Christ in Concrete
|Author||Pietro di Donato|
Christ in Concrete is a 1939 novel by Pietro di Donato about Italian-American construction workers. The book, which made di Donato famous, was originally published by Esquire Magazine as a short story and was expanded into a novel by di Donato.
The novel was inspired by the death of di Donato's father in a construction accident on Good Friday in 1923. It tells the story of a bricklayer and his struggle to provide a home for his family.
As indicated by the title, the novel is noted for its rich religious imagery, presented in a largely modernist stream-of-consciousness style. It was adapted into a 1949 motion picture, Give Us This Day (U.S. title Christ in Concrete) and was directed by Edward Dmytryk.
I. Geremio: Geremio and his coworkers are gruesomely killed on the job when the building they are working on collapses. Geremio is swallowed in concrete, which crushes him to death as it dries. Because this accident occurs on Good Friday, Geremio is the "Christ in concrete" of the title.
II. Job: Geremio's pregnant widow, Annunziata, is left with no way to provide for their already-large family. Her brother Luigi promises to help, but soon he himself is injured at work and loses part of his leg. Geremio and Annunziata's oldest son, Paul, tries to find charity from local businesses and from the church, but with no success. He decides to take his father's place as brick-layer, and after a while is accepted by the other workers as having inherited his father's skills; yet, because of his youth, the company pays him only a pittance and Paul overworks himself. In this section, the word "job" is treated like a character and often capitalized.
III. Tenement: Unable to work, Paul remains at home; di Donato uses this section to explore some of the other families in the tenement, including the Olsens, whose daughter Gloria attracts Paul, and the Molovs, Russian Jews whose son Louis befriends Paul after telling him about the death of his older brother back in Russia. Also in this section, Annunziata and Paul visit a psychic, who reassures them that Geremio is watching over and praying for them, and attend the hearing at the Compensation Bureau, which ends indecisively with the construction company blaming the workers for the accident and the insurance company claiming the accident falls outside the bounds of the policies they have with the construction company.
IV. Fiesta: Paul gets a better-paying job as a bricklayer, and later gets a job working on skyscrapers. Luigi comes home from the hospital and eventually marries Cola, providing the fiesta of the title.
V. Annunaziata: The Great Depression hits, and Paul helps his mentor Nazone get work, only to have Nazone fall to his death after a fight with the foreman. Distraught, Paul tells his mother that he no longer believes in God or in the afterlife, a confession that shatters her and for which he spends the final pages asking forgiveness.
- Fontecchio, Mark. "Italian American Narrative Style: a Study in Pietro di Donato's Fiction". College Thesis. unpublished thesis, University of Vermont. Retrieved 11 February 2013.