Dichotomy of Rich and Poor

After the introduction of the Valera’s Italian villa it becomes strikingly clear the immense wealth the Sandro hails from. Notions of wealth were certainly introduced earlier – however, the scope of Sandro’s fortune was relatively unfelt by the reader until Reno visits the family home.

Despite this wealth, however, of money, Reno notes a cheapness in the presentation of the place, both physically and emotionally. The interactions within the walls are cold and unfeeling, and Reno discusses a “particular cheapness of the very rich,” in regards to the actual physical coldness within the home. But this statement is much more powerful than just referencing the temperature of the place.

In stark contrast to this is Reno’s relationship with the poor in Italy. She is taken in by men and women she does not know. She is giving a place to sleep and a group to exist within – a far cry to how she was treated by the Valera’s

So, what does this say about the rich and poor? As a historical novel commenting on revolution, it appears Kushner aims to present, at least slightly, the wealthy in the wrong. Intelligently, though, and rather than creating “evil” rich and “good” poor, she places both in a less black/white situation. It is still certainly obvious, though, that the wealthy exude coldness and lack of understanding, while the poor are willing to offer help and warmth.

One comment on “Dichotomy of Rich and Poor

  1. baileyobrien14 says:

    I also found this theme to be the most striking in these last two chapters. Wealth is associated with coldness and unfeeling, through both the actions/attitudes of the wealthy and their possessions. The example that most sticks out in my mind is the scene at the pool, when Chesil Jones explains that the patio stones “are actually for grinding polenta. They’re the tools of a peasant’s existence, a peasant’s meager fare…their rough-hewn softness is from thousands of hours of peasants toiling away” (237). These stones represent the attitudes (or at least the perceived attitudes) of the wealthy – entitled and aloof. In my opinion, the most important part of your post is that the black and white good/evil dichotomy is not present. There is genuine beauty and tenderness (though mostly found outside of the villa) when she is in Bellagio, and there is impurity and violence when she is in Rome. Despite this, you are correct in noting that the perceptions of rich and poor are still quite clear. Chapter 15 ends with Reno in Gianni’s room (the last line, “the rest of it I wish I could erase”), so I wonder if these perceptions will change as the story continues to unfold.

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