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Mr. Hosokawa regularly visits Coss’s bedroom at night.
He is in love, but he knows that the circumstances are extraordinary.
He doesn’t believe his relationship with Coss will survive in the
outside world. Hosokawa wonders if everyone experiences such love
for a short time and then spends the rest of their lives remembering
Each night in the china closet, Watanabe and Carmen alternate between
making love and studying. Despite the power of their love, the narrator
reminds us, Watanabe is still a hostage, and Carmen is still a terrorist.
Messner, the Red Cross representative, shows up looking
haggard. He is the only one who seems worried about how this standoff will
end. He is no longer trying to work out a compromise; he simply hopes
to help the terrorists avoid a tragedy. After struggling to get General
Benjamin’s attention, Messner explains that government action seems
imminent. Messner begs Benjamin to surrender, but Benjamin refuses.
During the conversation, Benjamin seems almost convinced that the
government will just let them stay in the mansion forever.
Watanabe, who is translating the conversation, understands
that time may be growing short for the terrorists. Though this worries him,
he can’t believe that anything bad will happen to Carmen. He thinks
that because she is special to him, she will somehow be spared.
Watanabe tries to forget all of the ways that tragedy is imminent
so he can continue to believe that his love for Carmen will survive.
In fact, the narrator tells us, “everyone forgot. Except for Messner,
whose job it was to remember. And Simon Thibault, who even in his
sleep thought of nothing but his wife.”
Coss continues to give Cesar his lessons. One afternoon,
she is instructing him inside while everyone else is outside. Many
people are playing soccer. Ishmael is helping Iglesias in the garden.
Government troops come in. Coss sees them and screams. The troops
kill Cesar and then, in the garden, they kill General Benjamin.
Soon after the general’s death, the narrator says, the general’s
brother is taken from prison and executed for conspiracy. The troops
shoot Ishmael. The vice president sees Ishmael go down and rushes
to him, weeping. Beatriz sees that all of the terrorists are being
shot, but she can’t believe she will be shot, too. She thinks if
she keeps her arms straight the government troops will see that
she is surrendering, and spare her. Mendoza sees that Beatriz is
in danger and rushes toward her. Beatriz smiles at Mendoza and is
Watanabe looks for Carmen, repeating, “She is my wife,
she is my wife.” The narrator says that Carmen was killed right
in the beginning. She and Hosokawa were in the kitchen and they
rushed out when they heard Coss scream. Hosokawa was killed when
he stepped between Carmen and the government troops to try to save her.
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bel Canto!