Beneath a Scarlet Sky


Mark Sullivan

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

The morning of the hike, Father Re introduces Pino to the people he will be guiding. Pino asks them for their names and Father Re instructs them to give the names found on their fabricated papers, which turn out to be Maria, Ricardo, and Luigi. After breakfast, Pino suggests taking the group via Angel’s Step to the Val di Lei, but Father Re shoots down his idea. Apparently, Giovanni Barbareschi, a seminarian, as well as Father Re’s collaborator, recently took another group of Jewish people via that route and Father Re doesn’t want to attract undue attention to it. After this conversation, Pino, Maria, Ricardo, and Luigi depart.
It was common for Jewish people escaping persecution to take on different identities in order to conceal their religious and ethnic background. In this case, their fabricated papers use common Italian names. Evidently, Father Re has been involved in many similar situations and he knows they must be careful. This explains why he repeatedly told Pino to make sure he wasn’t spotted during his previous hikes.
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Not long into the hike, Pino realizes he must take control of the situation. He urges the others to only speak quietly and forces Luigi to put out his cigarette. The group is slightly annoyed, but they ultimately respect Pino’s demands and listen to him. Before long, one of the steepest and most dangerous parts of their hike is over with. However, Luigi begins to slow down, and he is seized by coughing fits. When the group reaches a difficult part of the trail, Luigi refuses to go any further. However, after some convincing by Pino, Luigi decides to continue onward.
Despite the fact that he is still a minor, Pino is now charged with leading three adults to safety, creating a strange power dynamic. Pino knows he has to act as the group’s leader because if he doesn’t, they are likely to die. Notably, Luigi’s coughing suggests that he is not in good shape. If such a climb is difficult for the young Pino, then it is significantly worse for Luigi, who smokes and is much older.
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The part of the trail Luigi fears is a set of steep steps. Pino coaxes Luigi up the steps by telling him to pretend he is climbing the Colosseum. This works and Luigi eventually reaches the top. Up next is the worst part of the climb, though Pino doesn’t reveal this fact to the rest of the group. However, the challenge is purely psychological; the group must pass over a cleft where falling means death. Pino makes short work of the cleft by keeping the group’s eyes on him instead of the cliff that is at their feet. Shortly afterward, the group reaches the Val di Lei, and Pino feels a great sense of satisfaction at his accomplishment. All that is left to do is to walk to Switzerland. Pino has never gone to Switzerland before, but he follows Father Re’s instructions. He enters a grove mentioned to him by Father Re, and just as Pino feels that he’s accomplished his task, a gun is pointed in his face.
After experiencing the hike himself, Pino understands how much the group’s success depends on psychological fortitude. It is a testament to Pino’s mental toughness that he is able to will, not just himself, but three other people through the trip as well. Additionally, the end of this chapter makes use of a narrative device that is common throughout the novel: the cliffhanger.
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