The innate innocence of individuals can sustain an optimistic outlook, despite the exposure to conflict and corrupt realities. Through the manipulation of truths, one’s innocence is preserved in order to protect and provide an escape for an individual from harsh certainties. Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful explores the importance of the innocence of a child in his depiction of a Jewish family held captive in a concentration camp during Mussolini’s fascist Italy in World War II. Additionally, Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip expresses how one may resonate with a story to become liberated from the midst of a civil war to evoke a refreshed attitude towards one’s surroundings.
Despite the atrocities oppressing individuals within war, a sense of escape can be evoked through the power of imagination by constructing a fantasy that strengthens morale in light of testing circumstances. Roberto Benigni captures how a child’s innocence can transcend a chaotic environment in Life Is Beautiful through a patrilineal relationship, in which Guido’s desperation and quick wit helps Giosué survive. Once in the concentration camp, the juxtaposition of the close-up of the German soldiers coupled with Guido’s misleading translation of the rules to concoct a game for Giosué, designed to keep him hidden and safe, conveys how the game, in a subverted form, is used as a metaphorical weapon against the atrocities of the context in which they live in. Another metaphorical weapon against the evils of fascist Italy, the recurring motif of Guido’s misappropriation of Schopenhauer’s Theory, illustrates how an individual’s credulous nature, can restore some control on the extrinsic forces responsible for one’s turmoil. Therefore, Benigni is able demonstrate the capacity of one’s spirit and imagination to resist and counter the forces of oppression.
However, Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip illustrates how a fictitious world provides a temporary means of avoiding reality but unfortunately, in the wrong hands, may lead to negative outcomes. Initially, the use of contrast describing how Matilda found a friend, ‘in a book,’ rather than, ‘up a tree or… in one of the hill streams,’ symbolises the power of literature to open a new world used to provoke personal liberty, with Jones indicating the capability of the human spirt to discover joy and relief where hope is little. However, the recurring literary allusion to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations explores how drawing parallels between the real and fictitious world allows one to cope with the actuality of life, but, in the wrong hands may cause detrimental impacts on the psyche due to anxious feelings of not knowing seen through Dolores’ dissent towards the fictitious world. This is reinforced through the reflective tone, ‘there is a place for embellishment…it belongs to life,’ demonstrating how the experiences after a loss of innocence results in a mature perspective, providing valuable insight towards the inevitability of change in life, in order to appreciate the significance of unwarranted adolescent experiences. Hence, the power of the imagination, something that cannot be controlled by external figures, is inherently used to provide relief, however, is inevitably lost through vulnerability to corrupt facts.
Moreover, one’s instinctive bravery, used to protect loved ones, often requires sacrificing one’s own innocence to ensure their survival. Life Is Beautiful captures the bravery of individuals through the depiction of how both vocal and submissive people react towards the injustices that plague society. Also, Mister Pip reinforces the need to sacrifice one’s own life through the depiction of Mr Watts and Dolores, who willingly give their lives for the continuation of the collective. Initially, when Uncle Eliseo’s house is broken into, his use of paradoxical metaphor in, ‘silence is the most powerful cry,’ portrays how his bravery has manifested through his surrender of standing up and protesting, instead adhering to his own principles and morals by using endurance and resilience as a means of subtle rebellion. Here, Benigni reveals the need to maintain political and personal integrity by hindering attempts of racial coercion. Although, Uncle Eliseo’s passive nature sharply contrasts Dora, who insists on embarking on the train which has taken away her family though the imperative language, ‘I want to get on that train,’ with Benigni reminding the audience of the part of the population who actively resist injustice and racism.
Similarly, in Mister Pip, the Biblical allusion used to describe Dolores as ‘God’s witness to the cold-blooded butchery’ articulates how she diverts attention from Matilda so that her physical innocence and safety isn’t compromised, symbolising the act of intrinsic sacrifice to maintain familial values. The sacrificing of both Dora and Dolores’ own safety and refusal to stay silent, uses the power of love to illustrate the universality of matrilineal bonds, fundamentally used to pursue safety in spite of adversity. Benigni emphasises the need for love through the recurring motif of Guido’s march and wink to Giosué in times of danger to maintain calmness highlighting how love is a mechanism to create an atmosphere in which a child can be sheltered, and reveals how hope is used to protect familial integrity. Paralleling Guido’s final wink to his son and exaggerated march to death, Jones’ use of symbolism in Mr Watts’ declarative statement, ‘My name is Pip,’ explores how the desperation of an individual may cause one to confidently sacrifice themselves to protect the lives of the ones they love. The metaphorical rape of the island’s environment culminates in the Redskins demanding through the imperative voice, ‘Bring me this man Pip,’ that is followed by the silence of the village conveying how sacrificing their already limited lifestyle in order to protect each other, inextricably links silence and bravery, to preserve an essential innocence by remaining free of moral guilt. Thus, Life Is Beautiful and Mister Pip explore the universal notions of familial protection, with its pedagogical function highlighting the power of love to influence acts of sacrifice.
Ultimately, with violence embedded into humanity, innocence provides a means of mental and physical escape from potentially detrimental surroundings to protect one’s fragile state of mind. Life Is Beautiful and Mister Pip highlight the necessity of familial bonds within all facets of society, reflecting universal values of protection to shelter a child’s innocence.