Umbertina By Helen Barolini

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Umbertina is a book that depicts the life of an Italian immigrant Umbertina. In this book, the author Helen Barolini describes Umbertina as a practical woman, making such a trait a paradoxical effect: Umbertina is successful but pathetic. She owns great property but is lonely. As she says to herself in this novel, “she had won, but who could she tell the story to?” (Barolini, Helen 145) I am so astonishing that Umbertina is so practical that she does not care about who she marries but cares about what she can get from marriage. At the beginning of the novel, when Giosue, a charcoal maker, proposes to Umbertina, she considers that her father may not give her dowry and she wants to go to America, so she refuses Giosue’s proposal, although she…show more content…
She only cares about “bread to put in her children’s mouths” and “the protection that would keep the Corvos from coming around and demanding money” (99), rather than the interests of Italian immigrants. Therefore, when Domenico brings news about their countrymen, she often frowns and feels displeased because she thinks other’s catastrophes have nothing to do with her and her family. Consequently, when Domenico tries to persuade them to vote against those who use them and then call them undesirable so they can protect themselves, she scoffs at him and tells Serafino to vote as Pasquale Luppizzi wants since he can protect them. Her only focus is creating a better life for her family. “Umbertina got pleasure from hard work, from giving orders and supervising her growing family” (108). Furthermore, she scoffs at Italian immigrants who send money back to relatives or buy land in Italy, because she thinks such behavior does not benefit her family’s current life in America. Umbertina’s belief of pragmatism governs her children’s futures as she lets her sons study business but makes them leave school early and also does not allow Carla, her daughter, to attend college when she asks to. I guess she may think higher education cannot improve the current situation of business in family. She asks her children to contribute their salary to family earning. And she also works all day long: “never missing…show more content…
She is lonely when she is old. Because her “foreign children of her own half-foreign sons and daughters” (140) can only speak English and cannot understand Italian, she cannot talk to them. In addition, she also misses her hometown. During short trips into the Mohawk valley, she often looks at “something in her remembered similar long green vistas in the hills above Castagna from her girlhood” (126) and thinks “it was the equivalent moment of standing in the hills above Castagna as a girl” (126). She is nostalgic for the past times, but she does not have opportunity to go back to Italy after she left. Even when she is lying on her deathbed, she asks for a cup of water from the spring in Castagna (146). Thus, ultimately due to her decision to be more pragmatic in her life, Umbertina becomes a lonely old woman in an alien country far from the land she misses, but cannot come back any

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