Bel Canto Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Bel Canto : Chapter 5

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Summary Chapter 5

Gen is kept extremely busy. It seems that almost everyone needs him to translate for them. He types up the generals’ ever-increasing list of demands. Meanwhile, Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa spend more time together. Roxane, who is used to getting whatever supplies she needs, says she needs sheet music. Father Arguedas knows a music teacher nearby named Manuel, and says that Manuel would be happy to supply her with all the music she needs. They get permission to call Manuel, who is delighted to be of assistance. Simon Thibault takes advantage of having a telephone available and calls his wife, leaving her a message that he loves her.

Meanwhile, Gen is starting to take notice of Carmen, and she of him too. Messner and Gen talk to her, discovering that her first language is Quechua, not Spanish. Theyfind her to be quite shy.

Messner returns later with a box full of sheet music. General Alfredo says at first that he should come back the next day and deliver it, but then Roxane sings an aria from a Puccini opera in the living room. Everyone is moved by the emotion the aria conveys, and Roxane then says that unless she receives the box immediately she will not sing again and the piano will not be played either. General Alfredo is forced to retreat, and the box of music is delivered to Roxane. Roxane spends the rest of the day looking through the scores, with Mr. Hosokawa sitting next to her. His presence is a comfort to her, even though they do not speak the same language. Kato plays the piano again, and Carmen in particular is moved by it. Carmen is happy not only because of the music but because she is living in such a fine house with luxuries she and her family could never have dreamed of.

That night it is Carmen’s turn to keep watch. She plucks up her courage and goes over to Gen and wakes him. She tells him she wants him to teach her how to read and write in Spanish and English. Gen agrees.



The now familiar theme of the power of music is seen in this chapter in the captivating aria that Roxane sings. General Alfredo is helpless to resist the imperious power of the diva Roxane after she has demonstrated her ability to touch everyone’s emotions. The generals may have the guns, but Roxane has the music. Once again it is shown that music has the ability to break down the barriers between hostage and captor. This theme of the breaking of barriers is developed further in this chapter because Gen, a hostage, and Carmen, a terrorist, begin a secret relationship. Carmen has imbibed vague ideas about “freeing the people” during her training but what she really longs for is knowledge, and it is this that Gen can supply. Love will grow from it, too.


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