Essay on Pietro DiDonato’s Christ in Concrete

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Pietro DiDonato’s Christ in Concrete

Pietro DiDonato’s Christ in Concrete is a powerful narrative of the struggles and culture of New York’s Italian immigrant laborers in the early twentieth century. Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale, in their historical work La Storia, state that "Never before or since has the aggravation of the Italian immigrant been more bluntly expressed by a novelist" (368). A central component of this "aggravation", both for DiDonato as an author and for his protagonist Paul, is the struggle to reconcile traditional religious beliefs and customs with the failure of that very same faith to provide any tangible improvement in the immigrants’ lives. Through Paul’s experience, we observe the Catholic institutions
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It is Good Friday, and he is only a few hours away from going home to celebrate with his family. DiDonato describes the accident and deaths in lurid, even grisly, detail. Geremio’s mangled body, pierced through with metal reenforcement rods, is held up with arms outstretched for his crucification. As wet cement pours onto him, burying him alive, he desperately implores Christ for help: "Blood vessels burst like mashed flower stems. He screamed. ‘Show yourself now, Jesu! Now is the time! Save me! Why don’t you come! Are you there! I cannot stand it–ohhh, why do you let it happen—where are you? Hurry hurry hurry!’" (18). The almighty wrath of Job is too strong, as Geremio’s faith fails to provide him with assistance or comfort. DiDonato himself was a bricklayer whose father died in a construction accident on Good Friday. His personal experience became the impetus for the novel and the rage contained within it.

Despite the devastating blow of Geremio’s death, his wife Annunziata does not lose faith, though she is doubtful about how the family will manage to survive without him. She initially counts on help from her brother Luigi, but the subsequent maiming of his legs in another Job accident leaves Annunziata and her eight children destitute. It is now the responsibility of Paul, at twelve years old the eldest male of the family, to seek provision for all of

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