[an analysis by Evelyn Buchardt]
I was drawn to Anne Beatti’s story, “In Amalfi,” because it takes place in a location where I’ve been and love, and more importantly because I identify with the female protagonist’s views. This story is about the relationship between Christine, a still attractive, but no longer young woman, and Andrew, a man quite a bit older than her. He’s a retired literature professor turned writer. She was his student. When she was 20 they nearly wed in Paris, but she “lost her nerve,” yet married him two years later, in New York. They parted ways, then reunited again in Paris, then finally divorced a year later. Yet they kept in contact for 15 years, realizing there was an undeniable bond between them, and recently decided to vacation together. In this story they are on their second one-month vacation to the beautiful Amalfi coast in Italy.
The main idea of this piece is that two people in a relationship can be so different from one another and yet precisely for that reason be drawn to one another, and though they can’t easily live with one another at times, they can’t seem to live without one another for long or forever, and this piece also shows how familiarity, routine, predictability and calm love in a relationship can be just as important as freshness, spontaneity and new and unbridled passion, and last but not least that for some people, commitment needn’t necessarily be sealed with a marriage certificate and a symbolic ring, which can feel forced , but that perhaps some people try harder actually to stay together because the other could leave so easily.
This theme/idea of a relationship in which two people are essentially free being beautiful in it’s own way the author shows by having the couple travel freely, yet together purely by choice in the most pristine and romantic setting of the Amalfi coast. The two individuals are quite different from one another, and although they mildly argue over frivolous things and minor jealousies they get along well, because they choose to. Though an emotional person he doesn’t communicate personal thoughts well, but he tries, because he loves her, and he is somewhat jealous and possessive of her. He is sensitive, takes himself quite seriously and doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, therefore all the more sarcasm. He speaks of her as his wife though they are no longer married. Another difference between them is that he sees complexity everywhere, whereas she views the world and as beautiful in its simplicity. He was captured by her supposed composure and sophistication, and views her as mysterious even so many years later. She is rather cool and aloof and doesn’t take him or his jealousies too seriously, although she does love him. She realizes how much she truly loves him during this vacation they’re on together.
Symbols of the theme throughout the story are rings. “Years ago, when they were first together, she had worn a diamond engagement ring in a Tiffany setting, the diamond held in place by little prongs that rose up and curved against it, from a thin gold band.” This traditional style ring represents the traditional confines of marriage, which is why she returns it to him long ago. When they divorce she also returns the simple gold band he gave her when they married. She now wonders what has become of both rings, although Andrew is seemingly done giving her rings by now, as she has always returned them in the past, hurting his pride.
A young French woman, however, entrusts Christine with a precious antique ring out of fear she’ll lose it while boating. The woman never returns for it as far as we know. It’s a very untraditional and exceptionally beautiful antique ring, made of sliver or platinum with a large Opal that changes colors depending on the lighting and is “surrounded by tiny rubies and slightly larger diamonds.” Christine teases Andrew by telling him that it was given to her by one of the Italian beach boys, who like to flirt with her. Although he doesn’t believe her, it causes a bit of friction between them, and although Christine didn’t receive the ring from Andrew and the changing nature of the opal could in her mind represent their free and constantly changing relationship, causing it to make her nervous, “…something about the ring bothered her, like a grain of sand in an oyster.”
In spite of the “epiphany” she experiences during their vacation, that she was ”fated to be with Andrew” she still cannot deal with the symbolism that a ring represents, a sort of seal on a binding contract. She unconsciously compares herself and Andrew to birds “sailing between high cliffs, “flying separately,” yet meeting together by choice. This image of being separate yet together represents Andrew and Christine’s relationship throughout the story, and successfully depicts the beauty of being free like a bird within relationship.