Analysis of Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto
In Ann Patchett’s novel, “Bel Canto,” various themes that are dramatic or psychological in content are explored. However, arguably the most notable among them is the strange nature and irony of fate, which also encompasses several sub-themes such as the abundance of passion and love in the face of death. These themes are highlighted mostly by the relationships between the characters and the development of their personalities. In general, the strange twist of fate is best depicted by the unusual relationships formed between the characters in the novel.
These ties and bonds built can arguably be described unusual due to the backdrop of the story. Basically, the entire plot revolves around a terrorist group taking hostage various celebrities, politicians, and other prominent personalities for a several months while at the same time forming unique relationships with their victims in the process at the house of the vice-president of a Latin American country. Moreover, as the novel concludes, the so-called heroes or good guys aren’t exactly the ideal benevolent people one would expect and the villains or bad guys (Gioia n.
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p. ). Towards the end, the lines between the terrorists and the hostages are blurred as both groups become less hostile and friendlier to each other, which further added to the strange change in fate of the characters in the story. Ironically, it was as if all the hostages and the terrorists wanted to remain inside the home of the country’s vice president where they have been holed up since the crisis began. Moreover, as mentioned above, multiple unique relationships are formed between the characters of the book.
The first notable one is between Roxanne Coss, the American Soprano singer, and her fellow captive, Katsumi Hosokawa, who is also one of her big fans. Although their romance is evident in the novel, it is somehow ironic because they could not understand each other due to a language barrier. In other words, although Roxanne and Katsumi were not able to communicate verbally, they shared a passion for each other which aroused in the face of death—one of the sub-themes explored in the novel.
However, like all the other hostages, Roxanne and Katsumi knew the painful reality that awaits them should there captivity ends. In chapter 10 of the novel, Kastumi reflected on the possible scenarios if they are released from their captors. “He understood that these were extraordinary times, and if their old life was ever restored to them, nothing would be the same” (Patchett 298). Meaning to say, Kastumi knew that he loved Roxanne and how full his life has become but also realized that their relationship could never exist in the world outside their captivity.
This is highly ironic because like the rest of the hostages, initially, the only thing that Katsumi and Roxanne wanted was to escape from their terrorist captors and get their normal lives back. But due to the deep involvement of the two with each other and due to the romantic relationship they have formed, they no longed wanted to escape but instead remain in captivity, which is one of the best examples of the strange nature of fate explored in the novel.
The same applies to the relationship between Gen Watanabe, Katsumi’s translator, and Carmen, one of the young female terrorists. The two became romantically involved with each other when Gen taught Carmen how to read. They would meet inside a closet every night for Carmen’s reading lessons and where they would also make love. In other words, like Katsumi and Roxanne, the two have also accepted the fact that their hostage-terrorist relationship cannot be revealed to anyone nor could it exist in the world outside.
In the tenth chapter of the novel, after learning that the government forces would soon attack and release all hostages, the author described the reaction of the two: “So Gen should have said something more, and Carmen should have listened more, but instead she kissed him, because the important thing was to forget. That kiss was like a lake, deep and clear, and they swam into it forgetting” (Patchett 302). Meaning to say, the two have accepted their fate and the fact that their relationship would be short-lived. Instead of pondering on the upcoming reality, they chose to make the most their present situation by hugging and kissing.
In short, the novel vividly illustrates the strange twist of fate between among the characters in the novel. In early chapters, the characters can be divided into two groups: the hostages and the terrorists. However, as the story progresses, in a strange twist of fate, those lines that divide the two groups become blurred as the captives and the captors began enjoying each other’s company. This is exemplified not only by the relationships formed between Katsumi and Roxanne and Gen and Carmen but in other characters as well.
In one scene, Ruben Iglesias, the vice president of the Latin American Country and owner of the house where the hostages were held in the novel, was shown playing chess with the leader of the terrorists, General Benjamin. The vice president also implied that he was considering adopting one of the young members of the terrorists, Ishmael. Therefore, it can be surmised that hostage crisis transformed nearly all of the characters in the novel to the point where they wanted to remain holed up in the vice-president’s house forever, which is exactly the opposite of what hostages usually feel when they are held captive.
Over-all, the novel greatly explored a theme in which the fate of its characters took an ironic twist that added depth and color to the over-all plot. The strange yet unique relationships formed are the best examples of the theme in which the true identities of the characters were also revealed. Works Cited Goia, Ted. “Bel Canto”. 2008. The New Canon. com 11 May 2009 < http://www. thenewcanon. com/bel_canto. html>. Patchett, Ann. Bel Canto. New York: Harper Perennial, 2002.