My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
Adolescence - Chapter 28-33

Rino proposes another business deal to Lila: since their father has such a great amount of admiration for Marcello Solara, in the event that they can persuade Marcello to help with the shoe-production business, their father will agree to it as well. Since Marcello is wealthy and powerful, he can help increase the businesses chances of success. Lila reluctantly consents to talk to their father, and thereafter, Fernando allows them to display their shoes in the window of the family shop.

The shoes draw little attention from customers, but it does inspire Marcello to ask Lila to marry him. Fernando is fully aware that his daughter is young, and that marriage is a huge commitment, yet he encourages Lila to accept Marcello’s proposal, thinking about the valuable possibilities that would happen as a result of the marriage. However, Lila decides to turn Marcello down, something that angers her father.

Soon after Lila is proposed to, Elena’s teacher, Maestra Oliviera, intercedes directly by visiting her home and asking Elena’s mom to give her a chance to spend time on the Island of Ischia and relax for the rest of the summer. Elena’s family agree to this idea and so she travels to the island and stays with her teacher’s cousin, Nella Incardo, finding great happiness in the serenity she experiences there. This upbeat attitude is upset by the surprising arrival of the Sarratore family, who are also living in rooms leased by Nella. When they arrive, Elena is confused about Nico’s absence but is content with the warm welcome she gets from the other members of the family.

After Nino arrives, he is standoffish, in spite of the fact that Elena approaches him to discuss and debate about different academic subjects. She is pleased with the chance to spend time with Nino. He starts escorting Elena and his sister, Marisa, out to the seashore at night, and since Marisa uses this chance to spend time with several boys she met, Elena and Nino are normally left alone. Nino thinks back at one point about his initial declaration of affection and concedes that it was somewhat determined by a desire for him, Elena, and Lila to always spend time together. This knowledge makes Elena jealous and she decides to stop writing to Lila.

On a peaceful night before Nino leaves Elena, he confides in her about how he hated his father, Don Sarratore, mainly because of his infidelity. Elena tells him that this is not the most noticeable sin somebody could be guilty of, and Nino kisses her. At that point he reveals to her that he is leaving the next day, earlier that he had planned.

Nino departs early the following morning, with no farewell, leaving Elena crushed. In the meantime, Donato, who has been visiting his family sporadically between time spent at work, comes to Ischia for a lengthy visit. Elena finds his visit consoling and she moves nearer to the entire Sarratore family. She writes to Lila to tell her that she will not be keeping-in-touch with her, since Lila has never answered any of her letters. But despite this, it is obvious that she misses her friend. She says, “I missed only Lila, Lila who didn’t answer my letters. I was afraid of what was happening to her, good or bad, in my absence. It was an old fear, a fear that has never left me: the fear that, in losing pieces of her life, mine lost intensity and importance.” (211).


The separation of Elena from her home when she goes to the Island of Ischia also denotes emotional separation. She appears to flourish in these new surroundings, and she is well on the way to starting a romantic relationship with Nino. This segment also uncovers how firmly tied she is to her past as well as her connection to Lila. She desires to be the girl who has it all, has a successful love life, and who is additionally having more experiences.

In the meantime, Lila battles to hold control as romantic and financial matters turn out to be increasingly entwined. Marcello is not timid about conspicuously showing his status and wealth to make himself seem appealing. Lila’s willingness to reject his proposal demonstrates her obstinate and solid willed character.

The quotation in the summary section, describes Elena’s feelings when she is spending time on the Island of Ischia during summer. In part, Elena is relieved and happy to be living an independent life away from home, but this quote also reveals how she is still struggling with worrying about Lila. Due to the fact that she is envious of Lila, and often assumes that Lila’s life is more interesting than her own, she pictures Lila forgetting about her, additionally worrying about what that would mean. Using the symbolism of broken parts, she explains the feeling of loss as well as the fragmentation she imagines she would encounter without Lila in her life.

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