Bel Canto : Chapter 6
Summary Chapter 6
Now Roxane has all the music she wants, there is a power shift in the house. It is she who seems to be in charge now. She starts her practice at seven o’clock in the morning, with Kato at the piano. She sings for three hours and sometimes sings again in the late afternoon. Everyone listens. The generals convince themselves that it is a good thing that she is singing, because it calms the hostages. Mr. Hosokawa feels happy, and finds that he has affection for everyone in the house, but particularly, of course, for Roxane.
Gen thinks of Carmen. Beatriz approaches him and asks whether it is time for her favorite soap opera on television. Gen says it will come on in fifteen minutes. Then he gives her his wristwatch and explains to her how to tell the time. Beatriz takes a while to grasp it.
Gen keeps looking out for Carmen, but in the meantime gets involved in a conversation with Fyodorov, the Russian. Fyodorovsays he has always had an interest in music and has decided that he wants to talk directly to Roxane, since he admires her so much. He wants Gen to act as interpreter. They agree that Fyodorov will approach her the next day.
Ruben approaches Roxane, asking her if she could help with the cooking. Instead of sandwiches, food supplies are now coming in the form of raw chickens and vegetables, and Ruben knows nothing of cooking. But Roxane is not interested in performing such a mundane task. Instead, Ruben finds the Frenchman Simon Thibault, who appears to be a competent cook. However, in the kitchen, he finds that all the knives have been confiscated by the terrorists. Gen gets permission from General Benjamin for Carmen and Beatriz to help cook dinner, and they will be in charge of the knives. Ishmael shows up too, even though the general had denied permission for a third helper. Ishmael makes a mess of peeling the eggplant and offers the knife to Simon instead. But when Simon takes the knife Beatriz gets nervous and points her gun at him, telling him to drop the knife. The hostages are not supposed to touch the knives. The situation is resolved when Simon suggests that everyone stands away from him while he shows Ishmael how to peel the vegetable. This satisfies Beatriz and the meal preparation continues. Gen is reluctant to leave because Carmen is there. Eventually he finds a way of talking to her. She is still interested in learning how to read and write and they arrange to meet that night in the china closet.
Roxane has the moxie to stand up to the generals because, according to General Benjamin, she “has no capacity to understand authority” (p. 165). She is used to having her way, and this, coupled with the astonishing power that her singing has over everyone in the house, gives her the advantage over the generals, who secretly acknowledge to themselves the hopelessness of their situation. It is as if Roxane’s singing is a magical element in the situation that cannot be controlled.
Kato’s realization, after he becomes the accompanist for Roxane, that“He was not himself. He was no one he had ever imagined” (p. 163) is an illustration of the paradox beginning to show itself in the novel: the hostages are prisoners, confined to the house and living under difficult circumstances, and yet there seem also to be opportunities for personal transformation that take them by surprise.
In this novel, wry humor is never far away, and the scene in the kitchen is richly comic.