Bandini Question #4 ~ Maria

by John Fante

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Bandini Question #4 ~ Maria

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Sep 07, 2007 7:44 am

Let’s discuss Maria. How would you describe her? What did you think of her character?
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Unread postby Bermuda » Fri Sep 07, 2007 10:45 am

Maria was definitely a perfect example of a woman in the 1920's and early 30's. A devoted wife and mother who put up with a lot of should we say "garbage" in her life! (That is the ultimate understatement; here we are in 2007 and things have changed dramatically for most women!) I personally felt she should have taken a wooden rolling pin from her kitchen drawer, and hit Svevo over the head with it several times! :biglaugh: But honestly, she was a tragic figure because she was so very lonely. She only had occasional visits from her mother. Donna Toscana just added to Maria's misery by continuing to point out all of Maria's lack of cooking skills and Svevo's faults. (Well, yea lady like Maria didn't know Svevo was a jerk sometimes herself? You didn't need to rub it in! :mad: ) The Depression years were hard enough on everyone, but all Maria had were her rosary and prayers. Thankfully, that is what kept her from going completely insane. I thought Maria's isolation was very unusual. I asked myself several times while reading the book, where were all of her other relatives, friends, church members, and priests? Wouldn't anyone help this woman? I just wanted to jump into the book and wrap my arms around Maria and invite her over occasionally for a cup of coffee. She just wanted to be needed and loved. She had a :censored: for a mother and a :censored: for a husband! Poor Maria! :tear:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Sep 07, 2007 11:09 am

I wondered about her isolation too since one would assume they were part of a larger Italian community. One of our tidbits said that there were divisions within the communities though and we do see that in relation to the types of jobs held by the men. I think her plight was similar to that of the women in her time and culture, subservient, and they were all expected to live within that male dominated society. I felt very sorry for her too!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Sep 07, 2007 11:51 am

My thoughts are a bit different ~
While I dispised Svevo I also found Maria's passivity infuriating. She seemed to be totally lacking in resources, or recourse to resources, such as her faith community. Her mother wasn't any help, that's for sure, and I suppose being constantly reminded that you're a complete failure would make a person go either way ~ either toward accepting that fact or fighting like :censored: for a different outcome. Maria favored the former, making her the kind of boring victim-martyr everybody is supposed to feel sorry for but doesn't. The more Svevo ranted and raved about his fate, the more Maria just sat there, possibly making the situation worse. A whack or two with the rolling pin for both of them would've done a world of good! As it was, Maria's survival strategy was prayer, which she approached with a zeal and fervor that might have been better placed elsewhere, IMO.
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Sep 07, 2007 12:38 pm

Thinking back on our tidbit we decided that the time frame was about 1928 so that is my grandmothers era. I have been trying to think of grandma's life compared to Maria's. In that era women did a lot more work then these days. Food took longer to prerpare, washers were antiques and cloths were handmade.. My mother used a ringer type washer and I can't even remember a washer at my grandmothers. Cloths were all hung out on the line. My grandmother raised 9 kids and was the cook in my grandfathers restaurant. I am embarrassed to say that I can't imagine working that hard and my own mother says the same. I thought of my grandmother when Stevo said carrying coal for the stove was woman's work. I can remember my grandmother going to the basement and throwing coal in the furnace. I am thinking through all this to remind myself that Maria's plight was not solely caused by Stevo.

My grandfather was a lot like Stevo. After they retired he would not give my grandmother any money to run the household so she raised chickens and sold eggs for spending money. My grandfather used to hide coke in a locked room in the garage so he didn't have to share it. My grandmothers favoritie thing to spite him was to give the key to the coke to the grandchildren. Maria accepted this male dominated era and became a doormat. My grandmother was taller then my grandfather so maybe he thought better of threatening her. In the story, Maria goes to extreme measures to keep Stevo from getting angry and it is left unsaid whether he resorted to violence.

Like some of you mentioned reading the story, the thought ran threw my mind of taking a rolling pin to Stevo when he was asleep but the reality of the times was that leaving your husband was not really done in those days and you learned to adjust to your lot in life. My grandmother used to say, you made your bed and now you have to sleep in it. This is what Maria did, she obviously couldn't go home to her mother so she put her hope in religion and being rewarded in the next world.
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Unread postby shadowydog » Fri Sep 07, 2007 1:16 pm

gemini wrote:Thinking back on our tidbit we decided that the time frame was about 1928 so that is my grandmothers era. I have been trying to think of grandma's life compared to Maria's. In that era women did a lot more work then these days. Food took longer to prerpare, washers were antiques and cloths were handmade.. My mother used a ringer type washer and I can't even remember a washer at my grandmothers. Cloths were all hung out on the line. My grandmother raised 9 kids and was the cook in my grandfathers restaurant. I am embarrassed to say that I can't imagine working that hard and my own mother says the same. I thought of my grandmother when Stevo said carrying coal for the stove was woman's work. I can remember my grandmother going to the basement and throwing coal in the furnace. I am thinking through all this to remind myself that Maria's plight was not solely caused by Stevo.

