Since she was a child, Elena had romanticized and idealized Donato Sarratore. She assumed that because of his affair with Melina, he must be something of a romantic hero, and her admiration only grows she learns that he has published a book of poetry. Elena thinks of Donato as someone who is more refined and elegant than the other residents of the neighborhood. Ironically, however, he is revealed to be as lustful and dangerous as the other men she encounters. In fact, much of what she has interpreted as charm is simply manipulation that allows him to get away with seducing many women, including potentially Elena.
When Lila is a child and a young adolescent, she is considered unattractive because she is very thin and has unusual features. She reaches puberty later than other girls, and no boys are interested in her. Ironically, however, when Lila finally does become more mature in her appearance, she is extremely beautiful and gives off a magnetic sexual allure. She becomes the source of fierce romantic competition, which is ironic given that she was previously considered ugly.
Lila's desire to disappear
The whole framework on which the novel is structured is rooted in irony: Lila hopes to disappear and erase all traces of herself, but Elena reacts by generating a minute and highly detailed description of her life. Because Elena is highly observant, and has known Lila for such a long time, she can write an intimate and honest story of Lila's life. Ironically, Lila's attempt to vanish leads to an incredibly detailed reconstruction of who she was.
The shoe-making project
Lila's dream for her family to manufacture shoes of their own design is rooted in a desire for independence. She wants them to be able to make a product they will be known for, and achieve the financial independence of a successful business. Ironically, the need to find a wealthy investor to support the project puts the Cerrullo family under the sway first of Marcello Solara and then of Stefano. Both men know that their ability to finance the shoe project gives them influence with Lila's family, and potential sway over her. A desire to be less controlled and more independent results in Lila losing effectively all her independence by the end of the novel.
My Brilliant Friend Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for My Brilliant Friend is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.