The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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Themes and Colors
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
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
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Baron in the Trees, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Baron in the Trees tells the story of Cosimo, a young Italian noble who, after an argument with his parents in which he refuses to eat snails for lunch, climbs into the trees and lives there for the rest of his life. This move to the trees, however, doesn’t meaningfully hinder Cosimo’s education—indeed, after a period of a few years in which he essentially runs wild, Cosimo dedicates himself to reading and learning…

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In many ways, The Baron in the Trees is a classic Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age novel that deals specifically with the protagonist’s moral, intellectual, and psychological growth. When the reader first meets Cosimo, he is 12 years old and on the brink of puberty—in other words, he’s nearly ready to break free from his family and assert his independence and individuality. As the novel follows Cosimo throughout his life, it makes the case that a…

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While it’s possible to construe Cosimo’s choice to live in the trees as a fundamentally selfish one—and indeed, Baron Arminio does just this for a long time—it’s also impossible to ignore that Cosimo dedicates his life to making his community and the world a better place, whether by creating brigades to fight fires or by expanding on philosophers’ ideas of how to form just, ethical governments. In many ways, Cosimo exhibits a spirit of…

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While a fantastical novel in many ways, The Baron in the Trees nevertheless is still very reflective of the time in which it takes place. The book begins at the end of the Age of Enlightenment in the latter half of the 18th century, and continues on during the rise of the Romantic era, which began in the last few decades of the 18th century and reached its peak in the first 50 years of…

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Though related to the Age of Enlightenment as a whole, it’s worth taking a closer look specifically at the role that nature plays, both generally and in terms of shaping Cosimo’s philosophy. One of Cosimo’s regular correspondents, the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, proposed that humans are born into perfection—but, as they engage with society, become corrupted. This idea of perfection is something that Rousseau ties to the natural world, as opposed to the manmade…

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