Beneath a Scarlet Sky


Mark Sullivan

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Themes and Colors
War and Morality Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of Music Theme Icon
Love and Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Beneath a Scarlet Sky, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Coming of Age Theme Icon

Despite its focus on World War II, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is also a coming-of-age story that explores the maturation of a young man living in Nazi-occupied Italy. Pino Lella, the young man in question, starts the novel as an unremarkable youth, more focused on typical teenage concerns such as music and women than he is with war. However, soon his hometown of Milan is bombed by the Allied Powers and taken over by Nazis. In response, Pino’s father, Michele, sends his son to live with Father Re in the mountains. There, he is forced to grow up quicker than would normally be expected of most young men. Father Re teaches Pino the physical and emotional discipline he needs to survive and to help others. At the tender age of 17, Pino is sent by Father Re on missions to help Jewish people escape Italy. These missions force Pino to mature quickly; he is the one in charge, even though he is much younger than most of the people he escorts. When Pino returns to Milan on his 18th birthday, his parents remark that he left them as a boy and came back as a man.

However, Pino also learns that growing up during wartime comes with a price, as turning 18 means he must enlist in the Italian or German army. Both options are appalling to Pino, but he is left with little choice. Typically, coming of age novels focus on characters who achieve new levels of freedom because of their maturation. Indeed, in this novel, Pino’s transition into adulthood comes with choices, but Pino quickly learns that these choices are extremely complicated. Should he join the Italian Army? The Nazis? The partisans? Something else entirely? None of these options are wholly appealing, and all of them come with their own set of consequences. Later, in the novel’s finale, Pino is faced with another difficult, adult choice: should he or shouldn’t he assassinate Leyers? On the one hand, he has witnessed Leyers oversee atrocities. On the other hand, as Leyers points out to him, Pino is not entirely innocent himself. In both cases, Pino eventually comes to a decision on his own and has to live with the consequences of his actions. Whether he's made the correct choice—especially regarding Leyers—is never made clear. In fact, the novel posits that entering adulthood, especially in this time and place, is synonymous with not always knowing whether one has made the right decision. In many cases, there may not even be a right decision to be made.

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Coming of Age Quotes in Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Below you will find the important quotes in Beneath a Scarlet Sky related to the theme of Coming of Age.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“I am going to meet a beautiful girl today,” Pino said, wagging his finger at the scarlet, threatening sky. “And we are going to fall in mad, tragic love and go on grand adventures with music and food and wine and intrigue every day, all day long.”

Related Characters: Pino Lella (speaker), Anna Marta, Mimo Lella, Carletto Beltramini
Related Symbols: The Scarlet Sky
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Pino left the chapel believing that he’d entered it as a boy and now exited it having made the decision to become a man. He was frightened by the penalty for helping the Jews, but he was going to help them anyway.

Related Characters: Pino Lella, Father Re
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

As Pino hiked south through Val di Lei, he felt good and satisfied. They’d done it. Father Re and everyone else who’d helped get the refugees to Casa Alpina. As a team, they’d all saved three people from death. They’d fought back against the Nazis in secret, and they’d won!

To his surprise, the emotions that flooded through him made him feel stronger, refreshed.

Related Characters: Pino Lella, Father Re
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Vorarbeiter Lella had little faith in God’s plan for him by that point. Indeed, as he entered the station, he was still fuming mad at his predicament. His mother had railroaded him into this. At Casa Alpina, he’d been doing something that mattered, something good and right, guiding as an act of courage, no matter the personal risk. Since then, his life had been boot camp, an endless parade of marches, calisthenics, lessons in German, and other useless skills. Every time he looked at the swastika he wanted to tear it off and head for the hills to join the partisans.

Related Characters: Pino Lella, Porzia Lella
Page Number: 179-180
Explanation and Analysis: