by Secondo Tranquilli

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Student Question

What is the theme of the novel Fontamara by Ignazio Silone and how is it communicated?

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Fontamara focuses on the exploitation of Italian peasants (referred to as "cafoni" in the novel) during the Fascist dictatorship. Set in the Southern region of Abruzzi in the fictional town of Fontamara ("bitter fount" in English), the novel shows how the capitalist system (embodied by the character of the Contractor), the Catholic Church and the Fascist regime keep the peasants ignorant in order to repress any form of political resistance. Although the novel emphasizes the peasants' subdued status at the beginning of the narrative, by its conclusion it also points out their ability to resist and fight back. Thus, Fontamara displays the growth of class consciousness of a group of peasants and their willingness to fight for a better and fairer condition. Its final message, therefore, is one of hope for the construction of a Socialist brotherhood, although Silone's Christian upbringing made him permeate this utopian project with Christian values too.

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