Lives Of The Saints, By Ninno Ricci Essay, Research Paper
Child has been taught from the beginning that the family is sacred, and is the most important thing in the life of every person. Family can give what no one else can give: love, protection, and it shapes a person’s identity from the birth. Very often parents are judged by the way their child behaves, however there is a huge number of disordered families. Lack of a parent or unstopping abuse and arguments can cause a child’s personality to change, in most cases, in a bad way. Children like that are unsocial, lonely, misbehaved and sometimes are full of hatred towards themselves. So does the character from the novels, Lives of the Saints and In a Glass House, written by Nino Ricci. These two extraordinary novels are told by the boy, Vottorio Innocente, about his life in Italy and his life as an immigrant in Canada. His life completely changed once he was brought to Canada. His mother died while giving birth to his half-sister, his father was too busy, working on the farm, to take care of both children. Atmosphere in Innocente’s family, desire to escape from his present life through travel and acceptance are factors that affected Vittorio’s perspective on life as well as they had shaped his personality.
Family atmosphere plays a certain role in the development of the young individual. Each member of a family should have a responsibility, father should discipline and protect the family, and mother should love and take care of it. Unfortunately, in the novel Lives of the Saints, father of young Vittorio left Italy to work in America, and Vittorio was left with mother and his crippled grandfather. It was a stable family with its daily problems and routines. Vittorio was loved protected and was taken care of, actually he was overprotected, given too much attention, so he got spoiled. “Growing up like a weed. Do you ever see him getting up at four to help with the harvest? He and his mother play like schoolchildren all day.” (Lives of the Saints, 51) Two of Cristina’s friends were talking about Vittorio. However the situation changed, when Cristina was found pregnant from another men. The normal, peaceful household turned to chaos. Arguments and accusations constantly were going on between grandfather and Cristina. All respect for the grandfather, as a mayor vanished, with the shame for his daughter he had to give up his position. Grandfather hated Cristina for what she has done.
I’ve suffered everyday of my life, but I’ve never had to walk through this town and hang my head in shame. Now people come to my house like they go to the circus, to laugh at the clowns! You’ve killed me Cristina, as surely as if you’d pulled a knife across my throught. In all my days I’ve never raised a hand against you but now I wish to God I’d locked you in the stable and raised you with the pigs, that you’d died and rotted in the womb, that you hadn’t lived long enough to bring this disgrace on my name? (Lives of the Saints, 145)
Cristina’s deed was considered a scene, the work of “evil”. They were avoided, and they were excluded from the life of the village; basically they were treated like an outcast. It gave a great impact on Vottorio; he waited for things to go back to normal, spent most of the time alone. “I spent my time alone now, waiting for something to happen that would restore the normalcy of things.” (Lives of the Saints, 75) On the other hand, Vittorio’s life was completely different in Canada, in the novel In a Glass House. His father had to work really hard to get some money, and he expected Vittorio to work as hard as he did, in order to support the family. “ For a week or so he had me clean out an old chicken coop in the barn. After the barn he set me to work collecting broken glass in the alley between the greenhouses,” Mario did tell Vittorio not to fill the wheelbarrow too full, “But I did pile it too full; and even feelings its weight begin to lean as I lifted its handles. There was a tremendous crash. After that I worked on my own.” (In a Glass House, 31-32) Things were going rough for Vittorio. In addition to his everyday work on the farm, he had to take care of his newborn half-sister. It seamed like nobody cared about this little baby, except Vittorio and a girl named Gelsomina. Even though Vittorio was Mario’s son, they did not connected with each other; there was no father-son bond between them. Most of the time they spent in their own world, thinking about different things, not wanting to allow each other into their hearts, however Vittorio was aware of his father’s presence. “But usually he was silent, the work taking him over, bringing out in him a hard-edged concentration that seemed somehow to free me from him. He had seemed like someone who had nothing to do with me, who was outside of me like a stranger, who I had to think about, be awkward with.”(In a Glass House, 3, 33) People saw Mario as an angry, aggressive and abusive man; even family members were victims of his anger. Since Vittorio was brought to Canada, uncles and aunts surrounded him; they were helping Mario with household and on the farm. Without all these help, Mario would never built his business and he would never be successive, nevertheless he always was upset about something, he never gave a chance for somebody’s opinion, it was only him and his ideas. “ ‘I’ll tell you why I’m a fool, because I didn’t see from the first how you’re dragging me into your big ideas just to get what you want. Now I understand how you see things! You always want to be the big man!’ my uncle said, my father and my uncle didn’t speak to each other for the rest of the winter. For month we lived under the shadow of their suppressed anger.” (Lives of the Saints, 85) It was another fight between Vittorio’s uncle and his father. His uncle helped Mario to built greenhouses for the farm, to improve some of the equipment. There were another arguments abuse and anger in Innocente’s family; it turned Vittorio to hatred of the family alliances.
