Pino Lella starts Beneath a Scarlet Sky as an immature youth who does not know what romantic love means. He claims to fall in love with every girl he meets, though really, he is simply struck by their beauty. However, all that changes when he meets Anna Marta, a beautiful young Italian woman whom Pino truly falls in love with. At first, Pino’s love for Anna begins like all the others—she is beautiful, and he takes note of that fact. However, eventually, their love deepens into something more substantial. At first, both Pino and Anna treat their relationship as an escape from the war. Both are embittered by the chaos that surrounds them, but they do not let it filter into their relationship. However, the all-encompassing nature of the war, as well as Anna’s tragic past, do not allow Pino and Anna to ignore the outside world forever. Anna eventually learns about the horrors of Pino’s double life, and Pino learns that Anna was previously married to a man who was killed in the war. Nevertheless, Pino realizes that these tragedies do not destroy his relationship to Anna; instead, their love for one another grows stronger. At one point, Anna risks her life to help Pino smuggle a radio that the partisans want to use to confuse the Germans. After working together to achieve this goal, the two of them spend a romantic evening together, which Pino describes as one of the greatest nights of his life. By this point, Pino and Anna’s relationship does not function as an escape from the war. Instead, they act together—as a couple in love—to actively thwart the Nazism.
Unfortunately, although Pino learns what it means to truly and deeply love someone, he also learns what it means to have that person taken away. In the climax of the novel, Pino is forced to watch an Italian firing squad execute Anna because she is mistaken for a Nazi collaborator. This experience nearly ruins Pino; his love for Anna pushed him through the most brutal parts of the war and now Anna is gone. Notably, though, Pino’s love for Anna does not dissipate. His love for her survives the war and her death. This can be seen in the scene in which Pino returns to Cimitero Monumentale in search of Anna’s body, hoping to provide her with the burial she deserves, even if it means risking his own life. Although it would be hard to call the ending of the novel hopeful or romantic, it is nonetheless a testament to the endurance of both human kindness and love even in the face of tragedy and death.
Love and Death ThemeTracker
Love and Death Quotes in Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Like all the pharaohs, emperors, and tyrants before him, Il Duce had seen his empire rise only to crumble. Indeed, by that late-spring afternoon, power was bleeding from Benito Mussolini’s grasp like joy from a young widowed heart.
“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.”
The screen froze in close-up on Astaire and Hayworth dancing cheek to cheek, their lips and smiles to the panicking crowd.
As the film melted up on the screen, antiaircraft guns cracked outside the theater, and the first unseen Allied bombers cleared their bays, releasing an overture of fire and destruction that played down on Milan.
“I’m not ready to reveal my scars to you. I don’t want you to see me human and flawed and whole. I want this . . . us . . . to be a fantasy we can share, a diversion from the war.”
The crowd around him bellowed and jeered its approval while he just stood there, hunch shouldered, whimpering at the agony that possessed him, so powerful it almost made him think it couldn’t be real, that his beloved was not lying there in a pool of blood, that he’d not watched her take the bullet, that he’d not watched life flee her in a blink, that he’d not heard her begging him to save her.
Pino would remember little of the journey. Milan, Italy, the world itself had become unhinged for him, disjointed and savage. He watched the scarred city as if from afar, not at all a part of the teeming life that was beginning to return after the Nazis’ retreat.
The general looked at him without remorse and added, “If there’s anyone directly responsible for Dolly and Anna’s death, Pino, it’s you.”