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Bel Canto : Chapter 4

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Summary Chapter 4

One week has passed. The strict rules imposed at the beginning have become more relaxed, and the hostages are able to talk and move around more freely. Messner brings in adequate supplies. The hostages realize they are not about to be shot, and the militants realize that the hostages are not going to mount a rebellion. The hostages amuse themselves by reading magazines or playing cards. A lot of them, used to being busy, do not know how to use all this free time, so just sit around idly. This includes the young terrorists. With Gen’s help.Mr. Hosokawa sets about learning Spanish, writing words down in a notebook. The hostages also start to communicate a little with the youthful revolutionaries, who ask them what countries they are from. Ruben brings first an atlas and then a globe on a stand so the terrorists, who have almost no education, can understand where each country is.

A German hostage, Franz von Schuller, speculates about seizing the militants’ guns, but Jacques Maitessier, a Frenchman, Pietro Genovese, an Italian, and Simon Thibault think it not a good idea.

The young terrorists discover the television in the vice president’s study. They have never seen a working television in their lives, and when Simon switches it on by use of the remote they are so startled they yell loudly, bringing the three generals rushing to the room. Not knowing what is going on, they throw Simon against a wall.

In the second week of captivity, two of therevolutionaries are revealed to be girls. The first is Beatriz, who does not have a feminine manner and easily passed for a boy. The other girl is Carmen, who is particularly attached to Roxane and sleeps outside her door each night.

Oscar Mendoza confesses to Ruben that he is in love with Roxane. He plans to tell her sometime, but graciously allows Ruben the chance to declare his love for her first. Ruben replies that that is a possibility. Like many of the others, he is also in love with Roxane, but wonders if it would be appropriate, given his position, to declare it. Oscar disagrees. He thinks they are all going to be shot eventually so he might as well tell her about his love. As he and Ruben talk, he changes his mind and decides that no one is going to kill him.

Roxane wants to start singing again, and the word goes out among the hostages for an accompanist. The only one who can play the piano turns out to be Tetsuya Kato, a vice president at Nansei. He promptly goes to the grand piano and plays a Chopin Nocturne from memory. Everyone is drawn to the music and eventually all fifty-eight people in the house, captors and hostages alike, are standing around the piano listening with pleasure to the music. After he has stopped, Carmen asks him to play more, and he does. Everyone quite forgets that they are in a very difficult situation in the house together and surrenders to the charm of the music.



Many thematic developments open up in this chapter. The relationship between Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa is slowly developing. Roxane finds herself soothed by his dignified presence. Hidden talents are beginning to emerge in the people confined in the house. No one guessed, for example, that Kato was an expert pianist.

There is also another clue about the setting of the story.The phenomenon ofgarúa, “more than mist and less than drizzle” (p. 105).hangs over the city, and garúa occurs in Peru, including the capital city, Lima, mostly from April to November. It is still October in this chapter.

In this chapter, some of the hostages begin to discover something positive in their situation. Oscar Mendoza, the contractor, for example, although he has lost all the freedom he is used to, “a new, smaller set of freedoms began to raise a dim light within him: the liberty to think obsessively, the right to remember in detail. Away from his wife and five daughters he was not contradicted or corrected, and without those burdens he found himself able to dream without constant revision” (p. 121).

The power of music is also apparent in this chapter. When Kato plays the piano, the dividing line between hostage and captor seem to dissolve. Everyone listens in the same room and is entranced. There are other signs in this chapter of the humanity in the terrorists:the young boy Ishmael, for example, brings ice for Ruben to help soothe his wounded face even when he is not asked to do so. And Ruben tells Ishmael, whose boots are falling apart, to get a pair of tennis shoes that fit him from the largest bedroom in the house. This is another indication of how the rigid barriers between hostages and captors are beginning to break down. Most of the terrorists are little more than children, and the hostages are the adults who, in a reversal of the balance of power in the house, are able to help them in certain ways.


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