Elsa Morante’s novel “History” includes the concept of Catholicism and Catholic elements, but it mainly focuses on the individual development of the protagonist, Ida. Ida suffers a crisis identity throughout the book. Her father was baptized as a Catholic, but her mother was a Jewish woman. Therefore, Ida has a bit of split identity from the beginning. Two sides are at war within her individual self.
Ida ends up getting her son baptized as a Catholic. But this is not necessarily because of her commitment to Catholicism. She is afraid of the Jewish part of her identity. In fact, she is sometimes repulsed by it. This is understandable as World War II is the backdrop to this story.
Her war with herself is very clear when she produces documents that show her baptismal records, her Aryan heritage and her Jewish heritage to an inquisitor. She is described as feeling ashamed and embarrassed of her Jewish side and repulsed the accent on her mother’s name to the point where she omits it. She clearly wishes she could slip into her Catholic identity, but she cannot.
Ida undergoes an identity crisis because she is unable to shape an individual identity for herself. Catholicism cannot save her because her crisis runs much deeper than that. She is an individual under horrific circumstances and she is unable to balance the two aspects of her identity. Even if she would like to choose only one part of her identity, she is stuck with the other part and she is destined to be persecuted for it.
Ida cannot achieve a sense of balance because she lives in a country at war. It could be said the war Elsa has inside herself is a reflection of World War II itself- the Jewish part of her is hated and reviled by the Catholic part. In the end, Ida succumbs to her identity crisis, losing her sanity and dying. It was impossible for her to find balance when she was an individual at war with herself and in the end, she had no choice but to lose.