Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Richard B. Lyttle’s Il Duce: The Rise and Fall of Benito Mussolini is the first biography of Mussolini intended for younger readers. The book is organized into twenty-four brief chapters that proceed chronologically through Mussolini’s life and career. The first four chapters detail Mussolini’s youth and rise to fame as a revolutionary Socialist in the early years of the twentieth century. When World War I began in 1914, Mussolini, like most Socialists, insisted that Italy should remain neutral. For reasons that remain unclear, however, his views changed, and soon he was advocating that Italy join the fight on the side of the Allies. Although his fellow Socialists regarded him as a traitor, he joined the army and served at the front until he was badly injured in 1917.

The next nine chapters document the second phase of Mussolini’s life: his rise to power and rule of Italy as a Fascist dictator. After the war’s end, Mussolini formed the Fascist Party to fight the Socialists and Communists, who threatened Italy with revolution. In 1922, after many violent clashes between Fascists and Socialists, King Victor Emmanuel III asked Mussolini to become prime minister. Mussolini moved quickly to become a dictator, restructuring the government to eliminate all other political parties. He faced little opposition because the Italian people generally sup-ported him. His domestic programs reduced unemployment and helped to bring stability and...

(The entire section is 414 words.)