Assimilation Process in “The Return of the Source” by Jo Pagano

Posted on August 7, 2012


The Return to the Source is a short story about Italian immigrants coming to United States of America. The narration tells about the characteristics of Italian immigrants, their struggle to face obstacles in New World, and the assimilation process that leads them to success. The assimilation process of the first Italian immigrants, however, is not stated clearly in the story. Some assimilation effort is reflected on the use of English as daily language. The interesting part is about the curiosity of the second generation in seeking his Italian identity.

        The death of Robert’s grandfather ignited his curiosity about his ascendant’s history. Robert’s family could not come to his grandfather’s funeral because they have lived many years in American and could not afford to get back there. They can only gather together to remember their grandfather’s life. Robert then asked his father to tell the story of their immigration from Italy to USA.

        Robert’s family used to live in feudal system where they worked in fields and gathered grapes owned by the barons.

…The village itself was a relic of feudal days:… at the time of my father’s birth, were pitifully poor living under a condition of what amounted to serfdom in allegiance to the grand Signori, who owned the land…

Their family wanted freedom in economic life so that swung round their hopes to America. The American Dream myth called them in. They believed that America could satisfy their thirst of success. The people wanted to escape to America and chase the dreams.

          …but always with a dream in their heart, the dream of someday escaping to     America.

        Robert’s father is one of successful immigrants. He was considered as honourable man.

We were given dinner after dinner. Each of my grandfather’s friends had a “party” for us in his house…these, entertainments given to us by the simple villagers: but highlight sojourn was a visit to the palazzo of Don Carlo Metroni Salvatelli, the patriarchal aristocrat and landowner for whom my father had worked as a boy.

        The assimilation process is shown in the shifting of language usage and traditional culture. The first generation spoke English and Italian. The later generation, however, spoke no Italian anymore. They have been assimilated with dominant society.

“Oh, come voglio fa!” she moaned in terror, dropping the rag…

“Povero vecchio, poor old fellow,” muterred my mother, her eyes filling with     tears.

“Povero padre, poor papapa…”he muttered,…

        They still held their Italian identity in their food culture. Spaghetti still were the famous food among Italian immigrants. Their identity was also maintained via family oriented culture. Some immigrants still paid a visit to their Italian relatives on their homeland. It is portrayed in the saying “A family is like a universe”.

Posted in: essay