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Lives of the saints

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Maria Conte

on 4 January 2013

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Transcript of Lives of the saints

The Lives of the Saints
Women and Gender Issues The novel Lives of the Saints essentially reveals the roles of men and women in Italy during the 1960’s. Society suggests a value system that reflects judgmental and stereotypical views that exhibits men as domineering and subjects women to conformity. Gender Roles Ricci utilizes the character of Cristina to reveal the outcomes of rejecting the expected roles of a woman. Cristina Cristina is aggressive, strong willed and appears to be the only individual who rejects female captivity, questions superstitions and escapes. As a result, her actions are judged and persecuted. Therefore, Cristina is ostracized for her differences and is seen as a curse. Ultimately, women are defined by their husbands. Cristina Rejects Expected Female Roles However, Cristina contrasts these expectations as she raised a son on her own, works in the fields and reveals to be strong and independent without Mario by her side. Therefore, it is believed that the greatest humiliation a woman is subjected to is losing her husband. "...he had always been mean to my grandmother, had caged her like a frightened animal within his anger and violence...still she had wailed as if no greater humiliation could have befallen her than his death" (22). Therefore, She is seen as a shadow due to the mentality that a woman is seen as nothing without a man. In addition, Marta, Cristina’s cousin is seen as a curse and weird because she is older and unmarried. These are egotistical perceptions that emanate from gender disparity and stereotypical mentalities. The men mistreat women and condemn their actions, yet women feel "like shadows" without them, as they have been accustomed to believe that they are defined by a male. However, Cristina is strong and will not allow anyone to tell her what is right from wrong. As her own individual she develops her own value system rather than depending on what society expects from her. Signora we think of you
In the time of pregnant fields
when the olives fall like tears from heaven
And the grapes hang heavy as milky breasts.
Signora, we think of you
In the time of barren fields
When the tress stand deserted like women without love
And the wine cellars are dry as the wind.
Signora, we come like lovers
Offering kisses are caresses
You bless us in fall, you comfort us in winter
Signora, we think of you (99) "I made through the story of Santa Cristina...a virgin and a martyr famous for the wonders she had worked through the power of Christ." (138) Furthermore, Ricci utilizes the story of Santa Cristina to allegorically display the character of Cristina. Given that they are both persecuted for standing up for their beliefs. The village of Vale del Sole only tolerates submission and conformity. However, Cristina is tenacious and resists caving into the pressure. The following poem reveals how females are framed by male space. Furthermore, it exhibits how society believes that women are only good for what they can produce- fertility and female attributes. Therefore, violating the roles of a woman leads to pain, suffering and ostracism As a result of Cristina’s pregnancy she is seen as a curse. The village reprimands her and reveals their inability to neither accept her own choices nor respect her privacy. There is a visible double standard between males and females. Due to Cristina being a woman her actions are sinful, whereas the actions of the male are disregarded. Therefore, a double standard is revealed as adultery is viewed differently regarding genders. "You see the Captain usually keeps a room open in second class for- well, let's say a friend." (199) Women are seen as whores and are judged which is evident through Cristina’s predicament. Whereas, men are able to conceal their sinful actions. "Ah, si, he's probably slept with every whore in America by now, but for me it's a disgrace. Women have had their faces up their asses for too long, they let their men run around like goats and then they're unhappy if they don't come home and beat them. " (160) "I'll pray every day of my life that you will rot in hell!" (188) Cristina Rejects Village Superstitions
and Questions Religion Cristina displays ideas and beliefs that contrast the views of the village. Moreover, she does not validate superstitions to be rational. Whereas, women in the village such as Giuseppina are consumed by the controlling forces of society and conform to believe in the irrational and ridiculous superstitions. This is instigated by the fear of the unknown. Therefore, rather than going to confession or performing a chicken ritual in order reverse the curse, Cristina denies the existence of the malocchio. Due to Cristina's differences and "curse", villagers ridicule her as she refuses to follow the superstitious. "Guiseppi, you're not serious! A good God-fearing woman like you talking to me about these stipidaggini! I thought you had more sense than that." (54) As a result, Cristina only exhibits her own beliefs and disregards her complete alienation from society. Once again, this displays strength and will to make her own choices without the influence of the village. "Don't be foolish. The snake was a stupid accident" (65) Furthermore, Cristina questions how the village can believe in such superstitions while practicing religion and faith, as they represent different beliefs. Given that, Cristina realizes the contradicting beliefs and their foolish outcomes. Therefore, she frees herself from the hypocritical views by developing her own values. Escape Cristina is a strong and pertinacious woman who realizes the affect her actions have on her family, especially on her son, Vittorio. As a result of the village's ruthless reaction to her pregnancy, Cristina decides to escape the hypocrisy and become free of ridicule and judgment by leaving Valle del Sole. "I'll take my own son where I damn please, and not you nor anyone is going to stop me...To hell with you all!" (189) "Fools...You tried to kill me but you see I am still alive. And now you came to watch me hang, but I won't be hanged, not by your stupid rules and superstitions. You are the ones who are dead, not me, because not one of you knows what it means to be free and to make a choice..." (190) Women were revealed as weak and were only as good as their role in the household.
However, Ricci contradicts these perceptions through Cristina as she represents the descend into modern thinking. Cristina reveals that women have a choice and they do not need male figures controlling their actions. She stands up for herself and her son, as she doesn't allow reputation dominate her own values. "The only mistake I made was that I didn't leave this hell a dozen years ago, when I had the chance." (191) "I'll make her pay for this, Vittorio, you'll see, by the blood of Christ I'll make her pay." (109) Cristina strives to exercise equity enabling an equal membership in society for both men and women. For example, she does not hesitate to verbally attack the Captain on his lifestyle (adultery).Therefore, Cristina repudiates village mentalities. Also, Women did not have a voice. They were unable to speak their opinions as they did not have any form of political association. However, Cristina contradicts this expectation. "He was sweating like a pig today- and we like idiots still give him money for his wine and sausage, and eat stones all week. I'd like to see how much of what he took in today ever gets to the sick." (40) Thank You
By: Maria-Christina Conte
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