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Green Mansions

William H. Hudson

Summary and Analysis Chapters 11-12


On the following morning, Rima continues to avoid Abel, and his hope that she will confide in him seems futile now. Later, however, Rima approaches Abel as he is sitting listlessly and leads him to the foot of the mountain of Ytaioa. She wants the two of them to climb to the top, and Abel is now convinced that Rima is about to break her silence. When they reach the summit, Rima is curious to know what lies beyond the mountain. Abel starts to explain painstakingly that the view in sight is only a small portion of the entire country — and that in turn is but a fraction of South America.

He then attempts to make her realize the vastness of the whole earth. Rima's voice is tremulous because of her excitement, and she questions Abel about the inhabitants of all those distant regions. Rima especially wishes to know if people such as she exist outside the "green mansions." Abel endeavors to explain to Rima that she is probably the sole survivor of some lost nation and that it is not feasible to undertake a long journey on a fruitless mission, such as finding her vanished race. Mentioning by chance the name of the mountains of Riolama, Abel immediately notices the startling change in Rima. The word has touched her memory. Greatly excited, she says that Riolama is the place she is seeking because her mother was found there and Riolama is her real name. Nothing will now deter her from setting out for Riolama to find the bird people who will welcome her. Rima is infuriated at the realization that Nuflo has known all this time about Riolama and has said nothing. Abel, deeply disturbed by Rima's excited enthusiasm about a trip to Riolama, is unable to convince her that her hopes are unattainable and that she will be heartbroken. Abel can only sum up his reactions by saying, "then I sat down to think."

Finally, when Abel goes reluctantly to Nuflo's hut, he discovers the old man hiding in the bushes to escape Rima's wrath. Nuflo curses Abel for his interference in Rima's life, and he likewise blames the young man for disturbing the tranquility of his own isolated existence. The two men begin to argue loudly, and Rima easily finds them. When the girl berates her guardian for concealing the facts about Riolama, Nuflo pleads for mercy because of his advanced age and his past kindness to Rima and her mother. Nuflo seizes a knife and threatens to kill himself when all his entreaties to Rima come to no avail. Although Abel knows that the old man is bluffing, Rima takes him seriously. She prays to her mother, and Abel, for the first time, comprehends Rima's naive spirit and innocence. Rima, begging her dead mother in a simple prayer to punish Nuflo after his death, sways her guardian; he repents out of a credulous fear of Rima's power. Nuflo will, in fact, take Rima to Riolama — so frightened is he of her influence with her deceased mother's spirit.

Now calling upon her mother in another touching prayer to protect Nuflo in his afterlife should anything fatal happen to him on the journey, Rima eagerly makes plans for the trip to Riolama. But Nuflo, wily as always, demands more time for the necessary preparations required for such a long undertaking. Abel, learning through Rima's prayers of her love for him, also realizes that he can exercise some control over the situation because Rima, after all, does rely upon his advice. A compromise agreement to start for Riolama in seven or eight days is accepted by everyone as a logical plan. Abel, however, now sets a price for Nuflo to pay if Abel is to accompany the group: the complete story of Rima's origin, the reasons why Nuflo and she are living such a solitary existence, and the facts about the bird people whom Rima longs to see. Again a compromise is reached. Nuflo agrees to answer Abel's questions, but the old man, in order to relieve the monotony and fatigue of the difficult days ahead, will relate the history in sections as they travel.


The scene between Abel and Rima on the mountaintop of Ytaioa is a turning point for the romance. Rima has now expressed her innermost thoughts about the cause for her constant sorrow; she has become determined — almost obsessed — to pursue the impossible goal of reaching her people at Riolama; and she has set in motion a series of events, the outcome of which cannot be anything but tragic. This moving interview between the lovers results in an ironic twist of fate for Abel. He has found peace and love in the vastness of the isolated jungle, and he has accepted nature as a worthwhile substitute for civilization. Rima, however, who has come to represent for Abel the best of two possible worlds, those of humanity and of nature, and who has led Abel to a fuller appreciation of the "green mansions," now wants to expand her vision to embrace the civilization rejected by Abel. Their roles, in short, have become reversed; Abel senses his coming loss by his inability to restrain Rima as she dashes off to upbraid Nuflo. The happiness, then, which Abel has supposedly found in his "beloved green mansions" has proved short-lived.

