Claire
Claire asked:

Just started this, but why are all the kids so violent? Having a hard time getting through the first hundred pages with all the hitting and rock throwing. Ugh!

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Amelia C Because in poor neighborhoods where kids see violence (husbands hitting wives) they go out and act this drama out themselves. And he boys seem to feel powerless as they stay trapped in the neighborhood and envy the Solara's. Heck, I was middle class and we used to hurl rocks at the neighbors and sometimes dead fish. Lord of The Flies is required reading for a reason. (-:
Ivan aren't you familiar with violence in US big cities? that's the same story, half century ago, in a poor city and after a tremendous war....
Shelley My mother's father was born in Naples, Italy and my mother has told me all kinds of stories about her grandfather's life which suggest there was indeed a lot of casual violence. Even my uncles had a history of throwing rocks and bricks at my mother! That's what made her decide to avoid marrying an Italian, and in fact, she kept her Italian heritage a secret for many years because she was embarrassed by her family's behavior...
Gayle Fleming There was a power dynamic in their neighborhood that was solidified by violence or the threat of violence. Men were more important than women and often beat them to insure their power over them. Boys were better than girls so shouldn't be one-upped in school and when they were, they turned to violence. Witness Enzo hating Lila who beats him at a maths contest. He and his friends throw rocks at her. Some men were more powerful than others i.e. Don Achille but even powerful men can die at the hands of the less powerful. Elena says, quite powerfully at the beginning of the book, "I have no nostalgia for our childhood. It was full of violence."
Alice S It's a poor neighborhood in the 50s Naples. For what I know, that violence is pretty realistic.
Denise You obviously did not grow up in an Italian household. Or a lower socio economic household as I know plenty of people (Italian, Irish, African American, whatever) who come home angry and frustrated, hit the wife, who hits the children and everybody shouts and screams at each other all the time. It's about class for the most part. Although, that being said, not everyone in the lower socioeconomic classes is like that, of course.
Dolly I agree with Claire -- I'm having a hard time getting through the first fifty pages (my point at which I continue or quit a book). It's not just the violence (and I'm a violence-phobe), it's the sheer number of characters and their unlikeableness.
Elizabeth The answer to your question will come as the story progresses and you immerse yourself in their world. At first I thought the not knowing added some suspense to the early pages. But if you get past the beginning, you may find the book as enjoyable, creative and winsome as I do.
Ro I, too, am having a very hard time with this story. The writing is choppy, and the content is not appealing. Perhaps it loses something in the translation, but it is not engaging at all. I will persevere for another chapter...
David Whitman Count yourself lucky that you did not grow up witnessing or enduring casual violence. It's more common than you might think. The best writing advice is "write what you know." Obviously Ferrante is familiar with casual violence. Perhaps the best reading advice is, "Read what you don't know" and try to come to an understanding of it. Sometimes that is uncomfortable.
Stephanie Cantizano Because it is Naples after the war. A place filled with machismo, the violence of the Comorra, poor education, graft and corruption. If that's what you see growing up, that's what you do.
Julie Budzin Naples was a very tough place in the 50's - I have a friend who grew up there and I believe rock throwing was commonplace. I still think it is not a particularly safe place to visit either.
Jo-Lynne Lockley Because that's how Ferrante wrote it. Without trigger warnings.
And because that pretty much describes the state of post war Southern Italy.
It's Naples. Remember the Garbage strikes. The Camorra? Southern Italy is, as a friend once said, northern Italy is the cultural and design center of the universe. Southern Italy is fantascienza.(Science fiction).
Remember the garbage strikes there? Remember the murder of judges and police just across the straight?
Read anything by Leonardo Sciascia or La Storia by Elsa Morante for insights into the state of Italy after the war, when the resistance turned into the black market and the Nazi's turned into organized crime, answering the Italian need for structure and "unlocked doors."
The Bookish Gardener I grew up in the 70s in a very average Australian town. There were always streets and families and boys we avoided walking home. Even some girls at high school were keen to get into a rumble. Getting bashed was always on the cards and it wasn't a particularly tough neighbourhood. Kids can be cruel. My brother and I learned which streets to avoid and became very fast runners!
Julie I'm glad you mentioned this issue. The cover contains a blurb by James Wood's review in the New Yorker. It says the book is "amiably peopled". When I read that I started laughing right there in the bookstore.
This is not a British seaside town that is "amiably peopled" by nicely dressed, but eccentric, villagers. This book is set in the Italian port of Naples, and the neighborhood where the book starts is full of gangsters, thugs, criminals--and those who want out.
I hope you kept reading it and would be curious to know what you think about it now.
Malory I also thought the first 100 pages was difficult to get through, although for a different reason. I flew threw the rest though.
Maria It is post war Italy, most of these husbands probably fought. They are impoverished but more so uneducated. I imagine this is a very realistic account. Not unique to Italy either.
Michelle Cajigal Such an interesting discussion! I LIKE that the characters are violent and flawed. It feels more real to me (the comparison in my mind is the "Belle" number in Beauty and the Beast where everyone is a cute villager, buying eggs and tending sheep). People can be violent. They can be unkind. They can be selfish. That's part of what makes people interesting. There's not as much to the story if everyone was kind and cooperative.
Leona Gardiner I haven't started the book yet but I think the violence will make me grateful for the peace and tranquility that I grew up in during the '50's in the country out of Victoria, B.C. Canada. Books like this certainly educate us.
Pgricchi This is “verismo”, not a sanitized fairy tale or a romance. Ferrante has created an authentic small world. If she told this story any other way it would be a betrayal. She is telling this story the way it must be told. It is not for the faint-hearted or the finicky. “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” (Bansky)
Anne Harm I wondered about that, too; lots of good ideas here, as to why. I have nothing new to add to potential reasons. Your comment reminded me that I noticed that aspect earlier on, but before too long I must have accepted and applied it. Thanks!
Kelley Snorklefoxie In truth, the violence winds down, after the beginning.. In a poor neighborhood, with little education and men being the alpha leader, without much female intervention, why wouldnt there be brute force shown? There isnt a lot to do and the one car, first mentioned, is highly celebrated. These folks are a product of their environment and era. As stated through the girls educational pursuits, most children dont go beyond elementary school. The adults believe education to be a waste of time. Adults survive on what their grandfather's did and that is passed on through generations. Therefore the adults dont have many skills in stopping conflict, other then fists or rocks or less known money.
Thomas
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Cornelia Schmidt Mafia surrounded poor part of Neaples
Dan I grew up in South Dakota in the 90s, and Naples in the 50s has nothing on the pervasive violence of my small town upbringing.
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