In Ask the Dust, is Bandini free of his own history, and as a result, able to forge a new identity in Los Angeles? Or does his sense of self remain dependent upon his past in any significant ways? Think about the various shifts in Bandini's persona and the way that they inform his sense of who he is.

Arturo Bandini’s history with Catholicism appears to have hampered his sexual identity. His final separation from Camilla suggests that he might have found a way to break from his burdensome heterosexuality. The end also suggests that Bandini is open to creating an identity that is not so centered on literary fame.

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To figure out if Arturo Bandini is able to eventually free himself from his own history and forge a new identity, the history that he’s trying to separate himself from should be identified. At first, it seems like Bandini’s main problem is Catholicism. His religious upbringing has burdened him with guilt and hampered his development of a healthy sexuality. After Bandini finally has sex, an earthquake happens. Bandini believes his choice to have sex with a married woman caused God to send down an earthquake.

When Bandini and Camilla finally have sex, they are intoxicated, which suggests that Catholicism still weighs heavy on the mind and soul of Bandini.

The ending, when Bandini gives up on trying to find Camilla, indicates that he has freed himself of his Catholic-sexuality conflict. The image of him alone in his car suggests that he’s now going to focus on other things besides his tortured idea of sex.

It’s also possible that Bandini doesn’t need to liberate himself from Catholicism as much as from himself. Bandini thinks highly of himself. Throughout the novel, he comes across as self-important and self-centered. He boasts about the letters he receives and makes it clear that “everyone” in the hotel has read his short story. When he goes to talk to a Catholic priest, he's distracted by the fact that the priest’s study has the magazine that published his short story. Again, perhaps it’s not Catholicism that Bandini needs to break free from but his own ego.

The end scene, where Bandini chucks his novel into the emptiness, could indicate that he’s creating a new identity that’s not so centered on literary fame. It’s also possible to interpret the end as another grandiose and self-absorbed gesture.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 8, 2021
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