My grandfather was a lot like Stevo. After they retired he would not give my grandmother any money to run the household so she raised chickens and sold eggs for spending money. My grandfather used to hide coke in a locked room in the garage so he didn't have to share it. My grandmothers favoritie thing to spite him was to give the key to the coke to the grandchildren. Maria accepted this male dominated era and became a doormat. My grandmother was taller then my grandfather so maybe he thought better of threatening her. In the story, Maria goes to extreme measures to keep Stevo from getting angry and it is left unsaid whether he resorted to violence.

Like some of you mentioned reading the story, the thought ran threw my mind of taking a rolling pin to Stevo when he was asleep but the reality of the times was that leaving your husband was not really done in those days and you learned to adjust to your lot in life. My grandmother used to say, you made your bed and now you have to sleep in it. This is what Maria did, she obviously couldn't go home to her mother so she put her hope in religion and being rewarded in the next world.


Thanks for sharing that. It was inlightening to see and hear how women lived during this time. We tend to see this story through our "liberated" eyes. Women in this time were considered chattel property of their husbands and had few legal rights outside the marriage. Kind of like woman in the Arab world live today.

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Unread postby gemini » Fri Sep 07, 2007 1:31 pm

shadowydog wrote:
Thanks for sharing that. It was inlightening to see and hear how women lived during this time. We tend to see this story through our "liberated" eyes. Women in this time were considered chattel property of their husbands and had few legal rights outside the marriage. Kind of like woman in the Arab world live today.

So true shadowydog, we tend to take our liberated world for granted and forget how new it is and that many parts of the world have not reached it yet.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Sep 07, 2007 2:42 pm

I agree with everyone's thoughts. Maria was definitely a product of her times and her culture. I was alternatively infuriated with her passivity (say your rosary, but then DO something!) and impressed with her positive attitude under dire circumstances. First of all, how did she ever survive childhood with that mother!!? Many a spirit would have been broken by her! :-O She must have taken refuge in her religion and found great solace there.
And then she chose to marry someone who also bullied her, and yet she managed to see her life in a positive light; she had "a splendid husband, three fine children, a good home, lasting health, and faith in God's mercy." How positive is that!!? (Now don't say deluded!!!) When everything finally became too overwhelming, she disappeared into a depression but still fought her way back bit by bit. She scratched out some overdue revenge and knew Svevo would be back. "He'll be home today."
I love Arturo's insight into her regarding his new dog, Jumbo. She said she didn't want Jumbo around, but Arturo knew "Jumbo, like his predecessors, would follow her around devotedly, with no regard for anyone else in the family." Dogs know! :cloud9:
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Sep 07, 2007 3:04 pm

Betty Sue wrote:I agree with everyone's thoughts. Maria was definitely a product of her times and her culture. I was alternatively infuriated with her passivity (say your rosary, but then DO something!) and impressed with her positive attitude under dire circumstances. First of all, how did she ever survive childhood with that mother!!? Many a spirit would have been broken by her! :-O She must have taken refuge in her religion and found great solace there.
And then she chose to marry someone who also bullied her, and yet she managed to see her life in a positive light; she had "a splendid husband, three fine children, a good home, lasting health, and faith in God's mercy." How positive is that!!? (Now don't say deluded!!!) When everything finally became too overwhelming, she disappeared into a depression but still fought her way back bit by bit. She scratched out some overdue revenge and knew Svevo would be back. "He'll be home today."
I love Arturo's insight into her regarding his new dog, Jumbo. She said she didn't want Jumbo around, but Arturo knew "Jumbo, like his predecessors, would follow her around devotedly, with no regard for anyone else in the family." Dogs know! :cloud9:


How true Betty Sue. I forgot the remark about the dog until you brought it back and as a person to my menagerie of dogs, I can vouch for the truth in this. Dogs pick their person, its not the other way around.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Sep 07, 2007 3:33 pm

Thanks for backing me up on that one, gemini! :heart2:
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:26 pm

Betty Sue wrote:Thanks for backing me up on that one, gemini! :heart2:


It's true! We'll be discussing Jumbo in more depth towards the end of the discussion.