I was secretly pleased then to see a tension arising between my uncle and father, their exchanges marked more and more by the familiar parsimoniousness of emotion, by their unthinking need to blame, to contradict, to dismiss. Something in me feeling vindicated in this reversion as though it were my deep monstrous wish now to see our family destroyed, to watch its slow burn to some pure and final violence. (Lives of the Saints, 136)
Vittorio went through a lot in Italy as well as in Canada. Environment that Vittorio lived in triggered a need to escape, to change his present life and start all over again.
Vitorio changes his life in order to escape from his present. A lot of people took an easy way out by moving to a new location to start a new life, sometimes it shows a week side of a person, but sometimes the situation can be so complicated and so impossible to solve that the only thing is to move, to start from the scratch. In the novel Lives of the Saints, life of Vittorio and his mother, Cristina, became unbearable when the villagers found out about the baby, that Cristina was carrying. Cristina was psychologically attacked by her own father, by friends and other villagers. She was fighting for her dignity and honor but this fight gave her no more than more avoidance, hatred and fear to be cursed by the “evil” one. She could stay and fight more, but at this moment she was thinking not only about herself but also about Vittorio’s future and the baby, therefore the only choice she had, was to leave the country.
But in the few days that remained before our departure, I walked through the streets with a strange sense of lightness, as if at any moment I might simply lift up and walk on air; and houses, faces, voices seemed to fade away from me, to lose their power to impress me with their presence. But though my mind was filled with images of America, of tall buildings and wide green fields. I could not believe in the truth of them; and all I could see clearly of the future was a kind of limitless space that took shape in my head as the sea, and journey into this space that took direction not from its destination but from its point of departure. My mother and I will melt now into an endless freedom. (Lives of the Saints, 165, 201)
That’s how Vittorio reacted to their departure to America. He was glad to escape from the atmosphere they lived in. He didn’t know what was waiting for them oversea but he was hoping that their lives would be better. Comparing to the novel In a Glass House, after years spent in university away from the family, Vittorio felt like a stranger around relatives and his father. He could not imaging himself living like his father did, working on the farm, taking care of the family business. He was drawn away from shadowy alliances and misunderstanding with his father and unstopping arguments. In general he did not want to live the same life he lived prior to his departure to university, in his mind he saw a different future. Vittorio chose to leave his father and go to Africa to teach English.
This sense of making a tiny, other life in some unknown place as if starting from the scratch. The next weeks I passed in a kind of dream, set now on this future that had somehow been conjured out of nothing. The world took on an impermanence, everything already compared to the future’s imagined foreignness, the buildings and shops, the traffic lights, the strange organization of things, so arbitrary, roads and highways and malls, the endless civilized neatness of suburbs. (In a Glass House, 268)
Vittorio imagined how things are going to be in Africa, he wanted to start a new life, like he said, from the scratch. The author was using similar concept in Lives of the Saints, when he described Vittorio’s thoughts about America. It is possible that by changing locations Vittorio expected to find an environment where he would be accepted, where he would find himself as well.
