Im Not Scared
“Poverty is the mother of crime. ” (Marcus Aurelius) Contrary to the chrome yellow of the boundless wheat fields is the darkness of poverty in which the hamlet of Acqua Traverse is wreathed. Niccolo Ammanity consummately describes the pervasive poverty of the place “forgotten by God and man” throughout this enthralling novel “I’m not scared”. The villagers do not only fall victim to poverty, but also to the subsequent fears with which they are afflicted after committing the crime – kidnapping a boy of a wealthy family and holding him to ransom.
Fears are correspondingly intertwined with the villagers; they play a tremendous role in the adults’ actions and motivations and become one of the primary themes of this novel. The most palpable fear of the adults in the novel is the fear of being apprehended and incarcerated as they have done such a sordid deed – kidnapping a boy. Therefore, extreme poverty and the yearning to get out of the current life from which the kidnap springs from can be deemed as the roots of the most significant fear in “I’m Not Scared”.
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In 1978 Acqua Traverse was so small that it was practically non-existent. ” This statement of Michele, to some extent, depicts the penury which the villagers undergo. Apart from the formidable palace of the Scardaccione family, there are four drab little houses. The situation of Michele’s family is illustrative of the appalling poverty of the hamlet. To exemplify this, his father has to leave the house quite often to seek employment in the North and that is where he meets Sergio – head of the “culprits”.
The villagers have been so disenchanted with their quality of life of Acqua Traverse that they later allow their voraciousness for materials to override their sense of morality and societal values. All in all, the most significant fear – fear of being brought to justice – arises out of the extreme poverty that the villagers are confronting. The degree of fear amongst the villagers varies throughout the novel; sometimes fears appear vaguely, sometimes discernibly. Interestingly, the volatility of fear seems to parallel the intensity of the story; when fear reaches its peak, the novel enthrallingly absorbs the readers in its flow of events.
Fears appeared from the first few pages of the novel: “At Acqua Traverse the grown-ups didn’t leave the houses till six in the evening. They shut themselves up indoors with the blinds drawn. ” This suggests the villagers have already kidnapped Filippo and are striving to remain aloof from the outside world in the daytime and from justice, that is, they are aware that the deed they just did is morally erroneous. This awareness is metaphorically expressed through the rigors of the drought which the villagers are experiencing. The sun took away your breath, your strength, your desire to play, everything. And it was just unbearable at night. “Furthermore, the villagers’ fear that the poverty of Acqua Traverse has foreclosed the future of their children takes the form of maternal affection. “Mama curled up beside me and whispered in my ear, ‘when you grow up you must go away from here and never come back. ’ Even Mama – a passive participant in the kidnap – realizes the depraved things the adults are conspiring and does not want this trauma to afflict her children.
There are some other less significant fears throughout the novel such as Papa’s fear towards the old man Sergio, Felice’s fear of the ferocity of Mama when she spares no effort to protect Michele, to name but a few. Fear reaches its climax when the helicopters comb the hamlet and its periphery for the boy. The villagers acknowledge they are on the verge of being apprehended by the police. “The grown-ups stayed at Salvatore’s house all evening… They were shouting so loud that they woke us up. We had grown used to all sorts of things.
Nocturnal meetings, noise, raised voices, broken plates, but now they were shouting too much. ” Hence, it can be observed that notwithstanding the unceasing fluctuations of their degree, fears are omnipresent in every nook and cranny of Acqua Traverse. Dorothy Thompson once said: “The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness. ” Not only do fears render the villagers of Acqua Traverse more belligerent and inhumane, they also divest the villagers of their ability to think and act in a rational demeanor as an ordinary person normally does. Papa made the scissors sign with his fingers. ‘Two ears we’ll cut off. Two. ’ Papa who always treats his children with paternal affection and tenderness now turns out to be a vicious man ready to do harm to a child when the deal is not reached. The readers no longer see Papa saying “Don’t you kiss me, you’re all dirty. If you want to kiss your father, you’ve got to wash first”. A ruthless’ bogeyman’ that ‘comes out and takes the children away and sells them to gypsies’ appears in lieu (although at the end of the novel Papa somehow strives to redeem the physiological trauma he has caused to Michele).
Perhaps Michele hopes that all these things are merely in a moment of aberration; unfortunately, after falling victim to poverty and its subsequent fears as mentioned above, the villagers have drastically turned into different people from whom they used to be. By way of contrast, Michele’s ways to overcome fears and to perceive surrounding things are seemingly rather constructive and far from naive. As the story intensifies, Michele’s fears are heightened and his innocence simultaneously irretrievably crumbles away; nonetheless, he succeeds in dealing with these fears more precociously and rationally, unlike the adults.
To recapitulate, fear serves as one of the primary themes of the novel ‘I’m not Scared’; it originates in the indigence that the villagers of Acqua Traverse are going through and its degree varies throughout the story paralleling the intensity of the plot. Fears are also employed by Niccolo Ammanity to delineate the villagers’ state of mind and to bear stark contrast to the protagonist of the novel, Michele. The dubiously mundane life at Acqua Travers is none but a veneer; at night that veneer breaks and reveals a world of criminals, of inconceivably horrendous deeds, of ruptures of relationships and faiths and of inhumanity.
And prevail in that world, fears … Residual vestiges of affection and loyalty evaporates when ‘evil gleam’ => loyalty irrevocably and irreparably crumbles away => Michele opts for Filippo, for his sense of morality and justice in lieu of his father. Michele’s loyalty to his family manifests itself in a variety of ways: sister (take charge of his sister: hand in hand. We went home), submissiveness towards his mom, irately protect his mom when she is assaulted by Felice. His loyalty initially coerced him into unceasingly seeking palatable grounds for his parents not involving in the kidnap of Filippo. => his brother