Bel Canto

by: Ann Patchett

Chapter Ten

Analysis

In Greek tragedy, the characters can’t escape fate. In Bel Canto, the captives can’t escape the inevitable onslaught of government forces sent to rescue them. That the happy captivity would end badly was never really in question, particularly after negotiations ceased, but the characters and perhaps we, the readers, were reluctant to admit it. As the lovers try to believe that their idyll will never end, Messner arrives to announce, as a Greek chorus would, that disaster is impending. But even Messner, the voice of realism, wants to wriggle out of what awaits. He counsels General Benjamin to surrender, overlooking or ignoring the fact that if the terrorists surrendered, they would certainly face execution. Death awaited the terrorists regardless of whether they surrendered or stood their ground.

Hosokawa is the one character who seems to understand and accept that the love he shares with Coss may be fleeting. Bel Canto is a novel with a large cast of characters, but Hosokawa is one of the characters we know best, and it is he who has gained the deepest understanding of life, love, and loss.

When Hosokawa steps between Carmen and the guns of the government soldiers, the gesture recalls the way Carmen stepped between Hosokawa and Beatriz when Beatriz trained a gun on them. These two gestures, mirror images of kindness, prove that the hostages and the terrorists are willing to risk their lives for one another. With this gesture, she reminds us of all the kindness that has gone between the hostages and the terrorists.

In this final chapter, it is clear how completely Patchett has subverted the conventions of hostage stories. In most such stories, the reader would be urged to root for government troops to save the hostages from the evil terrorists. But in Bel Canto, the government troops are menacing forces of death, and the hostages weep over the deaths of their young captors. They mourn them as they would their own children.