Bel Canto

by: Ann Patchett

Chapter Eight

After escorting Hosokawa to Coss’s door, Carmen finds Watanabe. She leads him outside into the yard, where they have sex for the first time.

Analysis

This chapter sees the consummation of two relationships; it also suggests the limitations of love. In Chapter Seven, it becomes clear that falling in love has changed Coss. But in Chapter Eight, we see that love has not changed Coss beyond recognition. Her ambition and her thirst for recognition remain intact, and she is thrilled by the news that captivity has only increased her fame. Love has not erased these essential aspects of Coss’s personality.

By reminding us that love does not sweep away considerations of the outside world (like the desire for fame), Patchett injects a dose of reality into the idyll of captivity. Another reminder that the outside world has not disappeared comes during Iglesias’s interaction with General Benjamin. The vice president and the general are both profoundly likable characters. They are also drawn together by the tenderness and pride they feel for Ishmael, one of the brightest of the young terrorists. Both act fatherly toward him. In a different situation, Iglesias and Benjamin would likely be good friends. Despite their similarities, however, there are barriers between the two men that all the glorious singing and the love of children in the world cannot break down. Iglesias and Benjamin might coexist in the house without coming to blows, but neither man ever forgets that Benjamin’s brother has been imprisoned by the government that Iglesias represents.

Even Watanabe and Carmen’s relationship, consummated in this chapter, does not seem likely to end happily. Carmen optimistically hopes that her love for Watanabe will overcome the fact that she is a terrorist and the man she loves is a hostage. When Watanabe asks her to break the rules and help Coss, Carmen is momentarily forced to face reality. She realizes she is caught between two rival groups, and that siding with her lover could be dangerous.

Despite intimations of encroaching reality, the world of captivity remains a charmed one. At the end of this chapter, Watanbe and Carmen are transformed by their love for each other. In the garden, they are not the shy, scared people they’ve always been in the world; they are confident and in love.