The short story that I have chosen is War by Luigi Pirandello. The World War I affected many parents of soldiers that were brought to the front line and killed. It tremendously changed the parents lives and grieve was all they had with them. The main idea of the story is how the war is senseless and the amount of parents suffering from losing their sons including Pirandello himself. I will be doing a research about the author’s life, since his background is relevant to the story. I will also explore the impact of World War I, and how it relates to the theme of his short story “War”.
“Luigi Pirandello was born in 1867 in Girgenti (now Agrigento) on the island of Sicily” (Imagi-Nation). Pirandello belonged to a wealthy family in the upper class, his father Stefano Pirandello and his mother, Caterina Ricci Gramitto both came from a well-to-do background. During his youthful years “Pirandello received his elementary education at home” (Wikipedia). His father pushed him to attend a technical school thinking it would be best for him, but soon after he decided to study humanities at the Gymnasium. “In 1880, the Pirandello family moved to Palermo. It was here, in the capital of Sicily” (Wikipedia), where he continued his education there and completed his high school diploma and University degree.
During 1886 to 1889, he relocated to Rome to continue his studies at the University of Rome and focused mainly on literature. Later, he “gained his doctorate in philology at the University of Bonn in Germany” (Pirandello 132). While writing, Pirandello also made a living “by teaching Italian at a teacher’s college in Rome from 1897 to 1922” (Pirandello 132). Pirandello was first known for his literary works which were short stories that published in periodicals. He wrote many novels, numerous short stories, well over 50 plays, and “was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934” (Pirandello 133), which strongly created his literary reputation and a legacy behind as one of the great figures in 20th-century.
When World War I started 1914, it made an impact on Luigi Pirandello’s life and how he expresses himself about the war through his short story “War”, written in 1918. World War I was the first war in history that involved the Triple Entente which were Britain, France, and Russia versus the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey that was long put in order and ready for war before it even started. Italy entered World War I in 1915 supporting the Triple Entente, because “Italy had signed the secret Treaty of London. In this treaty Britain had offered Italy large sections of territory in the Adriatic Sea region Ã¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Tyrol, Dalmatia and Istria. Such an offer was too tempting for Italy to refuse” (History Learning Site). During 1915 – 1917, Italian troops enter inside the Austrian territory where the Italian army lost 300,000 men in the battle of Caporetto. After being defeated by the Austrian it “brought shame and humiliation to Italy” (History Learning Site). Also, “Pirandello’s son Stefano volunteered for the services and was taken prisoner by the Austrians” (Wikipedia).
“By the end of the war in 1918, 600,000 Italians were dead, 950,000 were wounded and 250,000 were crippled for life” (History Learning Site). After the Italians supported the Triple Entente, they did not get what was promised at the Treaty of London after what they have been through, fighting for the Allies. The Italian economy stumble downhill as many people were greatly affected. “The war cost more than the government had spent in the previous 50 years Ã¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” and Italy had only been in the war three years” (History Learning Site). Italy was short in resources, all leading to post-war economic problems, such as a post war recession.
In my opinion, having Pirandello to live through War World I in Italy with his son taking part in it, Pirandello wrote the short story “War”. Expressing families grief for their sons that were sent to war and how war does not contribute to nations, as a reflection of Pirandello’s own grief of not knowing whether his son is dead or alive and how Italy did not gain anything from the war.
“War” by Luigi Pirandello, expresses a story in a third person point of view of patriotism, valour, suffering and death, that war brings. The setting takes place on a train carriage in a small station of Fabriano. There are four different families who realized the malevolent reality of losing their son, by listening to each other’s grief about the painful war and the effect it has brought on them. When dawn came, it was clear that the atmosphere was depressing and ominous in the carriage that was “stuffy and smoky”. The author portrayed the five people that spent the night there as, “mourning, moaning, weakly, face death-white, shy and uneasy,” which directly described how each passenger is coping with the situation of the war. Everyone that was in the train were all parents of the brave soldiers that were sent to fight in the war.
The exchange of conversations started out when the husband and wife boarded the train, the husband “felt it his duty to explain to this travelling companions that the poor women was to be pitied, for the war was taking away from her only son” (Pirandello 134). The couple was disappointed, since their son was assured that he would not be sent to the front line for six weeks and all of a sudden he received a notice that he would have to leave in three days’ time. This sparked a chain of discussion between each passenger on the train carriage. People started to comfort the women after her husband’s story by telling how they can relate to her, since they are in the same situation as her with their sons on the front line. Every passenger had a different story to tell, but all were similar of how bad the war is and how they convey their horrible emotion of missing their own sons.
Shortly after, it became a debate as who have suffer the most. The atmosphere quickly turns more depressing and stressful for everyone. Indirectly, people on the carriage knew if they had more than one son in the front line, they would be suffering more. “A father gives all his love to each one of his children without discrimination, whether it be one or ten, and if I am suffering now for my two sons, I am not suffering half for each of them but double” (Pirandello 134). As passengers drown in their sorrow of grief and thoughts for their love ones in the front line, there was a shout “Nonsense!” from one of the passenger who was, “a fat, red-faced man with bloodshot eyes of the palest gray” (Pirandello 135). He expressed his opinion about their sons’ deaths. “Our sons are born because…well, because they must be born and when they come to life they take our own life with them” (Pirandello 135). The fat man believed that everyone shouldn’t be grieving over the fact their sons were sent to the front line. In fact, they should think their sons are old enough to protect and make decisions themselves, they should all be proud that their sons are doing something worthy for their country.
As he continued, “shouldn’t we consider the feelings of our children when they are twenty? Isn’t it natural that at their age they should consider the love for their Country even greater than the love for us?” (Pirandello 135). He’s implying that they should all accept their sons’ deaths and be proud of their patriotism and the valour. The passengers appeared to agree with what the fat man had said and everyone seemed to be less stress during that moment. “Then suddenly, just as if she had heard nothing if what had been said and almost as if waking up from a dream, she turned to the old man, asking him: “Then… is your son really dead?” (Pirandello 136). The accidental question completely changed the fat man’s emotions. It seems like he tried to cover up his deepest wounds, but the woman’s question brought him back to reality and in to tears.
In conclusion, “War” reflects on the great impact of World War I, that affected Pirandello’s life as a parent and many others parents of soldiers that were sent to fight in the front line. Pirandello illustrate patriotism that the soldiers have for their country and the valour they had to fight in the war. As a result, war will only destroy a country and tear families apart, causing suffering and deaths. Overall, the theme of this short story is about anti-war, since throughout the passenger’s conversations they do not support war or defend the war strongly. I believe the reason why Pirandello wrote the story out of a parent’s perspective instead of the soldiers at war because the impact on the soldiers might be painful, but it hurts the parents of the soldiers more seeing their children and nation or Italy falling apart, just like Pirandello had witness.
“Luigi Pirandello – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Main Page – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia, 10 Jan. 2001. Web. 26 Mar. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Pirandello>.
“Luigi Pirandello (1867 – 1936).” imagi-nation.com. Imagi-Nation, 1 Jan. 2003. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc30.html>.
“Italy and World War One.” History Learning Site. History Learning Site, 11 Jan. 2000. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/italy_and_world_war_one.htm>
Pirandello, Luigi. “War.” Stories About Us.
Ed. Geri Dasgupta, Jennifer Jiang-hai Mei. Toronto: Nelson, 2005. 132 – 137.