Bel Canto : Chapter 8
Summary Chapter 8:
Mr. Hosokawa and General Benjamin play chess together in a small room off the guest bedroom. They are quite evenly matched and play for hours at a time, making their moves very slowly. Roxane and Ishmael watch the games. Ishmael learns the game by observing and wants to be allowed to play chess against Benjamin and Mr. Hosokawa. The general grants his wish, saying he can play the winner of the current game, which turns out to be Mr. Hosokawa.
Roxane reflects on her relationship with Mr. Hosokawa and decides she wants to take it further. She asks Gen to tell Carmen not to sleep outside her room that night. She also wants Gen to arrange for Mr. Hosokawa to come to her room that night.
Life continues. Ruben passes on his antibiotic medicine, which had stopped the infection of the wound in his face, to General Benjamin, to treat his shingles. Beatriz is bored because it is Saturday and her favorite soap opera is not on television that day. Father Arguedas takes a confession from Oscar Mendoza, who has been having violent dreams. He imagines his house has been taken over by boys who are seducing his daughters, and in the dream he kills them all. Beatriz listens to the confession, even though she is not supposed to. Then the priest tells her it is her turn to make her confession, something she has never done before. She tries hard to think of a sin to confess, although she knows there are many. She ends up just confessing that it was wrong to point her gun at Simon in the kitchen. Father Arguedas tells her that God forgives her, but she must pray, be genuinely sorry, and try to be kind and helpful to others.
Gen tells Carmen about Roxane’s request, and also tells her she must help in guiding Mr. Hosokawa upstairs to Roxane’s room that night. Carmen feels a sense of divided loyalties but agrees to help. She knows a back stairwell that leads to the servants’ quarters, and another door from there to the nursery, and then another door leading to the main hallway on the second floor, which leads directly to Roxane’s bedroom. The plan is for Carmen to lead Mr. Hosokawa on this route at 2 a.m., and then collect him two hours later. Gen informs Mr. Hosokawa of Roxane’s request and the plan to fulfill it. Mr. Hosokawa is thrilled by it; it is all he could ever want.
The plan goes wrong in the nursery room, where Beatriz is sleeping. She wakes up and sees Carmen and Mr. Hosokawa. Carmen explains the situation and persuades her not to tell. Carmen goes on to lead Mr. Hosokawa safely to Roxane’s bedroom. Then she and Gen go outside and make love in the garden.
In this chapter, the love that has been building in two different relationships has been allowed to find its physical fulfillment. In addition, another cross-group activity has been allowed to take place, when General Benjamin and Mr. Hosokawa play chess together. This theme is reinforced when young Ishmael, technically still a terrorist, is allowed to play chess with Mr. Hosokawa. Just as Mr. Hosokawa and Roxane have learned to communicate largely without words, so too do General Benjamin and Mr. Hosokawa: “The game, frankly was more peaceful without language” (p. 229). It is as if the hostages and to some extent their captors too are learning to transcend the narrow confines of their present situation, to go beyond language and find at least in some situations a kind of peace and fulfillment in silence. The fact that Ishmael can learn chess so quickly just by observation is another example of how hidden talents start to blossom in unlikely circumstances, as they already have for Carmen, who is showing some ability with languages, thanks to Gen, and soon will for Cesar, who has a hidden talent for music. There are also some unexpected cross-group examples of kindness, as when Ruben passes on the antibiotics to General Benjamin, which will help to treat his shingles.