Four factors stand out in the early formation of Mussolini’s character. These are the influence of his native land Romagna which was characterized by restlessness and rebellion; his father’s ideologies, an ardent socialist, a convinced revolutionary, an atheist and a blacksmith; his middle class heritage and the influences of his mother who was a devout gentle Catholic; and the poverty of individuals that surrounded him (Fermi, 1966). These factors influenced the life of Mussolini to a greater degree, shaping what he was to become in future.
Mussolini’s father was an important influence in his life as he went with him to political meetings while Mussolini was still a young boy. His father was committed to socialism even though he lacked in formal education. His father was often considered dangerous by the local authorities and was thrown to jail in several occasions owing to his political beliefs. Mussolini’s life came to resemble that of his father to a great extent as he came to adopt the same kind of radicalism that his father exhibited. However, there are other personal attributes and events that also had a significant influence upon his life.
From the moment that he was taken to school, Mussolini had numerous experiences that played a large role in shaping his life. It is these factors that form the subject of this paper. Before looking at how the mentioned influences manifested in Mussolini’s later life, it is important to dedicate some portion of this paper in looking at his life from his childhood through to adulthood. Not many people liked Mussolini when he was a young boy because of his violent behavior. His family was also not well off, a factor that made his life in school to be difficult.
These two aspects of Mussolini’s; childhood life, poverty and violence, made him to be secluded from other pupils. He was hated by both his fellow pupils and teachers in school. He was often teased by his fellow students because they saw him as a poor boy. His violent nature might have come as a reaction to the way he was being treated by his fellow pupils and teachers. He could be reminded everyday that he was not as good as other pupils. In one occasion when another boy came to insult him, he told himself that he was not going to stomach the insults anymore. He reminded himself that he was no longer going to be a helpless victim.
He got a knife from his pocket and stabbed the boy in the hand. These instances of violence point to the fact that Mussolini was developing a rebellious attitude towards the society which manifested later in his writings as a journalist. Mussolini was often involved in fights and even bullied other pupils. This behavior led him to be suspended in numerous occasions. It is at this stage that indications about his character begun to emerge. In reaction to the incident where he stabbed another student, one of the teachers told him that his soul was as black as soot, a remark which time came to confirm.
The incident where he stabbed a fellow student had a profound effect in his life. Even though he was punished for stabbing the boy, Mussolini never forgot the experience which also came to influence the way he handled situations as an adult. One of the lessons he learned from the experience was that he had to stand for himself. In other words, he had to fight against all odds. Throughout Mussolini’s life, there is evidence that he was willing to fight for anything, going to the extent of embracing violence as the only way through which any remarkable change can be realized (Ridley, 1998).
Mussolini did not seek the approval from anyone. He believed that others were bound to say he was wrong even if he was right. As he grew up, Mussolini scribbled upon his mind the justification of violence and fighting as a means to success. These were lessons that he came to employ for the rest of his life. This willingness to fight for anything that he wanted helped him achieve various things. Later in life, he was to become Italy’s dictator. He also came to be one of the most powerful personalities in the world through his radicalism and sometimes violence. Through these lessons that he learned, he also hurt many innocent victims.
With the growth of his power came the growth of the number of individuals being harmed by him. Finally, as stated by one of his teachers, his soul grew as black as soot and much of the world came to curse him because of his lack of compassion. Environmental influence One of the most important influences that shaped the character and behavior of Mussolini was the village he was born. Its social, political and economic conditions influenced Mussolini’s perception of life. Mussolini was born on twenty ninth July, 1883 in Varano di Costa, a small Northern Italian village situated in the district of Predappio.
The most important industry was agriculture. During the time of his birth, Italy was still at its infancy. The Italian peninsular had been fragmented into many small kingdoms and city-states for centuries. Some areas of the peninsular were under the control of foreign kings and Roman Catholic pope. As such, the region was not being controlled by a single leader. However, the city-states united during the mid-nineteenth century, driving out the foreign rulers and taking over the territories controlled by the pope. A unified kingdom was born in 1861. Industrial revolution also brought about remarkable changes in Italy.
Not far from the town that Mussolini was born, large factories begun to be established. With the opening of these factories, many peasants who in most cases worked for low wages for rich land owners abandoned their difficult labor and took jobs in the factories. However, many individuals begun to advocate for more rights and among them were Mussolini’s parents. Mussolini’s father was a blacksmith while his mother was a schoolteacher. Alessandro Mussolini and Rosa Maltoni were not rich individuals even though they were considerably respected in their community.
Alessandro took an active role in the local politics. He was a socialist who never failed to express his controversial views. The general belief among the Italian socialists like Benito’s father was that the control of the manufacture of goods was to be in the hands of the government. As such, they held that the government should own the factories where goods were being manufactured. They also held the view that the society should be under the workers and not the wealthy company owners. Again, they wanted better working conditions.
