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In the middle of November, the garua, or
heavy fog, lifts, and everything seems bright. The generals clip
out articles about the hostage situation from the newspapers, but
the hostages have heard snippets on the TV news about a tunnel being
dug underground to free them. The idea of a tunnel seems so far-fetched
that no one believes it.
Coss sings with even greater beauty and intensity than
she did before she became a hostage. She sings “as if she [is] saving
the life of every person in the room.”
Watanabe and Carmen continue to meet in the china closet. Watanabe
thinks about how wonderful and absurd it is that he has fallen in
love with a woman not from one of the many big cities that he has
visited, but from a village in the jungle. He marvels at the fact that
his love dresses in army fatigues, carries a gun, and has taken him
One day Watanabe and Carmen are talking in the bathroom. Carmen
suggests that they forget about the outside world and make this
their home. Just then, Watanabe hears Fyodorov calling him and steps
out of the bathroom to see what he wants. Fyodorov has finally summoned
up his courage to declare his love for Coss. Watanabe doesn’t know
about Fyodorov’s love, and he is reluctant to leave Carmen. But
he agrees and sneaks back to tell Carmen he has to go. Before he
leaves, Watanabe says that of course the siege will end. Carmen
sheds a few tears, and Watanabe and Carmen kiss for the first time.
Watanabe and Fyodorov go to talk to Coss. Fyodorov is
so nervous that he has to sit down. Nonetheless, he manages to give
an eloquent speech. He begins to explain how moved he was by opera when
he was a university student. Then he backs up and tells Coss about
the precious art book his grandmother had. She would pull it out
in the evenings and show her children and grandchildren how to appreciate
beauty. In contrast to the struggles of most people living in the
Soviet Union, the beauty of these paintings was overwhelming. Fyodorov
tells Coss that he loves her, but he expects nothing in return.
He just wanted to tell her. “Some people are born to make great
art and others are born to appreciate it. Don’t you think?” he asks.
Coss thanks him. Watanabe felt awkward during Fyodorov’s speech,
but he notices that Coss doesn’t seem uncomfortable. He realizes
that people have probably fallen in love with her throughout her
The chapter ends with Cesar, one of the young terrorists,
thinking about wanting to make love to Coss. Like all the other
young terrorist boys, he gets an erection when he hears her sing.
But Cesar thinks that it’s not just Coss he wants to make love to,
but the music itself.
In much of literature, the lifting of fog symbolizes the
end of hard times. In Bel Canto, the lifting of
fog symbolizes the end of the characters’ total isolation. The literal
cocoon that has surrounded the vice president’s mansion is gone,
and the outside world is close at hand. One kind of exposure is
quickly followed by another: right after the fog lifts, we learn
about the tunnel the government is purportedly digging to the mansion.
The characters, unwilling to face the possibility that their idyll
will soon end, decide to ignore the rumors of a tunnel.
For Carmen and Watanabe, the possibility that the hostage
situation will end is an inducement to speed up their relationship.
They kiss for the first time not when they are talking about happy
plans for their future together, but when they are discussing the
likelihood that their time together will come to an end. Their fear
that they will soon lose each other intensifies their feelings.
Fyodorov declares his love to Coss without hoping she
will return his feelings. Fyodorov is a faintly foolish man, sweaty
and nervous, and his protestations of love are something of a burden
to Coss. Nonetheless, he overcomes his anxiety to tell a moving,
eloquent story about how he came to love beauty. He also makes a strong
case that Coss should respect those who can appreciate her singing.
Some, like Coss, can express their passion publicly; others, like
Kato, express it in secret; others, like Fyodor, cannot express
it at all. They are the audience, and they rely on performers to
express beauty and suffering for them. But, Fyodorov says, their
reliance on performers does not mean that they do not feel the same
intensity or are not moved by love and loss just as the artist is.
Patchett has said that art is created in the interaction
between the artist and the audience. This idea is an important theme
in the novel. Coss’s singing is made more important because people
listen to it and are changed by it. Without them, it wouldn’t mean
much. In this chapter, Patchett acknowledges that the gifted are
not only those who make great art but also those who appreciate
it. In the same way, love grows from both the lover and the beloved.
Thibault loves his wife because of who she is, but also because
of what he feels at particular moments, and how his experiences
Coss’s patience with Fyodorov’s declaration of love contrasts with
her early irritation with her besotted accompanist. Captivity has
made her more appreciative of her admirers. Another change in Coss
is evident when she tells Watanabe that it is flattering to be loved
for what you can do, but better to be loved for who you are. She
is referring to Hosokawa with these comments; he is the unnamed
man who loves her for who she is, instead of for her talent.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bel Canto!