The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Biagio tells the reader that at first, Cosimo told a very different story. He first insists that pirates kidnapped and killed the cavalier avvocato and then, when Baron Arminio becomes depressed, Cosimo constructs a glorious story in which the cavalier avvocato struggled to defeat the pirates and died. He conceals the part about the cave until a few weeks after the event, at which point the charcoal burners have eaten everything. After the cavalier avvocato’s death, Baron Arminio seems to age. He attempts to care for the bees and finish a canal project, but these attempts end when bees scare him and he falls into a canal. He recovers, but falls into a deep depression.
At this point, Cosimo begins to use storytelling as a way to perform kindnesses for others; here, for Baron Arminio. Though he’s unsuccessful in helping his father, Biagio does make it very clear that Cosimo is successful in helping the charcoal burners eat for a while. By focusing on this, Biagio encourages the reader to look for the good and the unified aspects of Cosimo’s life, rather than focus on Cosimo’s mistakes and shortcomings.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Baron Arminio seems disinterested in life. Nothing in his life has gone according to plan: he’s still not a duke, Cosimo is still in the trees, and the cavalier avvocato is dead. Baron Arminio begins to rave against the Jesuits and dies. Cosimo follows the funeral procession, but the cypress trees around the cemetery are so thick that he can’t enter. Instead of throwing dirt on the coffin, Cosimo throws a branch. This makes Biagio think that the entire family was just as distant from Baron Arminio as Cosimo was.
When the trees separate Cosimo from his father, it suggests that Baron Arminio was far too caught up in the civilized, built world to ever connect with his son. Biagio’s suggestion that everyone was distant from Baron Arminio suggests that they all were thinking ahead of him to some degree, especially since the Generalessa came around to Cosimo’s choice to take to the trees when Baron Arminio never did.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Even though Cosimo is now the Baron di Rondò, his life changes little. He appears more often in the city and tells stories from his tree. He often recounts the story of the cavalier avvocato’s end, but in order to appease his listeners, he adds in the part about Zaira to make them feel sorry for the old man. Biagio suggests that this was the most truthful version, but Cosimo gradually distorted the story over time. Everyone is interested in Cosimo’s stories, and Biagio asks the reader’s forgiveness—if the stories seem far-fetched, it’s because he’s sharing Cosimo’s version of events. For instance, when someone asked if it’s true that Cosimo hasn’t left the trees, Cosimo tells a story of jumping onto a buck’s antlers and staying there through a fight with another buck. Biagio says that Cosimo’s stories went from true to invented and back again.
At this point in Cosimo’s life, telling stories is a way for him to shape his identity and experiment with who he wants to be in the world. Biagio’s narration asks the reader to understand, first and foremost, that this is and was a game—and that nothing Cosimo says should be taken at face value. Instead, readers should consider how or why Cosimo might have edited the story, and what purpose that might have had. For instance, while the story about the bucks may have begun when Cosimo simply watched them fight, insisting he was in the thick of it allows him to look closer to nature and more a part of the natural world.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Underlying Cosimo’s storytelling is the fact that he hasn’t been in love and feels his life has no point because of this. He looks at girls, but none are quite right. He starts dreaming of love but is embarrassed when he sees lovers enter the woods. Instead, he watches animals mate. Ottimo Massimo often courts dogs much larger than he is, and though Cosimo sees that, like Ottimo Massimo, he’s different, he’s not sure how to find love in the trees. He grows increasingly dissatisfied until he learns that in Olivabassa, there’s a group of Spaniards that also live in the trees. He travels to Olivabassa.
Desiring love represents the next step for a young man, per Rousseau’s theories of human development. At least on an intellectual level, Cosimo is fully an adult now, even if he’s not entirely sure how to conduct himself in a truly adult way. Seeking out the Spaniards in Olivabassa will give Cosimo more connections to the outside world, showing again that living in the trees doesn’t cut him off from relationships with other people.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
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