Rima, too, has changed a great deal as a result of the fateful conversation with Abel on the summit of Ytaioa. She is talkative, desires to know details about the rest of the world, wants to meet people, and is eager to abandon the solitude of her home in the woodland. The transformation of Rima is sudden and complete. One might ask if her conduct is justified by the way she has been presented to the reader. One must remember, in justification of Hudson's presentation of his heroine, that Rima is a girl who has lived under the burden of the past which she has wanted desperately to know. She has never been able to express herself and to develop within some regular framework of a family life. Now, she reacts enthusiastically in the other direction toward an exuberance as a balance to her restrained life in the woodland. This sudden swing in the young girl's outlook toward life is understandable in the light of her unusual childhood and adolescence.

Also, Rima has never had to test her life against the outside world of hard reality and cold disillusionment. Her innocence is her weak point in any confrontation with adversity, and Abel prophetically sees the unfortunate conclusion. Rima's two prayers, which are admittedly lengthy, melodramatic, and ingenuous, are nonetheless very important because the speeches reveal to Abel her vulnerability against the harsh truth. Of course, Abel comprehends why she avoided him previously, and he senses her innocence in trying to probe the strange emotion of love. He also understands that he can help her because she is very dependent upon his strength. But irony again characterizes these revelations. The lovers are closer to one another, and they have apparently pierced the psychological barriers that had been creating a crisis. However, new obstacles have arisen in the path of their love at these revelatory remarks of Rima. Although Abel is obviously as much — if not more — in love with Rima as before the mountain visit, he sees also one immediate trait as a result of Rima's involvement in the outside world. She is so determined to visit Riolama that she can be harsh toward Nuflo and concerned only with the expedition, even to the exclusion of tender demonstrations of love toward Abel.

Abel's love for Rima is, however, a passion which has evolved into a spiritual attraction. There is little throughout Green Mansions of the sexual or naturalistic in Hudson's portrayal of the lovers. A romantic delicacy always characterizes the physical descriptions of the nascent love affair. "Still, in some mysterious way, Rima had become to me, even as to superstitious old Nuflo," thinks Abel, "a being apart and sacred, and this feeling seemed to mix with my passion, to purify and exalt it and make it infinitely sweet and precious." Rima, then, is the idealization of perfection in womanhood and in love; she is more than the physical representation of the love between man and woman. Rima is converted by Hudson into a symbol of religion, as can be observed in Abel's thought that she is "apart and sacred." Her prayers, Nuflo's belief that Rima enjoys some favor with heaven, and Abel's increasing sanctification of the girl lend a religious glow to Hudson's outline of her.

Also, Hudson, in love with the land of his youth, strives to convey in Green Mansions a realization and appreciation of the vast panorama of the South American continent. Abel's eulogistic commentary during his visit with Rima to Ytaioa is another sparkling facet of Hudson's concept of South America, particularly in the future. Previously, Abel and Nuflo have bitterly remarked about the present injustices and ills of South American life; but, for the first time, a visionary analysis is included that is very laudatory. Abel, carried away "by so sublime a theme," seems to forget his primary aim of dissuading Rima from leaving the security of the forest, known intimately by her. Abel ironically stimulates further her curiosity to become acquainted with the vast reaches of the South American territories. Abel, in fact, begins to give Rima a lesson in geography and history regarding South America; he insists that the continent, far from being inferior to the European past, has a wealth and tradition of glory that has been neglected by myopic historians. If, however, the past and present offer sweeping vistas and inspiring models, the future is even more promising for South America. Hudson, indeed, comes close to a proclamation that the Latin American lands will be the center of human activity. "From this vast stage, to be occupied in the distant future by millions and myriads of beings, like us of upright form," writes Hudson in a memorable passage, "the nations that will be born when all the existing dominant races on the globe and the civilizations they represent have perished as utterly as those who sculptured the stones of old Tiahuanaco — from this theatre of palms prepared for a drama unlike any which the Immortals have yet witnessed.

Of course, one may quarrel with Hudson's prophecies, but his accuracy on details of the continent and his sincerity about his hopes require respect. And, in an age when South America was certainly neglected socially and politically, his writings, such as Green Mansions, called attention to the beauties — and the problems — of this important part of the world. He is, of course, following the earlier lead of the Romantics, such as the American novelist James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote glowingly of nature in an untamed continent. Hudson's poetic prose is now enlisted to greater extent and increasingly on philosophical interpretations of nature. The naturalist, in brief, has evolved clearly into the thinker, and Hudson's efforts to formulate some religious philosophy, generally pantheistic, has emerged likewise in the progress of these chapters.

Structurally, of course, the story has taken a very sharp and unhappy turn away from the "green mansions" because Abel, though he will soon learn about Rima's and Nuflo's past, intuitively feels that the idyll has been interrupted. There are ominous hints that a disaster is in the making.