Character Analysis of Arturo Bandini

Arturo Bandini, a luckless Italian-American living in a self-fashioned
purgatory, is a pivotal–and apparently semi-autobiographical–character in
two of John Fante’s novels, Wait Until Spring, Bandini and Ask the Dust.
Fante’s mixture of straight narrative with stream-of-consciousness and
entrancing images creates an all-too-vivid portrayal of Arturo’s dilemmas
and worries, providing us with an alluring yet at the same time repulsive
character. Wait Until Spring, Bandini and Ask the Dust are both part of the saga of Arturo Bandini, which also includes the novels The Road to Los
Angeles and Dreams from Bunker Hill. Nevertheless, these two novels suffice
in establishing the character of Arturo.

Books from the saga of Arturo Bandini
Ask the Dust Dreams of Bunker Hill Wait Until Spring Bandini The Road to Los Angeles

Wait Until Spring, Bandini takes place in Fante’s native Colorado, where
twelve-year-old Arturo is the son of an Italian-born mason by the name of
Svevo Bandini; his mother is the highly pious Maria Bandini, daughter of a
strict and remorseless Italian widow. Throughout the novel, Arturo’s family
plays a pivotal role in bringing out his character, whether it be by foiling
him against his pious younger brother August or perhaps his youngest brother
Federico, who, although occasionally just as guilty as Arturo, hides his
“sins” under a sweet and smiling face. Or perhaps Fante highlights the
alternating respect and loathing that Arturo has for his sometime bestial
father. Or perhaps he wallows with Arturo in the consideration of his
perennially penitent and praying mother. Even when Arturo is dreaming and
fantasizing about his girl, Rosa Pinelli (who in reality detests Arturo) we
can observe the transition from one line of thought to another, an
alternation which seems to best characterize Arturo.

Arturo’s relationship with his father is the most problematic, and the plot
focuses around the conflict, as Svevo is accused of cheating on Maria with a
wealthy widow by the name of Effie Hildegarde. Although the exactness of the
relationship is never made clear, not to the reader nor to Arturo, Arturo’s
consideration of the whole incident is epochal. Upon one occasion of seeing
Svevo riding in the same car as Effie, August insists that he will tell his
mother what he has seen, whereas Arturo thinks:

“What if his father was with another woman? What difference did it make, so long as his mother didn’t know? And besides, this wasn’t another woman: this was Effie Hildegarde, one of the richest women in town. Pretty good for his father; pretty swell.”
Even until the very end, when he decides that it is time for his father to come home, he is reluctant to see his father-to Arturo, a representation of himself-leave the wealth that he had come into.

“Holy Jumping Judas,” Arturo thinks upon seeing his father, “but he looked swell! He looked like Helmer the banker and President Roosevelt. He looked like the King of England. O
boy, what a man!.To think that he had come up here to bring his father home!.His mother would have to suffer; he and his brothers would have to go hungry. But it was worth it.”

Counter to this is the view that Arturo holds of his mother, and
accordingly, of the pious and devoted. He seems to see his mother as a
pathetic mass, constantly saying her rosary and praying her prayers. He also
seems respectful of her, however, recognizing her strength and persistent
faith. The love for her is obvious, as in her brief moments of insanity
Arturo becomes motherly to his brothers as well as his mother. Perhaps most
indicative of Arturo’s adolescent attitude is his misunderstanding of his
mother’s attitude towards money. Living in the midst of a
depression-heightened by the fact that Svevo is continually unemployed
during the winter months-Arturo sees nothing which can rival money. He sees
its power, not only in allaying his shame in having to always be indebted to
the grocer, but also the power that it gives to people like Effie
Hildegarde; the power to woo men like his father away from women like his
mother.

However, the most poignant characteristic of Arturo’s must be his
relationship with women. Seemingly still unaware of his sexual urges, Arturo
possesses love for the distant Rosa Pinelli with an enchantment that can
only be described as grievous. Rosa, although no wealthier than Arturo,
esteems herself as worthy of only the finest things, setting herself high
above Arturo. Nevertheless, Arturo worships her and, unlike any other love
that he has, this love seems constant-never subjected to his temperament or
whim. At times his love takes on a fetishism, and he opts to caress and hug
her belongings in place of actually confronting her face to face; he steals
gifts for her, sends her secret letters-only to find himself consistently
rejected and dejected, especially after Rosa dies of pneumonia.

This fetishism becomes much clearer in Fante’s other novel, Ask the Dust,
wherein Arturo is much older, but perhaps only somewhat wiser. In Ask the
Dust Bandini has moved out to Los Angeles after publishing a story in a
magazine, and finds himself alone in a city that seems not to want him. He
meets a woman by the name of Camilla Lopez-a Mexican-American woman who
works at a nearby restaurant-and finds himself unwittingly in love with this
“faintly attractive” woman with a “Mayan” nose,

“flat, with large nostrils. Her lips were heavily rouged, with the thickness of a negress’ lips. She was a racial type, and as such she was beautiful, but she was too strange for me.”

His love for her exposes itself to be typical of Arturo’s now-familiar
personality, a personality with fleeting and transient loves and hates: one
minute Arturo is sleeping soundly with Camilla’s old hat tucked under his
pillow, the next he is cursing her under his breath for bringing out the
lust and carnal desires within him-desires which he quickly feels penitent
about and rushes off to church in hopes of cleansing himself. But Arturo
finds himself incapable of dealing with such tumult, with such repression of
his sexuality, of resisting the “grey flower [that] grew between” Camilla
and himself. So he finds himself possessed

“by all the desire that had not come a while before..It pounded [his] skull and tingled in [his] fingers. [He] threw [him]self on the bed and tore the pillow with [his] hands.”

His sense of self is further confused by his arrogant proclamations. Always
ready with a copy of his published story, Arturo sees himself as “the man
who wrote The Little Dog Laughed.” He worships at the feet of his editor,
“the great editor,” J. C. Hackmuth. He begins to proclaim that he is an
atheist-after all, he states, he has read The Anti-Christ-but his
affectations for the Catholic Church are overriding. His occasional gain of
wealth prompts him to buy outrageously expensive clothes, but

“all at once everything began to irritate me. The stiff collar was strangling me. The shoes pinched my feet. The pants smelled like a clothing store basement and were too tight in the crotch..Mother in Heaven, what had happened to the old Bandini, author of The Little Dog Laughed?.of The Long Lost Hills? I pulled everything off, washed the smells out of my hair, and climbed into my old clothes. They were very glad to have me again.”

But Arturo cannot find himself in any of these claims. He cannot find
himself amid the grand proclamations of his literary achievement. He cannot
find himself among the visions of wealth that he had harbored for so long.
He cannot find any sense of strength or identity in his love for Camilla. He
cannot find himself in his letters to his mother or to J. C. Hackmuth. He
cannot find himself among the gently swaying palm trees that grow in mangy
patches outside his hotel window. In his desperation, Arturo is a pathetic
character, but a pathetic character that demands our sympathy, if not our
empathy.

He seems a displaced man in a city of obscured sunlight, a city
where the sands from the nearby desert covers everything, where a reminder
of the nearby desolation is always visible.

4 thoughts on “Character Analysis of Arturo Bandini

    • Hi, just wondering whether you ever heard about the “myth-making parallel”… Francesco Durante cited it referring to the Brotherhood of the Grape.. and I’d like to know more… thanks a million, have a great day!

  1. it would be nicer if you went more into detail about arturo in ask the dust go deep into the american dream that he was trying to achieve to make camilla happy in the end since he knew that he she wouldnt love him because of sammy….. he tried to get her out of the city into the suberbs and get her awayfrom the drugs he flushed them….he thought it was her envrionment but it was deeper then that……he bought the dog and the house with the white picket fence….the money and the nice car

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