Acceptance by peers and his view of himself as a person are another important aspects of formation of a character. Most of teenagers were doing crazy things, to show off, to be better than somebody else or to fit in a certain group of people. Some of them were doing sports, participating in some events and being a part of some school comity, but some teens preferred to skip school, smoke and fight. Similar behavior was reflected in Vittorio. Often Vittorio and his friend were skipping school on the mountain, smoking stolen, from friend’s father cigarettes, and getting into fights. It was going on until Vittorio’d friend was taken from school to work on the farm, as a result, Vittorio got lonely and ignored. Later on, Vittorio got into fight with a local gang member. Either it was in order to protect himself or just show off; Vittorio forgot that there was no one to defend him or to help him. It was obvious that he did not fit in. Another rather stupid than brave scene was when Vittorio agreed to go on the mountain with a gang to smoke. Vittorio was so overwhelmed with the idea that he can be one of the members, and blind enough not to see that this was all a set up, he had done something that he should be ashamed of. “To become a member, you have to show us your bird, and then you have to put it in the hole and move it up and down fifty times, and then you are the member.” (Lives of the saints, 125) Fortunately, Fabrizio helped Vittorio, but instead being thankful, Vittorio was full of hatred toward his friend. “ He had ruined my chances now, and I felt myself flush with anger and hate for Fabrizio.” (Lives of the Saints, 127) Some other things happened in Italy, but most of Vittorio’ similar attempts were made in Canada, when he was older. In his university year he got into the wrong crowd, just wanting to fit in one of the hippies group. Their regular ceremony was smoking a joint. Small step at a time Vittorio was a regular customer of a guy in a group, it felt good, because he actually was one of them. “I took a long drag… I felt comforted by being there in the cluttered intimacy of Verne’s room, by his own mute acceptance of me, the sense of having entered somehow into the residence’s secret life.” (In a Glass House, 225, 227) The desire to belong somewhere was probably caused by some past experience that Vittorio hid deep inside of him. The same reason caused him to be afraid of letting someone into his life. In Italy this fear wasn’t really present in comparison to Canada, when he got older, because he had his mother, who loved him and he had his friend. With every year he spent with his father and being alone most of the times, Vittorio isolated himself from everybody, seems like he was scared of being hurt. And even if someone was trying to make a contact with him he was pushing that person away, not caring at all, like there was an empty space inside him. This loneliness and avoidance of being involved with people grew and finally it came to a climax. Once Vittorio got to university things took a very ugly shape. He spoke to no one, he was spending most of the time in his room either smoking up or sleeping. He avoided people even when they tried to talk to him. “The people who were friendly with me were exactly the ones I after wards avoided, afraid they’d finally see into this falseness in me. Sought out always the back corners of classrooms to be close to the exits. I spoke to no one, emerging from my room only for classes. I started sleeping incessantly, twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours a day.” (In a Glass House, 222-223) Soon after this Vittorio’s thoughts were directed toward suicide. The time he spent in his room, he was thinking about the best way of killing himself. He ones came too close, but then the thought about the half-family stopped him. “I began to think seriously of killing myself, had a thousand times planned out its every detail. Went so far once as to remove the screen from the window in my room, stood for a moment, but it was the thought of my family that seemed to keep me from it.” (In a Glass House, 224) Vittorio was strong enough to overcome his psychological problems, he found help, and successfully graduated from university. He went trough a long way of discovering himself. It all started from his mothers death and went on through his life with the father and then alone. A huge contribution to all his psychological problems was given by the family in Italy and in Canada; these families were characterized by disorder, anger and arguments.
Nino Ricci wrote two absolutely unforgettable novels Lives of the Saints, and In a Glass House. He wanted a reader to follow two decades of Vittorio Innocente’s life within Italian community in Italy as well as an immigrant in Canada. He emphasizes on the effect of the family on development of a child and how an atmosphere and relationships inside the family can build a basis for ones life. That’s how relationships among the family members, effort to forget present life, and a wish to fit in, can influence an existence of a person. “One of the most basic issues we face in our lives is the feeling of failure or guilt. I come from a minority group, families where F stood for feedback or flow and not failure. F’s on a test meant a failed test and not a failure as a human being. F’s helped me find my place in the universe because the family attitude was, “It was meant to be.” And now we would see what good would come of this event.” (King Solomon)