Bread and Wine

by Secondo Tranquilli

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The influence and nature of Italian Fascism in "Bread and Wine."


In Bread and Wine, Italian Fascism is depicted as a destructive force that permeates all facets of society. Silone illustrates this through the sacrifices and ideological compromises characters make to survive. The protagonist, Pietro Spina, faces immense challenges in raising revolutionary consciousness among apathetic peasants under a regime that has outlawed party politics. The tragic fates of several characters underscore the devastating impact of Fascism.

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What is the influence of Italian fascism in Bread and Wine?

In Bread and Wine, Ignazio Silone draws a vivid (and vividly symbolic) picture of the far-reaching and disastrous effects of the rise of fascism in Italy.

As the novel opens we see the sacrifices and ideological compromises Don Benedetto's students have had to make in order to survive under the new fascist regime. Perjuring their ideals, however, quickly proves the less tragic alternative as we witness the struggles of fierce socialist Pietro Spina. Exiled for his values but now returned to Italy, he must disguise himself as a priest to evade watchful government eyes.

The lawyer Zabaglione gives us a vivid description of the violent Fascist attempts to destroy the socialist and Christian organizations working to help the impoverished countryfolk the government ignores.

The unfortunate ends of several characters also provide a clear look at the destruction Silone believes fascism has caused in his country. Communist Luigi Murica is tortured and killed by the police. Bianchina ends as a prostitute in Rome ("represent[ing] the physical degradation endured by the oppressed Italian people"), and the devout Christina closes the novel preparing to be eaten by wolves after attempting to help Spina evade government capture ("her fate represents the death of the human spirit under Fascism"). (eNotes)

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What does Bread and Wine suggest about Fascism's nature and influence in Italy by 1935?

When Bread and Wine was written, Italy had been ruled by Mussolini's Fascists for over a decade. As one can imagine, by this time the Fascists had imposed themselves on virtually all aspects of society, either directly or indirectly. Though not as much of a totalitarian state as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy was still a one-party state, from which party politics had been banished.

This is arguably the biggest problem that Pietro Spina, the protagonist of Bread and Wine, has to face in raising the revolutionary consciousness of the peasants living in the village of Pietrasecca. Because party politics has been outlawed, the vital process of fomenting revolutionary anti-Fascist activity has fallen to a handful of brave and committed individuals like Spina.

But this is a lot easier said than done. There's only so much that individuals can do in this regard, even if they can somehow gain the confidence and support of the common people.

A further obstacle that Spina has to overcome is the general apathy of the peasant folk towards any kind of political activity. Whether or not the peasants are supporters of Mussolini and the Fascists, they are certainly not the stuff from which revolutions are made.

Nearly a decade and a half of Fascist rule has dried up any enthusiasm there may once have been for radical change. As such, Pietro Spina is constantly thwarted in his attempts to radicalize the people of Pietrasecca.

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