Boys journey to becoming a man
“One of the signs of passing youth, is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them” (Virginia Wolfe). In our culture, do we define the moment a boy becomes a man by his age? Is it by his size, stature or accomplishments? Does it happen the first time he makes love to a woman? Wikipedia defines coming of age as a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. I believe adulthood can be distinguished by something less tangible than size, stature, money, responsibilities, social status, etc. It is an internal function that although illusive, has been described through out time as compassion, self awareness, connectivity, emotional maturity, or inner strength. In John Fante’s novel Ask The Dust the main character Arturo Bandini takes us down the rabbit hole of transformation through his explorations and internal conflicts that while sometimes ignorant, self absorbed, and immature metamorphosis him from boy to man. This is an “initiation story” and in this essay I will explore why this book is an embodiment of this literature genre.
It can be said that a popular characteristic of any coming of age story is “the rite of passage” often expressed by the loss of virginity or the flaming of a first love. I want to dig a little bit deeper and say that the loss of virginity or the blooming of a first love is not enough on it’s own to be a true coming of age story, unless it is accompanied by growth and discovery. In John Fante’s Ask the Dust, love is a focal point for much of Bandini’s inner growth. In the beginning of the novel Bandini says to his first love Camilla “Those huaraches-do you have to wear them camilla? Do you have to emphasize the fact that you always were and always will be a filthy little Greaser?” (Fante pg.44). He longs to connect, interact, and have authentic intimate experiences with women but lacks self awareness and regard for others and their