Department Chair

Dr. Ralph Wahlstrom

Date of Award


Access Control

Campus-Only Access

Degree Name

English, M.A.


English Department


Dr. David Ben-Merre

Department Home page

First Reader

Dr. David Ben-Merre

Second Reader

Dr. Lorna Perez


Pietro di Donato’s 1939 novel Christ in Concrete is a realistic portrayal of challenges that Italian-Americans faced as members of the working class during the inter-war years. The novel follows the main character Paul (or Paolino) di Alba through the experience of losing his father Geremio in a construction accident and becoming the patriarch of his family. Di Donato’s subsequent novels This Woman and Three Circles of Light elaborate on di Alba’s experiences as a laborer as well as continue conversations about the central character’s developing personal identity and experiences with assimilating that begin in Christ in Concrete. My thesis looks more closely at di Donato’s two later novels. I argue that the dominance of manual labor in the life of Paul di Alba complicates the development of his personal identity and the assimilation process. My analysis of di Donato’s later novels shows it is necessary to read beyond Christ in Concrete to fully understand the ways working as a laborer can impact one’s personal identity. Throughout this thesis, I pay special attention to di Alba’s complicated personal relationships and the ways abandonment manifests throughout his life.

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