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Identity in “Petrolio” Novel by Pasolini Essay

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2021

Introduction

The novel Petrolio is one of the most impressive and outstanding works of Pasolini depicting the life of homosexuals and the underclass in Italy. This work was not finished by it creates a complex and concise description of society, power, and the role of sexual desires in the life of citizens and the state. The events of the novel take place in the 1950s, in postwar Italy. Carlo Valletti, the main character of the novel, belongs to a liberal family but he suffers from a split personality disorder. Pasolini creates a unique world of dissolution, dissociation, and gay identity through the double identity of the main character and his perception of reality.

Main body

The book depicts that rules for sexual behavior in this society would be somewhat more flexible, being a matter of individual pleasure, not proper behavior. Individuals would even be encouraged not to worry about little things, based on the fact that everyone eventually dies by some means in any case In short, anything goes (as long as no pregnancies are involved), and the religious tradition of associating guilt with sexuality would be abolished once and for all. Though individuals could worship however they liked in private, religion itself would not officially exist, its other-worldly emphasis being presumably unnecessary in a society where paradise has already been established on earth. Pasolini explains:

Carlo is my father’s name. I choose it for the protagonist of this novel for an illogical reason: in fact, between my father and this ’split’ engineer technician whose story I am preparing to tell there is no possible comparison: my father was an Army officer whose adulthood coincided with the Fascist period and who was an adherent to Fascism (Pasolini 1997, p. 20).

In the novel, the sense of disillusion and dissolution is created with the help of the underclass description and life grievances experienced by the main character. This “culture” is achieved by a radical melting-pot ideology through which planned miscegenation gradually erases all gender differences among individual citizens. Moreover, absolute cultural values are not established and maintained. In addition, Pasolini’s presentation of her reality is complicated by several other features, including detailed descriptions of past life, a life that the main character involves rather unfortunate encounters with ideologies like Nazism. Meanwhile, Carlo’s story is revealed through his self-description and representation of his views. Carlo desires to possess and to be possessed. The book depicts that Carlo I tries to isolate themself from his past and reject his bourgeois origin. Similarly, understanding of the pattern throws light on the element of overelaborateness, of slightly false posturing, poeticizing and self-conscious symbol making in some of Carlo’s I framework speeches, especially towards the end.

In the novel, the sense of identity is created with the help of images of realism and utopian reality combine with the inherent instability of Carlo’s vision to produce a complex work that ultimately hangs suspended indeterminately between a satire of contemporary reality and a parody of life. Pasolini seems to be telling readers, the very notion of utopia must be treated with a heavy dose of irony and skepticism. “Every great writer loves centos above all else” (Pasolini 1997, p. 87). Pasolini portrays that the rulers of the state actively seek to enforce complete conformity and suppress individualism of any kind. They are particularly concerned with exerting control over those aspects of human life that might lead to strong emotions and thus disrupt the rational tranquility of life. For example, sexual relations are not discouraged: “free” sex is openly approved, though strictly regulated by society. Meanwhile, bureaucratic techniques for the implementation of this vision are well developed: citizens are carefully examined in state laboratories to determine the level of their sexual needs.

The sense of dissolution is created with the help of sexual practices exercised by Carlo II. His public displaces of nudity and parts of the body reflect his inner self and identity. Indeed, the personality has great respect for the power, comparing its attempts to harness poetry to its high-tech ability to generate strong emotional experiences and feelings. But in point of fact, strict control has stripped emotions of any real power. Carlo’s II treatment of the opposition between rationality and emotion participates in widespread modern anxiety over the potentially dehumanizing effects of increasing regimentation in the modern world. At the same time, Carlo I is anything but an unequivocal opponent of free sexual relations. The revolutionary Petrolio is not a strict irrationalist novel that rejects all trucks with sexual freedom. Carlo goes on to identify militarism, socialized morality, industrialization, technology, and commercialized popular culture as central ingredients in the dehumanization of modern life. For example, he notes that sexual freedom provides an important tool for the enforcement of official morality, giving governments the ability to use drugs, selection, conditioning to manufacture people. In short, Carlo’s view of modern morality and sexual power (though sharpened by a specific perspective) is very representative of that expressed in many fictions.

Description of underclass reflects the theme of dissociation and hardship. Predictably, this new era of permissiveness leads to disastrous consequences. In a parody of the bourgeois emphasis on consumption and capitalists’ exploitation are crucial for Pasolini. Despite the obvious relevance of Petrolio to many issues of widespread concern in the modern world, it should be emphasized that the book gains a special power from the specificity of its engagement with issues in its contemporary sexual context. For example, Petrolio depicts the clash between rationality and irrationality that centrally informs the book responds to an opposition that had long been central to modern culture.

Conclusion

In sum, Pasolini creates vivid and impressive images of moral power and social problems, sexuality, and its impact on modern men. This opposition took on special political intonations in revolutionary Italy, as Pasolini sought to transform society through the application of moral principles and traditions. Carlo’s vision comments on the politicization of sociality in the early days of postwar Italy, and his treatment of issues like sexuality, religion, and culture responds quite directly to debates over those issues in modern society. And his concern over the potential decay of the social values and morality into oppression gains a special poignancy from its striking anticipation of the coming abuses of power. The character of Carlo combines the main features of a modern man: Carlo I is a strong leader obsessed with power and authority while Carlo Ii is driven by sexual desires only. In later life is particularly a revolt against existential isolation and awareness of death; the idealized society then becomes a necessary symbol of immortality, the sole guarantee against death of the body and the impermanence of desire which threaten life with meaninglessness. The very sense of “forcing” in the style makes us question the integrity of the speaker, alerting us to ambivalences in his attitude: his wish to justify himself as well as to grieve, his surrender to emotion but at the same time his ironic, self-defensive distancing from it.

Bibliography

Pasolini, P. P. 1997, Petrolio. Pantheon.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Identity in "Petrolio" Novel by Pasolini." October 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/identity-in-petrolio-novel-by-pasolini/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Identity in "Petrolio" Novel by Pasolini'. 7 October.

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