Bel Canto

by: Ann Patchett

Chapter Five

Summary Chapter Five

A few hours later, Messner comes back with the sheet music. General Alfredo, feeling that discipline has become too lax, decides that Messner must be told to come back tomorrow. Coss says that if she is not allowed to have the music immediately, she will never sing again. Even the generals are in love with her voice, and they agree to let her have the music.

Coss decides to begin practicing the next day, but Kato sits down to play right away. Once again the house fills with music. The narrator says that this is the happiest time of Carmen’s life. The music and the beauty of the house are wonders she never dreamed of when she was a child. She prays that God will see the beauty of their present existence and let them stay.

That night, Carmen finds the courage to approach Watanabe with a request. When everyone is asleep, she lies down next to Watanabe, prays to Saint Rose for the words she needs, and then wakes him and asks him to teach her to read and write Spanish. He says he will.

Analysis

In this chapter, we see both the trouble people have communicating with one another, and the ingenious ways they manage to communicate without language. Coss and Kato communicate with each other through their music. Coss and Hosokawa express their affection without words. Simply by being together, they communicate the closeness they feel for each other. Coss gets across her energy and her reliance on Hosokawa. Hosokawa gets across his steadiness and his reassuring friendship. Patchett suggests that humans want to connect to one another so badly that they will find ways to do it even when they lack a common language.

For many of the characters, this time in captivity will be the most precious of their lives. Father Arguedas, for example, feels luckier than his professor friend, and Carmen prays to God that the captivity will never end.

Much of Chapter Five focuses on the power and the limitations of language. Watanabe is kept busy translating for the captives and the terrorists, who need him in order to communicate with one another. At the end of the chapter, Watanabe agrees to give Carmen reading and writing lessons.