I agree with everyone's answers. Gemini, your trip down memory lane caused me to go there, myself. My memories of my Italian great grandma from Denver are few. But what I do remember is that she slaved constantly....making her children and grandchildren her number one priority. I do remember stories from my mom of washboards and such. Life was not easy.
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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:30 pm

Thanks, Gemini, for the reference to the washing machine... It reminded me that sociologists have claimed that said technology actually started the whole nuclear family thing and that it had the affect of isolating housewives and making their lives insular and lonely. As opposed to, one assumes, the communal laundry/washing place where women could meet and chat and possibly brain-stormed about creative solutions to dealing with obnoxious spouses. :hug:
However, it doesn't sound like the early machines were anything close to being the luxury they were marketed to be! More work, less chance to interact with others... No good!
With that in mind, I went to the laundromat today to wash some blankets ~ I wish I could say it was a warm and friendly social experience, but I guess it's waaay to late for that now! :lol:
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Sep 07, 2007 5:36 pm

Parlez wrote:Thanks, Gemini, for the reference to the washing machine... It reminded me that sociologists have claimed that said technology actually started the whole nuclear family thing and that it had the affect of isolating housewives and making their lives insular and lonely. As opposed to, one assumes, the communal laundry/washing place where women could meet and chat and possibly brain-stormed about creative solutions to dealing with obnoxious spouses. :hug:
However, it doesn't sound like the early machines were anything close to being the luxury they were marketed to be! More work, less chance to interact with others... No good!
With that in mind, I went to the laundromat today to wash some blankets ~ I wish I could say it was a warm and friendly social experience, but I guess it's waaay to late for that now! :lol:

Hi Parlez, Thats interesting, I wonder if they meant the first communal washing place was the river. On second thought it should have been the dryer that isolated the housewife. They used to chat with their neighbors as they hung the laundry outside. I agree with you on the Laundromat. I hate to go to them.

Applying all these comparisons of today with Maria, we all wondered where she might go for conversational companionship. Had it not been for the grocer wanting their account settled, isn't that where women met to chat?
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Unread postby Bix » Fri Sep 07, 2007 5:43 pm

Thanks for some great answers today (as usual!). I had a really, really hard time making myself finish this book and a large part of that was due to my frustration with the character of Maria. I just kept having to put the book down and try not to think about it. As much as I disliked the disgusting Svevo, I think I liked Maria even less. So I was really eager to read what everyone had to say to give me some insight that I couldn't seem to come up with on my own. I'm still not sure why I'm not willing to give these characters a chance, as I usually do when I read something new. But my reaction was more like what Parlez said earlier, that they and their children could all use a good bop on the noggin with that rolling pin! :blush: Anyway, your answers are helping me get a bit more comfortable with this bear of a book!
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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Sep 07, 2007 6:46 pm

gemini wrote:
Parlez wrote:Thanks, Gemini, for the reference to the washing machine... It reminded me that sociologists have claimed that said technology actually started the whole nuclear family thing and that it had the affect of isolating housewives and making their lives insular and lonely. As opposed to, one assumes, the communal laundry/washing place where women could meet and chat and possibly brain-stormed about creative solutions to dealing with obnoxious spouses. :hug:
However, it doesn't sound like the early machines were anything close to being the luxury they were marketed to be! More work, less chance to interact with others... No good!
With that in mind, I went to the laundromat today to wash some blankets ~ I wish I could say it was a warm and friendly social experience, but I guess it's waaay to late for that now! :lol:

Hi Parlez, Thats interesting, I wonder if they meant the first communal washing place was the river. On second thought it should have been the dryer that isolated the housewife. They used to chat with their neighbors as they hung the laundry outside. I agree with you on the Laundromat. I hate to go to them.

Applying all these comparisons of today with Maria, we all wondered where she might go for conversational companionship. Had it not been for the grocer wanting their account settled, isn't that where women met to chat?

Right you are, Gemini ~ where do women go to chat when they don't have chatrooms?! :lol:
I think the whole washer-dryer-technology issue is one of degrees...like the washing machine took women out of the riverside or plaza or wherever the communal laundry was done, and the dryer took them out of their own backyards. Eventually they were buried ever deeper within their individual homes and out of the mainstream. All in the name of luxury and/or efficiency of course. :-?
For Maria, her outlet logically would've been the Church, but for some reason it wasn't. Her faith seemed almost mystical in its solitary expression. The social aspect of her religion didn't seem to be something she thought she needed.
"Belay that! ...Do something else!" ~ Hector Barbossa

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