Like many uninsightful fathers, Nicola is very ambitious and hardworking and perceives himself to be a failure. He has persuaded himself that the only good thing his thirteen-year-old son can possibly do is to work harder and smarter than he himself did, so that he, at least, can fulfill his father's dreams. This end justifies any number of beatings and scoldings, along with constant admonitions to study hard and work hard. As might be expected, this abuse has no effect whatsoever, as it is not based on the boy's own ambitions, which include becoming a championship runner. Despite his mother's attempts to protect him from his aggressively insensitive and stupid father, he gets shipped off to work with some rope manufacturers, who can be counted on to work him like a dog.