Son of Italy, Stepson of Sisyphus: Reappraising the Immigrant Experience as an Existential Dilemma

By Kenneth DiMaggio and Carl Antonucci.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 9, 2015 $US5.00

Nearly forgotten, Pascal D’Angelo’s early 20th century autobiography “Son of Italy” lies in the tradition of other texts detailing immigrant experiences to the United States. Where D’Angelo’s text differs is in how his memoir details an existential dilemma shaped by fruitless labor. Like the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus, who is condemned to roll a rock on top of a mountain only to see such object roll back down, D’Angelo’s struggle as a laborer in his new land becomes a similar absurd quest. This absurd struggle, however, also adds a rich layer to D’Angelo’s narrative. Similar to the way French author Albert Camus writes about Sisyphus in “The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays,” D’Angelo’s immigrant experience makes him an early “Spokesman for the Absurd.” Yet as many struggle to find gainful, sustaining employment today, can an early 20th century narrative about one Italian’s journey to America and his often fruitless efforts to sustain himself as a “pick-and-shovel man,” also address the dilemma for labor in the early 21st century? Despite D’Angelo’s “Sisyphean” attempt at finding meaningful employment, this immigrant who broke American soil with his pick and shovel for less than sustaining wages, still managed to pen a rich and dynamic memoir that deserves a much wider audience.

Keywords: Pascal D’Angelo, Son of Italy, Myth of Sisyphus, Existentialism, Italian-American

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 13, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.9-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 9, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 411.225KB)).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Dr. Carl Antonucci

Director of Library, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA


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