Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young Italian immigrant grapples with the hardships of New York City's construction industry while striving for the American Dream.


"Christ in Concrete" is a powerful and poignant novel written by Pietro Di Donato. Set during the Great Depression, the novel portrays the struggles and hardships faced by Italian-American immigrants in New York City. Through its compelling narrative, the book delves into themes of faith, resilience, and the human spirit's ability to endure adversity. In this summary, we will explore the plot overview, main events, characters, themes, and insights offered by this remarkable literary work.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

"Christ in Concrete" is set against the backdrop of New York City during the Great Depression. The story revolves around the life of Paul Di Donato, a young Italian immigrant who works as a bricklayer to support his family. The novel follows Paul's experiences as he grapples with the challenges of poverty, exploitation, and the harsh realities of life in the city.

Main Events

1-3The novel opens with Paul Di Donato's father, Geremio, tragically killed in a construction accident. This event sets the stage for the family's struggle to survive in the face of overwhelming adversity.
4-6Paul's mother, Annunziata, is forced to take on odd jobs to make ends meet, while Paul and his siblings navigate the harsh streets of New York City. The family's faith and resilience are tested as they confront the harsh realities of poverty and discrimination.
7-9Paul's experiences as a young laborer highlight the exploitation and dangers faced by immigrant workers in the construction industry. The novel delves into the themes of labor rights, solidarity, and the pursuit of the American Dream.
10-12As the family struggles to cope with their loss, Paul grapples with his own identity and the challenges of balancing his responsibilities as a provider with his desire for personal fulfillment. The novel explores the tensions between tradition and modernity, faith and doubt, and the search for meaning in a world marked by hardship and injustice.

Main Characters

Paul Di Donato

A young Italian immigrant and bricklayer who navigates the challenges of poverty and discrimination in New York City.

Geremio Di Donato

Paul's father, whose tragic death sets the stage for the family's struggle to survive in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Annunziata Di Donato

Paul's mother, who takes on odd jobs to support her family amidst the hardships of the Great Depression.

Themes and Insights

"Christ in Concrete" delves into a myriad of themes and insights that resonate deeply with readers:

  • Faith and Resilience: The novel explores the enduring power of faith and resilience in the face of adversity, depicting the Di Donato family's unwavering spirit amidst hardship.
  • Immigrant Experience: Through the experiences of the Di Donato family, the novel sheds light on the challenges faced by Italian immigrants in 1930s New York City, addressing issues of discrimination, exploitation, and the pursuit of the American Dream.
  • Labor Rights and Exploitation: The book offers a stark portrayal of the exploitation and dangers faced by immigrant workers in the construction industry, highlighting the broader themes of labor rights and solidarity.
  • Identity and Belonging: Paul's journey reflects the struggle to reconcile his immigrant identity with the desire for personal fulfillment and belonging in a rapidly changing society.

Reader's Takeaway

"Christ in Concrete" offers readers a thought-provoking and deeply moving exploration of the human experience amidst the tumultuous backdrop of the Great Depression. Through its richly drawn characters and evocative storytelling, the novel invites readers to contemplate themes of faith, resilience, and the enduring pursuit of hope in the face of adversity.


In conclusion, "Christ in Concrete" stands as a timeless literary work that paints a vivid portrait of the Italian-American immigrant experience during the Great Depression. Pietro Di Donato's masterful storytelling and rich thematic exploration make this novel an essential read for anyone seeking to engage with the profound complexities of the human spirit in the face of hardship.

Christ in Concrete FAQ

  1. What is 'Christ in Concrete' about?

    Christ in Concrete is a novel that follows the life of an Italian-American immigrant bricklayer, Geremio, and his family as they struggle to survive in the impoverished and dangerous tenements of New York City during the Great Depression.

  2. Who is the author of 'Christ in Concrete'?

    The author of 'Christ in Concrete' is Pietro Di Donato, an Italian-American writer known for his vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience in the United States.

  3. What themes are explored in 'Christ in Concrete'?

    Themes in 'Christ in Concrete' include the immigrant experience, the impact of poverty and economic hardship, the struggle for survival, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

  4. Is 'Christ in Concrete' based on real events?

    While 'Christ in Concrete' is a work of fiction, it is heavily inspired by the author's own experiences as the son of Italian immigrants and reflects the realities faced by many immigrant families during the early 20th century.

  5. What is the significance of the title 'Christ in Concrete'?

    The title 'Christ in Concrete' is a metaphor for the suffering and endurance of the working class, likening their struggles to the crucifixion of Christ and emphasizing the strength and resilience found in the midst of hardship.