Two Gentlemen of Verona

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Two Gentlemen of Verona

Archibald Joseph Cronin

(1896-1981)

 “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is a character based Short Story by A. J. Cronin. A short story is a brief exploration of an idea/ event that may be explored through various devices like character or action development. The exploration is achieved through various techniques and devices like personification, symbolism, irony and recurring images. A character based short story relies mainly on an important character(s). The story moves forward not through continuous action but through the various dimensions of a character that are revealed by disconnected events.

 Historical Background :The origins of Verona are unclear and the relationship between Verona and Ancient Rome was usually one of friendship or alliance. The city derived importance from possessing the main ford in the area. Due to its leading position in northern Italy, Verona was often involved in wars that plagued its economy and beauty. The period from 1490 to 1516 is termed as its Renaissance Period as it led to its economic, cultural and artistic splendor. The city was then embellished by a great number of palaces, churches and convents

Wars occur due to the people’s anger and disappointment but never have the great purpose to justify it. Wars know no boundaries and they separate families. Each individual becomes the target to be shot by the weapons in the war creating huge hatred and violence between the people. Thus in War, there are no winners. During World War II, Verona was one of the most bombed cities in the area due to its strategic position and the presence of ministries of the Republic of Salo. In April 1945, the fleeing Germans destroyed all the bridges by bombing it indiscriminately resulting in the devastation of the Verona city to its core.

Though, Verona suffered heavy damage in World War II, it has since been restored. It is now one of the richest cities in northern Italy in Roman remains. It is remarkable for its rich architecture, artistic works and secular landmarks. The city is the centre of rail and road connections and is noted for its cereal market and wine industry. It is also known for its annual International Agricultural and Horse Fair (since 1898). There are engineering, chemical and paper industries, sugar refining and diversified manufacturers. The city has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. All these valuable accomplishments attract a lot of people to visit the city and appreciate its survival and success making it an important tourist destination.

To the three million tourists who visit every year, Verona appears to be a miniature Rome. Therefore, one of the most money-spinning sectors of the economy of Verona is tourism. The tourism industry generates substantial economic benefits as it is a vital source of income into the local economy of Verona in the form of payment for goods and services needed by the tourists creating many opportunities for the employment in the service sector of the economy associated with tourism.

Summary and Analysis: ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ is thestory of two brothers (Nicola and Japoco) from Verona, Italy. It has been written in the first person implying that it is a first-hand account of events narrated through the eyes of a single character (typically the main character). The narrator and his friend meet the two brothers when they are driving through the foothills of the Alps. The boys are described as shabbily dressed: one brother is dressed in a worn jersey and cut off khaki pants, while the other boy wears a shortened army tunic that hands uneasily around his thin frame. The boys are described as two little figures with unkempt hair, brown skins and an earnest gaze. The first impression derived from this description is of poverty and vagrancy that characterizes such economies. The narrator buys a fruit basket from them trusting intuition over stereotype and checks in at the hotel. But next morning, they find the boys at the public square. The boys tell the narrator that they do all sorts of work including guiding tourists. The narrator asks them to take him and his friend around the city. The narrator and his friend are impressed by their conduct and character.

One night, the narrator and his friend see the boys at a deserted square waiting for the last bus from Padua so that they can sell the newspapers. Both the brothers look tired and are as usual in ragged clothes. The narrator asks them the reason for not being well-clad and for not eating well. He had thought that the boys could be saving the money for going the States. But the boys tell him that they have something else in their mind. They ask the narrator if he can take them to Poleta in his car to which he agrees.

The next morning, they drive to Poleta and the narrator finds them entering a villa. They inform him that they will take an hour or so and that he can go to a café for a drink. After sometime, the narrator rings the bell of the villa and a nurse opens the door. He asks her about the two boys. She takes him along and the narrator finds himself in a hospital. He finds both the boys sitting at the bedside of their sister. He doesn’t go in but requests the nurse to tell him everything that she knows about the boys.

The nurse tells him their story.

“The boys and their sister are the children of a well-known singer at La Scala who was killed during the war. They had been living a fairly comfortable life though their mother had died before. After their father’s death their house was bombed and the three children were thrown into the streets. They had to suffer all sorts of hardships. Their life became even more miserable when the German Elite Guards came to their town. The boys joined the Resistance Movement and carried messages to its leaders and informed them of the movement of the German troops. When peace returned, they went back to their devastated home only to find that their sister, Lucia, was suffering from tuberculosis of the spine and had been in the hospital for last twelve months. Her brothers visited her every week to pay the dues.”

The narrator then waits for the boys and drives them back to the city but does not tell them what he has learnt about them. He is impressed by their devotion and feels that “their selfless action brought a new nobility to human life, gave promise of a greater hope for human society.”

A. J. Cronin uses the title of William Shakespeare’s famous play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in an ironic manner so as to portray these modern “gentlemen” of Verona re-define the concept of what it means to be gentleman. He shows us that one may do all kinds of odd jobs but it is the magnanimity of heart and the nobleness of purpose that actually determines whether one is a true gentleman.

Themes: The Story adequately highlights the defects of a tourist economy, and the disastrous effects of war on it. A Tourist economy allows no real infrastructure or industry to develop and thus the boys have to rely on petty jobs like selling newspapers, polishing shoes, guiding tourists and booking tickets for tourists etc. These jobs are low income jobs and therefore we find the boys as being impoverished and suffering from a general malnutrition. Wars are disastrous for any economy, but the consequences on a tourist economy as can be seen with Kashmiri economy, are particularly disastrous. The war prevents tourist inflow besides damaging the tourist spots thereby causing the entire economy to collapse. Hence, we find the nurse lamenting that jobs are hard to find in Verona.

While the effect of war on any section of population is traumatic, the impact on children is greater. The children are helpless since they are unable to defend themselves having no exposure to survival techniques. Therefore, Jacopo and Nicola suffer the most in the war. They are rendered homeless and orphaned by the war and, therefore, have to struggle extremely hard for survival.

When the narrator meets the boys for the first time, he feels them to be cheats, tricksters and deceivers but as the story progresses, we come to know that the two boys are actually gentlemen of truest class. Thus the story proves that appearances are deceptive. Behind the shabby appearance of the two boys, were hidden two noble souls whose sincerity, maturity and selflessness promise a new hope for the mankind. The story depicts the Fraternal Love recounting the hard life chosen by the two young boys so that they could pay for the treatment of their sister afflicted with tuberculosis. The boys exhibit sincerity and maturity in taking the responsibility of their sister. Ergo, the story puts forth the fact that it is not the span of years but the strength of the character that lends refinement to the texture of life. The writer has well carved the idea of selfless help and explained the importance of dedication towards relationships. He also puts forth the thought that focusing on solution rather than on the problem, helps one overcome all the challenges of life. Characters who endure hardships, achieve higher goals. One should face difficulties without cribbing and losing hope.

Questions:

Q1. What are the consequences of War on tourist economy?



Q2. Give the character sketch of the two brothers.

Q3. Write a note on selflessness and integrity with reference to fraternal love.


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