of southern Italy; the town served as a model for Fontamara. Silone was the son of small landowners and spent much of his youth among the impoverished peasants of the area. He witnessed the social injustices and economic hardships to which the cafoni were subjected.

It was Silone’s sympathy for the peasants that led him to turn to political action as a vehicle for social and political change. He envisioned a society founded on the socialist concepts of solidarity and equality and the Christian virtue of charity. As a young activist, Silone joined the Socialist Youth League, and in 1921, he helped to found the Italian Communist Party. In 1930, sought by the Fascist police for his involvement in the underground movement against Mussolini’s regime, he was forced to flee from Italy.

Fontamara was written while Silone was in exile in Davos, Switzerland. In the novel, he has three refugees from Fontamara—Giovà, Matalè, and their son—visit him in exile in order to relate the tragic story of their hometown. Giovà is the first to narrate, and within the narration, the other cafoni speak for themselves. This technique creates the impression of a choral narrative and appropriately so, for Fontamara is the story of all suffering peasants and oppressed people in the world.

Within Giovà’s narration, one of the cafoni, Michele Zompa, relates a dream he had concerning the lice that plague the townspeople. In the dream, Christ tells the Pope that he wishes to celebrate the Concordat of 1929 between the Church and the Fascist state by granting the cafoni a favor such as a gift...

(The entire section is 708 words.)