Bandini Question #11 - Arturo's Roller Coaster

by John Fante

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Parlez
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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Sep 14, 2007 9:09 pm

stroch wrote:
This answer is all over the map; sorry.


All over the map isn't surprising, really, when people start talking about religion. :fear:
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 14, 2007 9:22 pm

stroch wrote:Oops. I think I posted the answer to this question in my response to the cameo question, but you all have brought out the same points--Arturo did not get the concept of repentance.


That’s OK, Stroch, the two questions are somewhat connected.

It is true that kids go through a stage where they become extremely legalistic. My son and his friends went overboard while playing games with each other. Was it age 10???
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Sep 14, 2007 9:51 pm

Arturo had a cycle he couldn’t seem to escape from. He would commit sin, suffer from extreme guilt, and then go out and commit more sin. And the cycle would start again.
I had to think about this for a day to come up with a response. From my personal experience with religion among my siblings and cousins our religions were more acceptable as youngsters and we were more apt to follow the rules out of fear of punishment. Looking back on all of us now the most devout seem to have changed the most, as far as excepting divorce and different lifestyles. and those of us that didn't take religion so much to heart haven't changed as much. We were all raised relatively the same, safe, middle class, with no abusive parents.

This reasoning made me think that Arturos family life was the difference. Even though they were Catholic and his mother very devout, his father cursed, treated his mother and the children badly, making the family feel they were a burden he was forced to contend with.. Arturo sees that his father didn't fear retribution for his sins so why should he. His mother who was religious accepted his father sins and all.

What do you think that says about Arturo and human nature? I think the point I am trying to make is that children are more influenced by example than rules whether religions or not. Arturo's alternating between cruelty, crime, and remorse was the example he was set.
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Unread postby Bix » Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:29 pm

Excellent thoughts, as usual. I have to agree with those who said that Arturo's roller coaster was caused by his religious teachings. I grew up in a German Lutheran church which was the only alternative to the Roman Catholic church in our small rural town and, although we didn't have our sins laid out in levels of badness or a way to confess ourselves out of them - except to go to holy communion, - I remember every twist and turn of what Arturo was going through. I was such a rebel - I believed some of the dogma, but I didn't buy it all. But I was too afraid to just leave it all behind. (I was 16 /18 at the time and not 12/14, so I should have had a better handle on it - but I didn't!) So I did very dangerous things - like have unprotected sex, because if we used a condom we would have been planning to do what felt good instead of just being overcome by the moment with no control over it, etc. , etc. Those of you my age can fill in the blanks. . . .These memories are not happy ones and made reading this book really hard for me. And I wonder if there are any young people now who are this controlled by religion?
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 14, 2007 11:07 pm

Bix wrote:And I wonder if there are any young people now who are this controlled by religion?

Interesting question Bix. It was the case for me, since I had to leave my religion behind to be able to do it. But it was a lot more complicated than that--having to do with other beliefs I had. And I won’t go into it. But yes, my religion effected me that much.

Gemini, I think what you are saying is that he was given examples that were contradictory. His mother was very devout, his father not.
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Unread postby suec » Sun Sep 16, 2007 5:20 am

I think his home life is extremely important. He does get contradictory messages from his parents, but also, he doesn't seem to be getting very much moral guidance either. There's not much in the way of teaching virtuous Christian behaviour, which I find odd, considering his mother's devoutness. She condones his lying, his stealing, the killing the chicken, in effect. She passes no comment about the chicken, expresses not even surprise, even though it hasn't been killed in the correct manner. It needed challenging. This is the child who tortures animals. (BTW, what are we to make of the fact that he crucifies a rat?) She lets him know that she knows he's been stealing money, but that isn't good enough. It's plain wrong to steal, and she should have had that discussion with him. I wonder if he hadn't been told that in no uncertain terms, whether he would have taken the cameo. And how does she deal with him pushing his brother through the window? Arturo is surprised that she has snitched on him to his father, and she defends him in front of Svevo with 'boys will be boys'. I don't mean to suggest that I am excusing Arturo's behaviour. He does some monstrous, hateful things, but he thinks he can balance them out with confession and being an altar boy. He doesn't take responsibility for his own actions, or appreciate the worth of good deeds. August seems to be making the same mistake, too. In the end, I think it comes down to accepting responsibility for actions and problems, something which none of the family seem to be able to do. Arturo runs to church to offload his sins and then repeat them, and when the priest gives him some practical advice how to make it right, he won't do it; Svevo blames everyone else for his troubles but himself; Maria just prays to solve her problems. I'm not knocking the praying, just that she doesn't do do anything else to solve them. Even she acknwowledges that she is asking a bit much in praying for her husband and her mother to get on, but doesn't change.
In the end, this creates a lot more problems for herself. I think this theme of individual responsibility is key, and it is touched on very early in the book, with August's bedwetting. They all have had this debate about why he has stopped. Personally, I go with August having willed it.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Sep 16, 2007 10:18 am

I think it is her submissiveness that keeps her from parenting properly. I think it is her submissive attitude toward all men....that men are allowed to do whatever they want to. I think she felt that she had no control over her life or her kids' lives except to pray for them. I think she was frustrated and kept that all inside. Svevo's return on Christmas pushed her over the edge, and all of this pent up frustration and anger came out in through her fingernails.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 19, 2007 6:36 pm

My thought on this when I read the question was Arturo was faced with a "Do as I say not as I do" example. Or "Because I said so..". The church is telling him not to sin yet they allow him to be forgiven when he does. His parents certainly aren't setting any positive examples or giving him any moral direction. On the other hand, Arturo does know that what he is doing is wrong (most of the time - he's not a total sociopath) so there has been some attempt to socialize him. I'm not defending him by any means but we don't know much of his backstory. Is he rebelling against what he was taught was right but now sees the hypocrisy of life in real terms? His conscience certainly doesn't seem to win out in the end.

In terms of religion, I think there are so many different interpretations because it is such a personal belief based on what you have been taught and life experience.
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