The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cosimo leads Viola to the tree where he carved their names alongside Ottimo Massimo’s. Viola is moved and when she learns that Ottimo Massimo is Turcaret, her childhood dachshund, she laments having to leave him. She suddenly sneers that Ottimo Massimo is an ugly name. Ottimo Massimo is thrilled to have both masters, and the most wonderful part of Cosimo’s life begins. Viola rides through the countryside on her white horse and whenever she sees Cosimo, she climbs into the trees. For Viola, love is about heroism and making Cosimo prove himself. They clash sometimes, as Cosimo dislikes sensuality. Viola makes him see the error of his ways, and he even writes to Rousseau about it. Rousseau doesn’t answer.
Again, lots of things point to the fact that Viola is a cruel lover who only wants her way, as when she insults Ottimo Massimo’s name and makes Cosimo see where he’s gone wrong. In this sense, she’s unwilling to give in to Cosimo’s ways of thinking at all and instead forces Cosimo to accept her way of doing things as the only right way. That this is part of the best time of Cosimo’s life suggests that there’s a lot to gain from straddling two periods like this.
Themes
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Nevertheless, Viola is still spoiled, and Cosimo doesn’t spark her imagination. This leads to short-lived fights. They talk about their lives, but Cosimo doesn’t understand what sets Viola off and often misspeaks. She never tells him what makes her angry, though Biagio suggests that Cosimo may purposefully misunderstand her. When they fight, Viola gets on her horse and races away. When she returns, Cosimo calls for her attention and hurts himself or destroys trees until she runs away again. She finally seems suddenly moved by Cosimo’s acts.
The possibility that both Cosimo and Viola are acting in ways designed to incite a reaction in the other and bring the other over to their side shows the tensions between the Enlightenment and the Romantic eras. It’s difficult for adherents to see the righteousness of what they don’t believe in, and in this case, this leads to fights and violence.
Themes
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Cosimo doesn’t understand that the same thing motivates their love and their fights, and they often argue about whether suffering is a part of love. Viola insists it is and that Cosimo must suffer to show that he loves her, but Cosimo rejects this on principle. In addition to these moments of despair, Cosimo also experiences explosions of joy and leaps through the trees, shouting about Viola. He often recites love poems in other languages, and, once, during a celebration of Ombrosa’s patron saint, he leaps onto a greased pole, shouts about Venus, and leaps away again. Viola loves these acts. Though Cosimo admires Viola’s love of riding, he’s also jealous since he knows he can’t have her all to himself if she’s on horseback. Sometimes Viola wishes he could ride with her. Viola’s horse becomes surefooted, so she asks it to climb trees.
Viola’s insistence that suffering is a part of love is a very Romantic idea, while Cosimo rejects it because of his own closely held Enlightenment beliefs. The suffering she mentions is primarily an emotional suffering—which, much to Cosimo’s chagrin, he seems to be doing a lot of—which falls in line with the Romantic focus on experiencing heightened emotions. Their jealousy and arguments shows the tensions between the two eras and suggests that this romance cannot last forever.
Themes
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
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