The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cosimo already enjoys what he can see from the oak. The Generalessa and Baron Arminio come into the garden and make a show of ignoring Cosimo, while Biagio tries to get Cosimo’s attention. Biagio knows that Cosimo is still angry at him. Cosimo looks to the road and when the Abbé passes, he tosses something small at him. The cavalier avvocato disappears, but Cosimo can’t figure out where he went. Cosimo climbs between several trees in the garden, getting close to the wall separating the di Rondòs’ garden from the garden of the D’Ondarivas. The D’Ondarivas are rivals, as they hold feudal rights that Baron Arminio wants and also keep an exotic garden with plants from all over the world.
Even after less than an hour in the trees, Cosimo has an entirely different view on the world and what it’s like than the rest of his family does. This begins to show that from the trees, Cosimo will have different opportunities that will allow him to connect differently to Enlightenment ideas circulating at the time. Biagio, on the other hand, will experience and interpret those teachings in a more conventional way, as he doesn’t choose to assert his individuality.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Cosimo climbs over the wall into a magnolia tree in the D’Ondarivas’ garden. Biagio explains that from this point on, he’s recounting the story as Cosimo shared it with him. From the magnolia, Cosimo breathes in the scent of the garden and hears someone singing. He catches sight of a young girl (Viola), dressed in clothing that seems too adult, swinging, singing, and eating an apple. Cosimo climbs until he’s right above Viola, startles her, and then makes a show of spearing her dropped apple with his sword and offering it to her. Viola resumes her haughty appearance, and when she declares that Cosimo is a fruit thief, Cosimo decides he likes the idea. Viola laughs at him—the fruit thieves are her friends, and they don’t wear wigs or gaiters.
Viola is representative of the Romantic era, which prized experiencing intense emotions like awe and anxiety. The Romantic era hasn’t really started yet by 1767, but Viola’s adult clothing foreshadows that it’ll soon arrive, just as adulthood will for her. The D’Ondarivas’ garden also foreshadows what’s to come, as here, Cosimo finds that he has to defend his way of thinking, just as he’ll eventually have to do once the Romantic era arrives and Cosimo’s ideas become normal and expected, not revolutionary.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Cosimo blushes—he loves his gaiters, and he feels inadequate to learn that Viola is friends with the despised fruit thieves and not with him. He cries that he said he was a thief to not scare her; he’s actually a ferocious bandit chief. Viola insists that bandits have guns and that the bandit chief is Gian dei Brughi, who brings her gifts at Christmas. Cosimo spits back that Baron Arminio is right that the D’Ondarivas are lawless, which makes Viola threaten to have him beaten and thrown off her property. She goes back and forth between a towering rage and cool viciousness, confusing Cosimo. He stops himself from announcing he’s the duke of Ombrosa, as it sounds too much like something silly his father would say.
Again, when Viola confuses Cosimo by shifting quickly from one high emotion to another, it shows how ill-equipped Cosimo is (and will continue to be) to be a part of the Romantic era, despite his choice to take to the trees and align himself with nature rather than with society. When Cosimo decides to not sound like Baron Arminio, however, it does show that Cosimo is still trying to differentiate himself from his family and assert his independence.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Viola and Cosimo argue over whether Cosimo is on her land. Cosimo says that the trees are his territory, so he’s not technically on her land. They discuss the rules of their game—Viola is in Cosimo’s territory if she’s in the air, but not if she’s just sitting on her swing—and Viola insults Cosimo’s name and his desire to rule from the trees. Cosimo stands on another swing, but refuses to get down and push Viola. Viola shoves him, turns the seat upside down, and tries to knock him off. Cosimo manages to climb back up to the branch. Viola’s aunt calls for her. Viola tells her aunt that she’s playing with a boy who can’t touch the ground, but Cosimo can’t tell if she’s trying to humiliate him by giving away their game.
Viola’s swing functions as a bridge between the natural world and the civilized world, and between Cosimo and Viola—but, significantly, Cosimo isn’t in control of those bridges. This foreshadows Baron Arminio’s later comment that it’s impossible to know what the consequences of this kind of rebellion will be. While it’s impossible to say at this point what consequences Cosimo might face, it’s clear from his interaction with the swings that he won’t be entirely in control of what happens.
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
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Viola’s aunt recognizes Cosimo and calls Viola to her. Being recognized and Viola’s obedience makes Cosimo feel ashamed. Viola’s aunt invites Cosimo in for a cup of chocolate. Cosimo briefly realizes that he could get revenge on Baron Arminio by accepting and becoming friends with Viola, but he also feels prideful and shy. He climbs back up into the tree.
Choosing to decline and not make his father mad suggests that Cosimo is getting to the point where he’s staying in the trees as a personal project, not just to annoy someone else. In this sense, he’s already becoming far more individualistic.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon