“Verona” takes place in the Italian city of Verona and depicts the narrator’s memories of a time in her childhood when her mother and father took her there as part of a European tour. Although the narrator recalls the period as one of happiness, she also describes this happiness as including components of cruelty and crime. As she describes the various incidents from her brief time in Verona, her evocations of exquisite happiness are invariably accompanied by details that suggest its opposite. For instance, the young girl is overwhelmed by her parents’ massive shopping sprees and a succession of strange cities and hotel rooms, and her sense of excitement shades into pain and anxiety. Similarly, although the narrator recalls it was her father who set the tone of endless magical abundance and happiness, she adds a disturbing element to her memories with a subsequent description of this holiday spree as a manipulative game that her father was playing for his own mysterious purposes.
All through their travels, she remembers that her innocent and youthful beauty as a child made her the object of much affection. This seems to be particularly the case in Verona when she is taken to a piazza to feed the pigeons. Her father gives her newspaper cones filled with grain, causing dozens of pigeons to light on her arms and head and to feed from her hand. However, as the birds continue to sit on her arms and shoulders and feed on the grain she is giving them, her enjoyment begins to attenuate. She suddenly senses that her mother, jealous of her father’s beneficence, is a powerful and even dangerous force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, as her father continues to pour grain on her hands, head, and shoulders to attract the birds, she feels something that oscillates between joy and nausea, and her laughter heightens into hysteria. At this point, she seems to lose complete touch with her ordinary self and feels she has been transformed by her own laughter into a brilliant, fantastic angel or bird-child. Later, she cannot stop remembering the pigeons or the special attention her father gave her, attention that she worries he does not visit on her mother.
The family dines and boards the night train from Verona, but in the middle of the night, her mother wakes her to look out the window at the moonlit landscape of extraordinary mountains, which, unlike the messy pigeons in the piazza, seem to be clean, cool, and otherworldly. Later, when her father wakes and looks at the mountains, the little girl finds she is jealous when her mother uses honeyed language to regain her father’s affection and interest. After her father falls back asleep, and mother and daughter continue to look at the almost unbearably beautiful mountains together, the girl concludes that her mother is, mysteriously, the winner of an unarticulated competition or contest being played under the surface of the little family’s life together. She bonds with her mother and regards her as the one to whom she will give her ultimate loyalty because she feels they both share the vulnerability that comes with loving men, whose affection she feels one can never completely secure. The narrator concludes her story by once again describing this complicated, intense, and troubling period as a time of happiness.
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