Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Niccolò Ammaniti, I’m Not Scared (2001, English translation by Jonathan Hunt 2003)

Niccolò Ammaniti’s novel I’m Not Scared (2001, English translation by Jonathan Hunt 2003) is a crime thriller that also draws on elements of the horror genre.  It takes its audience on a journey into the world of a nine-year-old boy, Michele, who lives in an impoverished hamlet in southern Italy.  Michele’s tranquillity is shattered when he discovers that his beloved and trusted, but economically poor, parents are involved with other adults in the hamlet in the cruel kidnapping of a nine-year-old boy from northern Italy whom they hoped to trade for a lucrative ransom.  The novel is set in 1978 when a wave of kidnappings in Italy by terrorists and criminals had reached their peak. 

While seeking to entertain his audience with a dramatic story, Ammaniti raises issues regarding ethical behaviour involving conflicting loyalties, since young Michele must decide whether to help the kidnapped boy to escape (since the boy is the same age as he is and kept in deplorably filthy conditions in a hole under an abandoned building) or whether he should support his parents and the other adults in his small community who seem to regard the kidnapping as their only way to escape poverty. 

In addition, the novelist drew on Freudian psychanalytical concepts in his attempt to paint what he believes is a convincing portrait of the psychology of a nine-year-old boy.  In this dimension, the novelist was assisted by his father Massimo Ammaniti, a psychologist who practises Freudian psychoanalysis, who commented on the drafts.  In this context, the novel presents a boy of nine coming to the confronting realisation that the witches and ogres of his childish imagination do not exist while dangerous people do exist, such as the sinister career criminal who helps the adult residents of the hamlet organise the kidnapping. 

The novel also seeks to paint a convincing portrait of life in a poor hamlet in the southern Italian countryside.  In this regard, it seeks to convey the resentment of the poor people in the south towards the wealthier people who reside in the north of the country.  The resentment by people in the south towards people in the north seems to have reached the stage where there is a callous disregard for the humanity of the northerners, while at the same time many of those in the south wished to migrate north to live among the northerners and share in their prosperity. Poverty is presented as providing the motivation for the crime, while the acrimonious north-south divide adds a degree of contempt among the southerners for the victims of the crime. 

Most importantly, through Michele the novel examines the difficult experience of being the only person of conscience who is capable of acting morally and honourably in a world populated by corrupt or corruptible people who too easily become the victims of their human frailty. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: I’m not Scared meaning, I’m not Scared themes, I’m not Scared analysis, I’m not Scared notes