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As the women leave the building, the generals tell Roxanne
Coss that she has to stay. She says she has had enough. She came
to sing, and she did; she was told to sleep on the floor, and she
did. But now she’s ready to leave. As an afterthought, she explains
that she has to attend to Christopf, her accompanist, who has been
allowed to leave because he is very ill.
The generals refuse to let Coss leave. Realizing she has
lost the fight, she retreats. A moment later, Christopf returns.
When he realizes that Coss will not been released, he decides to
stay with her, despite his illness. Soon after, he sinks into a
coma. Father Arguedas, fearing the worst, begins to say last rites
Coss recalls her plane trip to South America with Christopf,
who annoyed her by declaring his ardent love for her. Christopf
was always an excellent accompanist, but Coss did not bother to
learn much about him beyond that, and she did not enjoy being held
captive to his confessions on the plane. In fact, she had tried
to change her seat. Now, seeing Christopf ill, Coss feels guilty.
Christopf’s illness baffles everyone until Coss remember
that he is diabetic. She searches his person and finds a hypodermic
needle and an empty bottle of insulin. Almost immediately after
Coss recalls Christopf’s condition, he dies. General Benjamin sees
the dead accompanist and feels very sorry for him. He thinks of
his brother in prison, and hopes that his brother will live to see
Hosokawa gives the weeping Roxanne Coss his handkerchief. Soon
after, Hosokawa has Gen approach Coss to offer condolences on Hosokawa’s
behalf and to apologize for Hosokawa’s part in bringing her to this
country. Coss approaches Hosokawa and they communicate face-to-face
for the first time. With Gen’s help, Coss says there is nothing
The terrorists collect information from the hostages.
They want to keep the important people, whose captivity will give
them more bargaining power, and let others go. When some of the
young terrorists begin to bicker, General Hector silences them by
shooting the clock on the wall. In the meantime, the vice president
walks around his living room, tidying up after everyone and making
sure everyone is comfortable.
The terrorists release another group of captives. The
remaining thirty-nine men and one woman, Roxanne Coss, realize that
their ordeal will not end for a long time.
Coss initially plays the role of the diva, behaving with
both bravery and self-involvement. Bolder than anyone else in the
room, she is not afraid to challenge generals with guns. But Coss
also cares primarily about herself. The narrator says that of all
the arguments Coss gives the generals in favor of her release, the
least convincing is her suggestion that she needs to look after
her sick accompanist.
Coss, in these chapters, is the diva who merely absorbs
the awe and love of her fans without returning affection. She hardly
registers that her accompanist, Christopf, is a person. They spend
hours together each day, but she knows almost nothing about him
or his personal life. When Christopf expresses his love for Coss
on the plane, she reacts with annoyance. Coss is not unkind, she
is just uninterested.
In this chapter, Hosokawa makes direct contact with Coss
for the first time when he pays his condolences for Christopf’s
death. The impulse to show kindness and affection in the face of
death, which Hosokawa displays, will be a theme throughout the novel.
Patchett sets up an exploration of time when General
Alfredo shoots the clock near the end of Chapter Three. Alfredo’s
symbolic gesture literally stops the clock, a keeper of time, and
metaphorically marks the end of normal time for the hostages and
the captors, and the beginning of a time apart from the rest of
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bel Canto!