The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gradually, Cosimo learns that the Sinforosa is a noble girl who rides a white pony and, for a while, protected the fruit thieves by blowing a hunting horn whenever she saw farmers. She betrayed them, but the details are hard to parse. It’s possible she just lured them to her villa and then let the servants beat the boys, but it’s also possible that she courted two of the boys, Bel-Loré and Ugasso, at the same time and the beating had to do with this. Cosimo isn’t surprised to learn that Viola is the Sinforosa, but this revelation increases Cosimo’s mania. He considers leading the fruit thieves to ransack the trees in the D’Ondarivas’ garden, but also considers fighting them off to awe her. Feeling melancholy, Cosimo slumps in a tree.
The way that Biagio describes Viola and her games with the fruit thieves suggests that, unlike Cosimo, she’s not an especially kind or virtuous person. Instead, she likes to be in charge and make other people angry so that she can feel powerful. When Cosimo considers using and abusing the fruit thieves to impress Viola, however, it reads differently, despite also being a mean move. For Cosimo, this is a childish desire that he’ll grow out of—while Viola never grows out of her tendencies to abuse her suitors.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
Suddenly, Cosimo leaps up and moves through the trees. He passes through the di Rondò garden several times, which causes Baron Arminio to try to convince the Abbé Fauchelafleur that Cosimo is possessed and needs to be exorcised. The Generalessa peers through a field telescope. She spends hours looking for Cosimo and plotting his paths on a map. She sometimes picks up small colored flags and signals to Cosimo, which makes Biagio feel betrayed—the Generalessa never played games with them before now. Occasionally, Cosimo answers her. His answers dissolve the Generalessa’s fears and she alone seems to accept that Cosimo isn’t going to change. Baron Arminio remains fixated on discussing when Cosimo will return.
Baron Arminio’s attempt to have Cosimo exorcised shows again that as far as he’s concerned, Cosimo is just rebelling and being a silly, selfish child by choosing to go into the trees. As a woman who experienced a more unconventional upbringing, however, the Generalessa may have an easier time understanding that Cosimo is asserting his independence and will simply become a different person than what she and her husband hoped for.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
From behind the Generalessa, Battista offers a dish in Cosimo’s direction, but Baron Arminio slaps her and sends her inside. Biagio yearns to follow Cosimo now that he’s playing with the fruit thieves. He spends a lot of time watching the valley for signs of the fruit thieves. Biagio is watching on the day they all hear the hunting horn. The fruit thieves scatter and run to Viola, abandoning Cosimo. Cosimo climbs after them and finds them all on the top of a hill. Viola bites her whip, while the boys all bite their fingers or plums. Cosimo emerges from a fig tree and blurts that he hasn’t left the trees. Biagio notes that saying something like this always makes it seem silly, and Viola kindly tells Cosimo he’s clever. The fruit thieves howl with laughter.
Again, Biagio’s interest in the fruit thieves shows that he will benefit greatly from Cosimo’s new perspective, as it introduces him to what else is possible in the world—and what kind of possibilities his parents are interested in keeping from him. Cosimo, meanwhile, gains valuable experience in how to talk about his choice to stay in the trees—namely, to not talk about it and instead, let others do the talking for him.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Cosimo’s branch breaks, but he doesn’t hit the ground—his coattails catch on a branch. He stares at Viola and the fruit thieves upside-down and vows to never talk about being in the trees again. He climbs upright as Viola blows the horn and takes off. The boys follow her in a game of chase, but they soon realize that the true chase game is between Viola and Cosimo. When they realize this, the fruit thieves abandon the game. This makes it no longer fun for Viola, and Cosimo suspects she started it just to make them jealous and him angry. The fruit thieves pelt Viola and Cosimo with pebbles before leaving for the poorest part of Ombrosa. Viola turns her pony to the beach and Cosimo watches her gallop.
Viola continues to demonstrate that her goal in life is to make others jealous and unhappy so that she can feel powerful and in control. Though she’s mostly successful here, she does ultimately lose the fruit thieves’ attention, which doesn’t bode well for this habit in the future when Viola might genuinely want someone’s attention.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Get the entire The Baron in the Trees LitChart as a printable PDF.
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