The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cosimo and Ursula spend their days in the blooming fruit trees. Cosimo makes himself useful by teaching the Spaniards how to move through the trees and introduces them to some of his tools. His desire to invent means that he even creates a confessional for his hosts, even though this goes against the writings of his favorite authors. He sends for books to share with Ursula, and he often joins meetings in which the exiles draft letters to King Carlos III. The letters start out indignant and threatening, but always end with a plea for forgiveness. At the end of every meeting, El Conde rises, speaks his heart, and everyone abandons the petition for forgiveness.
With these nobles, Cosimo gets to experiment with what it’s like to be a part of a community of people who are different from him in ways almost more important than those in Ombrosa are: they have different beliefs, rather than just a different living space. This means that Cosimo has to begin to grapple with how to honor what he believes is good and correct, while also not offending his hosts.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
At the meetings, Cosimo naïvely talks about philosophers’ proposals that sovereigns are wrong, and that reason and justice can govern states. Only El Conde and a few smart girls can follow, however. Gradually, El Conde decides he wants to read philosophers’ books. Unbeknownst to Father Sulpicio, some others ask Cosimo for a novel so they can read the sexy passages. Soon, the talk during meetings focuses on creating a revolution in Spain. It takes Father Sulpicio a while to realize his post is in danger, but eventually—possibly receiving letters from higher-ups in the Church—he announces that the devil has arrived and will obliterate the group.
The Enlightenment saw many people reevaluate their relationship to organized religion and to God. For the most part, philosophers generally took issue with how much control the Church had over people’s lives and beliefs, which lead to the rise in Protestantism. This is what Father Sulpicio is reacting to here.
Themes
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Related Quotes
One night, Cosimo wakes to the sound of someone crying. He discovers Father Sulpicio tying El Conde to a tree. Father Sulpicio announces that this is part of the Inquisition and Cosimo is next, but Cosimo draws his sword. He’s shocked to discover Baron Arminio was right: Father Sulpicio insists that the Jesuits need to settle their score with the di Rondò family. The two fence until everyone wakes up, but Father Sulpicio pretends nothing happened and apologizes to Cosimo. Cosimo realizes that Father Sulpicio is likely making Don Frederico suspicious, as Don Frederico stops pretending he doesn’t know what’s going on between Cosimo and Ursula.
Discovering that Baron Arminio was right about the Jesuits being out to get him allows Cosimo to begin to think differently about his father in much the same way he learned to think differently about Gian dei Brughi and the cavalier avvocato. Now, he has an instance in which his father was right to be so afraid of something, even if it seemed silly at the time. This allows Cosimo to develop even more empathy for his father.
Themes
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
One day, Don Frederico summons Cosimo. With Father Sulpicio next to him, he asks Cosimo’s age—21—and much to everyone’s surprise and displeasure, insinuates that Cosimo needs to build a house if he wants to marry Ursula. He brushes aside Father Sulpicio’s concerns that Cosimo reads Voltaire and invites Cosimo to come back to Granada with them. Cosimo uncomfortably agrees to think about it and goes to Ursula. Ursula is thrilled, but Cosimo insists that he wants to stay in the trees. Soon after, Don Frederico receives a letter from King Carlos III, inviting everyone home. The people of Olivabassa help everyone down and nobody listens to El Conde when he says that they need to take to the courts. Don Frederico calls for Cosimo, but Cosimo refuses to come. Servants keep Ursula from trying to stay with Cosimo, and the Spaniards head for home.
For Father Sulpicio, Cosimo’s possible return to Granada would mean that Cosimo would be able to continue spreading Enlightenment ideas throughout the Spanish nobility that threaten his own power and control, something he can’t have happen. Don Frederico’s invitation, therefore, indicates that there’s some willingness to change and move forward in Spain. Despite this, it’s telling that El Conde is the only one who’s interested in keeping up with their newfound philosophy after returning home, as it suggests that he’s the only one who has truly internalized Cosimo’s Enlightenment messages.
Themes
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
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