My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
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Childhood - Chapter 15-18

Because of their solid scholarly performance, when Elena and Lila finish the fifth grade, their families are informed that their girls should proceed with their education and progress to middle school. This advancement was not expected for children that come from regular workers’ families. Elena’s parents hesitate when asked whether they could afford the costs of middle school, however consent to enable her to take the required tests and check whether she performs well. On the other hand, Lila’s family, decline to allow their daughter to proceed with her education, even after Lila’s teacher begs them. Lila, in any case, plans to figure out how to take the tests and proceed with her studies independently.

So as to get ready for the examinations, Gigliola and Elena, who have additionally been chosen, start attending study sessions at a teacher’s home. Having not paid the fee for the special study, Lila insists that she will study without the help of anyone and take the exams. Rino, her older brother, who she confides in, has been requesting pay for the work he does at the family shoe store, intending to use the money to pay for Lila’s tutoring. Then, the relationship between the two young ladies develops as they read shared books that they have bought with the money from Don Achille. Lila even thinks of her own novel, called "The Blue Fairy." Elena takes it to her most loved teacher, Maestra Oliviero, expecting that Lila will be showered with acclaim. However, the educator is uninterested and became rather stand-offish in her conduct towards Lila.

Just before the examinations that will enable the young ladies to pass grade school, and for Elena to proceed to middle school, Lila convinces Elena to play hooky for the day, and explore their city. In the beginning, Elena is hesitant to do as such. However, she winds up getting a thrill out of the experience and is shocked when Lila stops it, demanding that they return home after a fierce rainstorm breaks out. At the point when the young ladies return home, Elena’s family have already noticed her disappearance, and decide to discipline her. Elena thinks about whether Lila was planning to disrupt her plans of proceeding to middle school. Be that as it may, Elena achieves high grades in her admissions examinations. Lila gets marginally lower scores, and starts to spend her time with another girl in the neighborhood called Carmela. Lila becomes aggressive toward her parents, angry that they would not send her to middle school. At some point, amid an argument, her dad breaks her arm. Elena begins to think how only her, and Lila, actually understood the neighborhood they are living in, musing that no one else does. She says:

We together, we alone, knew how the pall that had weighed in the neighborhood forever, that is, ever since we could remember, might lift a little if Peluso, the former carpenter, had not plunged the knife into Don Achille’s neck, if it was an inhabitant of the sewers who had done it, if the daughter of the murderer had married the son of the victim. There was something unbearable in the things, in the people, in the buildings, in the streets that, only if you reinvented it all, as in a game, became acceptable. The essential, however, was to know how to play, and she and I, only she and I, knew how to do it. (106-107)


This section clarifies the amount of danger that is presented to the young ladies by the savagery and social traditions of their general surroundings. Don Achille’s death moves what may be viewed as genuinely run of the mill neighborly quarrel to an extraordinary level. It additionally denotes a loss of honesty for Elena and Lila; while Don Achille was a scary figure, he was likewise a fantasy figure, who was in all probability very harmless, albeit under a threatening appearance. The real viciousness of his murder is a considerably more immediate and genuine risk.

On an intimate level, it is likewise clarified that Lila’s family is specifically harsh towards her. This uncovers a collocation in that Lila is, to a great degree, rationally solid and obstinate, and yet she is physically delicate, and where her father can command her without too much trouble. The setting and reasons behind the arguments additionally uncovers another, more subtler, form of savagery: the disintegration of her prospects for advancement and education. Given that they are common laborers, Lila’s parents see no reason for teaching her, regardless of her bright insight. The reaction of their teacher demonstrates her dissatisfaction with the manner in which Lila’s intelligence and potential will be wasted.

The quote in the last part of the summary section explains how the chaos and violence that surrounds Elena and Lila in their adolescence and childhood becomes an important shaping factor of their relationship — which cements their friendship. Elena and Lila are brought up in a place that is oppressive and threatening, and that restricts their future possibilities. Because they have almost similar imaginative and intellectual capabilities that are lacking among other people living in the same neighborhood, the two take solace in each other’s company — of each other. The manner in which the two reimagine their future and current lives become the source of hope and comfort in their own life.

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