La Puma utilizes the first paragraph as mini-ethnography to portray the unity of the Vitale family. The introduction states,
That summer he sweated from the humidity which in 1940 everyone in Brooklyn sweated from; then he sweated from the hot ovens at Carlo Amato’s pastry shop in Bensonhurst four or five nights a week; then he sweated from the hot ovens at a pastry shop Downtown every day of the week except on Sunday, when he usually slept until noon. From Downtown, Giovanni Vitale came home at the end of the workday on the BMT subway to his wife, Lisa, to their three kids Anna, Steve, and Johnny. After dinner they would all listen to the Philco. Then Giovanni and the eldest kid, Johnny, eleven, walked three long blocks and two short blocks, past the old people who fanned themselves on the stoops, to Carlo’s shop on Seventeenth Avenue (4).
The first paragraph evokes the normal and typical structure of the Italian-American immigrant family in the 1940’s industrial era. In the Vitale family, everyone has their own role. The father, Giovanni Vitale has the duty of working long hours to provide for his family, the mother, Lisa has the role of a homemaker, to make dinner for the family, and the eldest child, Johnny has the dutiful role of helping his father at the pastry shop....
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...ma further underscores the importance of family in Italian American culture. In the final scene in the story, when Carlo dies, Martina comforts Johnny, “Martina seated herself beside him, put her arms around him, and before he knew what happened his eyes closed and his face went down on her breast where he was held like that.” (6). Recognizing Johnny’s naivety, Martina hugs Johnny in a way that a mother would caress her newborn. An indirect reference is made, where the scene between Martina and Johnny parallels the image where mother Mary is holding baby Jesus. Although Martina is not related to Johnny, her caring and nurturing behavior towards Johnny illustrates the deep and close relationship between Italian Americans By illustrating Martina as a mother figure, La Puma is able to show the familial bond that exists between friends in Italian American culture.
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