Beneath a Scarlet Sky


Mark Sullivan

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Throughout June and July of 1943, the air raids continue, causing widespread damage and chaos throughout Milan. Pino is deeply disturbed by the carnage he sees, though he distracts himself with thoughts of Anna. He purposely spends time where the two of them first met, but to no avail. In the middle of June, Michele, Pino’s father, sends Mimo to Casa Alpina, a camp in the mountains run by a priest named Father Re. Michele tries to make Pino go as well, but Pino refuses, even though he likes Casa Alpina. However, as time moves forward, the Nazi presence only grows, and the bombings only get worse.
War is now an everyday reality for Pino, as he is forced to watch the city he grew up in get destroyed by Allied bombers and Nazis. He is distraught, but at this point, he is not scared. He apparently feels it is his duty to remain in Milan, even if it is dangerous. 
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In early August, Pino learns that the Allies are bombing Milan to destroy resources that Hitler could use to prolong the war. Soon after, bombs strike close enough to the Lellas’ home to make it shake. This scares Porzia, who insists that the family should move. Michele refuses to move, but he does once again suggest that Pino join Mimo in the mountains. That evening, the Lellas and the Beltraminis take a train trip away from Milan before the bombing starts again.
Throughout the novel, Pino and his family are never angry at the Allied forces, even though they are bombing Milan. Rather, the Lellas remain sympathetic to the Allies and instead blame the Nazis who have turned their focus to Italy as a way of dragging out the war. Additionally, although money is never discussed at length in the novel, it is worth noting that the Lellas appear to be relatively well-off. They have the money to move, send their children to the mountains, and take a train ride outside of the city.
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The train stops near some farmland, and everyone gets out for the night. Pino and Carletto notice some girls their age and briefly consider talking to them, though they decide against it. Carletto teases Pino as usual, but Pino sees that something is bothering Carletto. Carletto reveals to Pino that his mother is ill with an unspecified disease. Carletto is sure that she will die soon. Pino commiserates with his friend and tries to cheer him up. On a nearby hill, Pino spots his father and Mr. Beltramini playing music. Based on their previous experience, Carletto and Pino expect the performance to be a trainwreck and are surprised when they find it moving. The piece the adults play is called “Nessun Dorma” (“None Shall Sleep”) from the Italian opera Turandot.
“Nessun Dorma” is the most famous aria from Turandot, which initially premiered in 1926. The circumstances surrounding Michele and Mr. Beltramini’s performance lend the piece a new level of profundity, which deeply moves Carletto and Pino. It is unclear whether it is the performance itself that is elevated; perhaps Pino and Carletto have become more receptive listeners. Ultimately, it does not matter; the piece resonates with Pino, and he will think of it several times throughout the novel.
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After the musical performance, Pino compliments his father and then goes to bed. The next day, everyone returns to Milan. Stepping off the train, Pino immediately notices that the devastation has grown significantly worse over the course of a single night. Over the next month, the Nazis seize complete control of Milan, as bombs continue to fall all over the city. The final straw for Michele is the bombing of the Lellas’ home, which doubles as their purse shop, the source of their livelihood. Albert promises Michele that he will help him rebuild. However, in the meantime, Michele insists that Pino move to the mountains to be with his brother. Pino agrees to the plan.
Although Pino’s parents largely allow him to make his own choices, he is still a minor, and ultimately, they have the final say. Additionally, his parents likely have a sense of what Milan will look like under the Nazi regime—that is, Italians, even relatively well-off Italians, will have little to no power in the city.
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