The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Baron in the Trees can help.

The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ombrosa is full of vineyards, and as Cosimo gets older, he becomes light enough to walk across the trellises. Every year around harvest time, fights arise over how much to send to the clergy, the nobles, and the governor of Genoa. These arguments lead Cosimo to decide that the Ombrosotti should create “complaint books,” after the ones created in France. By this time he spends hours sitting in the square, explaining the news of the French Revolution. He finds a school notebook, hangs it from a tree, and asks everyone to record what’s wrong in their lives. Cosimo decides it’s too sad, so he asks everyone to write what they want most. He writes “Viola” and titles the final book Book of Complaints and Joys. There’s nowhere to send it, so it gets wet in the rain and the sight drives the Ombrosotti to rebellion.
The historical complaint books were compiled by the clergy, the nobles, and the general population and sent to the government in France not long before the French Revolution. The hope was that the government would be able to address those complaints, but the French Revolution happened instead. Bringing people together to put this complaint book together illustrates Cosimo’s commitment to Enlightenment ideals and to egalitarianism especially, as he encourages everyone to participate in putting this together.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Biagio says that in this sense, Ombrosa experiences many of the same things that caused the French Revolution—but, not being in France, there was no revolution. There are battles nearby led by Napoleon himself. In September, people seem as though they’re preparing for something. The harvest begins silently but oddly, the mule drivers don’t separate out shares for the higher-ups before pressing the grapes. The collectors don’t know what to do, but one finally says something. At this, someone blows into a conch, a song rises among the harvesters and Cosimo, and the harvesters pick and crush grapes faster than ever. A battle breaks out and harvesters chase the constables and collectors into the vats of grapes and send them running away, covered in grape residue.
Biagio is a noble who’s probably receiving some of the grape harvest, so the narration here is likely filtered though where he was in society. Further, the French Revolution generally heralds the end of the Age of Enlightenment, which shows that at least as this era makes way for the next, it’s not an easy or gradual transition. Further, as time goes on, Cosimo continues to get older and less revolutionary in his ideas, which shows that even as time marches on, Cosimo himself will get left behind.
Themes
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
The harvest continues like a party while terrified nobles, including Biagio, lock themselves in their villas. The people celebrate and sing as Cosimo lectures on Rousseau and Voltaire. Soon after, troops arrive from Genoa and Austria to squash the rumor that Ombrosa wants to be a part of France. The troops break through barricades, imprison many (but not Cosimo), and try them. The prisoners prove their innocence and go free, though troops remain in Ombrosa. The young Count d’Estomac leads the Austro-Sardinian troops, and he and Battista set up in Biagio’s house. Battista entertains everyone by beheading small animals with a model guillotine, while Biagio thinks of Cosimo on the run in the woods.
That Biagio spends most of the French Revolution thinking about Cosimo again suggests that while he may portray himself as a nondescript noble to the reader, there’s at least a part of him that’s far more revolutionary than that—if given the opportunity, he may have followed Cosimo. When Cosimo lectures on Rousseau and Voltaire during the celebration, it makes it clear that for him, this is still a theoretical exercise. This may make him susceptible to misreading things and making bad decisions, as he did with the cavalier avvocato and the pirates.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon