Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 507
Ida Ramundo (EE-dah rah-MEWN-doh), a widow and schoolteacher, the mother of two children. After the death of her mother, she discovers that she is half Jewish. She is frail and timid, and her life is a daily battle against a threatening and aggressive world. Her general sense of estrangement from society is exacerbated by her suffering from occasional epilepsy-like seizures. Impressionable and imaginative, she is also quite prone to troubling and powerful dreams that continue to haunt her during her waking hours. She worries about her teenage son, but her greatest concern is the care of her infant boy, the product of her rape by a German soldier. She becomes tenacious and unrelenting in her support of his well-being. Her life during the war becomes a constant struggle against the very visible enemies of deportation, hunger, and aggression.
Nino Mancuso (NEE-noh), Ida’s teenage son. From the beginning, he shows a reckless disposition and a rebelliousness against any rule or form of constraint. Self-absorbed and egotistical, he has an endearing and carefree quality that he uses to manipulate others. Irresistibly attracted to glamour and adventure, he throws himself wholeheartedly and unquestioningly into various activities, only to become bored or to find something else more enticing. He involves himself in Fascism, antifascism, and later the black market. The only true interest he takes in another human being is that which he shows toward Giuseppe, his young half brother. He is killed while fleeing the police in a van carrying stolen weapons.
Giuseppe Ramundo (jee-ew-SEHP-peh), usually called Useppe, the younger son of Ida. Born from the rape of his mother by a German soldier, he comes into the world with a sunny and peaceful disposition. He is exceptionally sensitive, perceptive, and gentle. As he grows older, he displays a love for animals and shows an uncanny ability to communicate with them. His friendliness, innocence, and openness make him instantly popular wherever he goes. He becomes increasingly prone to epileptic seizures, which leave him not only weak and exhausted but also at times confused and taciturn. The effects of the war take their toll on the boy’s health and on his psyche.
Davide Segre (dah-VEE-day SEH-gray), alias Carlo Vivaldi, an escaped prisoner. He is haunted both by the possibility of being recaptured and by his memories of his past imprisonment and the deportation of family and friends. He discovers that his parents and sister, whom he rejected, were killed in a concentration camp. His restlessness and the fears from which he cannot rid himself prompt him to join forces with Nino in his partisan band. In Nino, he finds a friend and companion. After the war, he dies of a drug overdose.
Bella, a dog. She plays an important part in the story as Giuseppe’s good and trusted friend. She is companion, protectress, and confidant to the boy. At times, she appears to him to be his only friend and the only one who knows all of his secrets.
Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340
Amoia, Alba della Fazia. Women on the Italian Literary Scene: A Panorama. Troy, N.Y.: Whitson, 1992. A survey of the works of nineteenth and twentieth century Italian women writers, including History, offering an overview of their place in that country’s literary history. Includes a chronology marking the years between 1846 and 1991 when various women writers were born and dates of significant publications, a selected bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and a comprehensive index.
Aricó, Santo L., ed. Contemporary Women Writers in Italy: A Modern Renaissance. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. A collection of essays on twelve Italian women writers active since the 1940’s. The chapter on Morante looks at autobiographical elements, as well as traumatic central motifs, in her body of work. There is a bibliography of works in Italian and in English on Italian literary history, general works about women authors, and literary theory, as well as comprehensive bibliographies for individual women writers.
Caesar, Michael, and Peter Hainsworth, eds. Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. Prefaced by a description of post-World War II Italy’s political and literary culture, this collection includes essays on ten influential Italian writers of the period. Each essay is followed by a bibliography of the author’s work and suggestions for further reading. The chapter on Morante examines the use of imagination, Magical Realism, and the themes of childhood and history in her works.
Mandrell, James. “The Prophetic Voice in Garro, Morante, and Allende.” Comparative Literature 42 (Summer, 1990): 227-245. A comparison of three female writers’ historical novels, including History, suggesting that the narrative structures in women’s historical novels differ from the male model.
Mora, Gabriela, and Karen S. Van Hooft, eds. Theory and Practice of Feminist Literary Criticism. Ypsilanti, Mich.: Bilingual Press, 1982. This collection of essays first describes diverse feminist approaches to literary criticism, then offers analyses of the works of fiction using these frameworks. The short article on Morante focuses on her condemnation of the bourgeois Italian family structure and values in three novels, including History.
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