Alessandro named his son after three socialist heroes: a Mexican revolutionary called Benito Juarez, Amilcare Cipriani who facilitated the unity of Rome with the rest of Italy and Andrea Costa who took an active role in organizing socialist riots and strikes in the later parts of the nineteenth century. Mussolini’s father served in the local politics for quite some time but he often got into trouble due to his politics. He had an unstable temper which showed whenever he disagreed with someone. After the beginning of socialist riots in 1902, Mussolini’s father was arrested and jailed even though he never participated in it.
Mussolini’s parents valued education and by the time he was nine, he was sent to a boarding school in a neighboring town. During school, students spent all their time in school. Since the school was a catholic school, there were very strict rules enforced by the catholic priests. His experience with the priests in this school made him to form a negative perception about them as evidenced by later works. Benito did not perform well either in character or in academics. He was a very intelligent but restless and unmotivated.
He only put effort on those subjects that he found to be interesting to him and was more often than not involved with fights. By the time he was eleven years of age, he was expelled from school. After his expulsion from the Catholic school, he was registered in a state school at Forlimpopoli. There were no priests in this school and some of Mussolini’s classmates were sons of teachers. As such, he was more comfortable in this school than he was at the Catholic school. However, he was still involved in fights, exhibiting his violent nature even in the new environment.
His academic performance was better as compared to when he was still in the school run by the priests. He managed to pass the exams necessary for admission in college. He joined Collegio Giosue Carducci in Forlimpopoli where he studied agricultural sciences, mathematics and other disciplines. His favorite subjects were however arts. He performed well in literature and enjoyed music. He later discovered that he was talented in speech writing and giving. In 1901, he graduated with a diploma which enabled him to secure a place as a teacher in an elementary school.
It was during his last year in college that he got his first public recognition. He was requested to make a public speech before his entire school about Verdi. Mussolini enjoyed lessons about the Roman Empire and admired it greatly. He frustrated his teachers due to his laziness and lack of discipline. He also frightened his peers. By the time he graduated, he had developed a strong personality and loathed his humble origin. He also became an instinctive socialist. His poor background made him to try and distance himself from poverty but the circumstances could not allow him to make any progress.
Like many other graduates during the time, Mussolini found himself looking for work. He got employed as a schoolmaster in February 1902 in a small elementary school. He however developed problems from the first day as he despised textbooks. He felt that they made it hard for him to inspire his students. The townspeople thought that he interacted with the students excessively while others remarked that he spent much of his leisure time drinking and playing cards. Mussolini probably secured the job owing to the fact that the local socialist councilors were more impressed with his brand of politics than that of the other candidates.
He however regarded his employers lowly, seeing them as weak and flabby (Neville, 2004). Mussolini was too restless to find happiness being a provincial schoolmaster. As much as he did not earn enough money, Mussolini did not stay away from playing cards and getting involved in political discussions. He got into serious trouble when he begun dating a married woman. The relationship was marked with problems which at times led to violence. Mussolini had established the behavior of bullying and abusing women early in his childhood.
In one instance during an argument, Mussolini picked a knife and stabbed the woman in the arm. He was told by the administrators that he would not be hired again due to his conduct. In March 1902, Mussolini was elected by the local teachers’ association, marking the beginning of his politics. He was elected to represent the members at an educational congress. He managed to impress with his flexibility despite his wild and aggressive behavior. This covered for his moral and intellectual weakness. He was not satisfied with his success Mussolini was eighteen years old by the beginning of the 1902 summer.
By the standards of the time, he was well educated, smart and was fluent in speech. He had an interest in politics and poetry and generally loved having a good time. However, Mussolini was never satisfied and was constantly restless. He was not certain of what he wanted to do with his future as there were scarce opportunities for people of his age and academic achievement in the rural parts of Italy. Many individuals shared inn this feeling. More than a million Italians emigrated between the years 1896 and 1914 with the majority seeking better opportunities in the United States of America.
However, Mussolini opted to go northwards to Switzerland where he managed to further his education. The Italian law required that whenever an individual reached the age of nineteen, he was to be conscripted in the army. Mussolini might have avoided the draft by moving to Switzerland. He was also seeking for adventure. He also could not avoid leaving Gualtieri since he had been involved in a violent conflict with the local mayor which had also forced him to live the school. Mussolini’s move to Switzerland marked an important moment in his life.
He did not change his mind about leaving even when he was informed of his father’s arrest as he waited for a train for Switzerland. His mother had given him some money to survive on but the money was soon spent living Mussolini broke. He was forced to perform hard and physical jobs which he did not like. He also took some other odd jobs and at times begged and slept on park benches when he did not have any money. He eventually realized that he could earn some money writing. He wrote for a socialist newspaper but often found himself on the wrong side of the law owing to his socialist views and his poverty.
In numerous instances, he was arrested, thrown in jail and banned from one town to another. He however depended on his writing entirely. The contents of his writing were radical in the sense that it criticized the existing society and advocated for change. He constantly urged for the kings to be overthrown. He also criticized the Catholic Church as he believed that the priests and the bishops obstructed reform and justice. Mussolini’s radicalism and anti-clericalism were as a result of his early life and experiences.
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