Green Mansions By William H. Hudson Summary and Analysis Chapters 18-19

Summary

Unlike Abel, Nuflo is not worried about Rima's return alone to the woodland because he has great confidence in her ability to survive in the jungle. Exhausted physically by the trip to Riolama and reassured by Nuflo, Abel rests for two days, but he then presses Nuflo to start back despite the latter's desire to relax longer here. The journey homeward requires twenty-three days because the weather is worse than the previous heavy period of rain. Food is short, and both men are already fatigued from the first trek.

When they at last come to Nuflo's hut, the two men are very upset because the house has been burned to the ground. Nuflo, sure that Runi's people have committed this destruction, is fearful of the future; Abel, on the other hand, is concerned only about Rima. He enters the "green mansions" but senses that "a strange melancholy rested on the forest." Abel goes to familiar places such as the mora tree and soon, in desperation, softly calls for Rima. False notes of birds alert him to the presence of Indians, and he is startled to see Piaké, the brother of Kua-kó, who takes him back as a prisoner to the village. Abel is very certain that something has happened to Rima because the Parahuaris have never dared to penetrate the forest due to their fear of her. Abel's inquiries, cautious and shrewd, produce no information about Rima except Piaké's statement that the evil spirit is no longer in the woodland. Abel decides to try an escape after he has uncovered the facts about Rima's fate. Nuflo, consequently, will have to remain alone and take his chances against the marauding savages. He already vows vengeance against the Parahuaris if Rima has perished because of them.

Abel's arrival in the village excites all the Indians, but they no longer look upon him as a friend. When Runi comes home, a trial takes place, and the chief bitterly accuses Abel of betraying the Indians who have sheltered him. Runi is especially afraid that Abel has visited the neighboring Managa and his tribe, who are enemies of the Parahuaris. These foes could use any information which Abel might give them to destroy Runi's people. Abel's defense is a mixture of truth and omission, and he carefully leaves out Rima's name in his arguments. He explains that he met an old man who claimed that there was gold at Riolama. Since he had lost all his fortune in a war, the only way to recoup his position in the civilized world is by gold. However, no gold was located at Riolama, so he returned trustingly to his friends, the Parahuaris. Abel asserts boldly that he will go elsewhere to look for better friends if the Indians do not believe him. Although Runi is not firmly convinced by Abel's speech, he is at least persuaded to allow the young man to remain without being harmed.

The tribe slowly seems to forget the incident, but Abel only increases his bitterness and hatred toward the savages. Three days later, Kua-kó enters the encampment with important news which the Indians discuss in secret; Abel guesses from their preparations that a war party is in the making. He offers to accompany them and notices that Runi, with a bulge at his waist, is hiding the revolver. Abel hopes that the weapon will be returned to him during the expedition. When the war party camps at night, Abel determines to question Kua-kó about Rima. He traps the Indian by praising the courage the tribe shows in being willing to hunt in the woodland. Kua-kó narrates the whole story: The travelers met by Abel and the others on the way to Riolama reported the fact to Runi; thus the Parahuaris knew that the forest was safe for them to use for hunting. Admitting that Rima accompanied him to Riolama, Abel lies about her return by saying that she was frightened and stayed there. Kua-kó gleefully gives the response that Abel has been wanting when he brags that Rima did come back.

The Indians saw Rima in the woodland and trapped her in a tree. They were, however, afraid to shoot arrows at her because of the past incident when she supposedly threw back an arrow at them. Fire was the only solution, so the whole tribe prepared a large fire around the tree. As the flames reached the top of the tree, Rima cried out like a bird, "Abel! Abel!" then plunged into the fire. Abel can barely restrain himself from killing Kua-kó because of his emotional anguish at the confirmation of Rima's horrible death. Pretending to go to sleep, Abel later escapes from the war party and heads for Managa's camp so that he can warn him about the planned attack. For further vengeance, Abel wants Managa to destroy all the Parahuaris. But Kua-kó is suspicious of Abel and stalks him on the trail. Abel, with only a knife for a weapon, is wounded by a spear thrown by Kua-kó, but he ferociously turns on the Indian and kills him. Although Abel fears that the other savages have also pursued him, he happily realizes that he is mistaken. He heads for Managa's village.

Analysis

It is apparent in these two chapters that Abel is quickly approaching an emotional, psychological, and physical crisis; his mood, as he admits, is close to "a new nature, black and implacable." The pace of Green Mansions is very swift in these two chapters; Hudson, showing forceful narrative powers, compresses a considerable span of time within a few pages. Like the third act in a play, all the movement is quickly aimed at the resolution of the conflict and, in this particular case, at the explanation of tragedy for the lovers.

At the beginning, Abel is demoralized by Rima's departure, and Nuflo's words of trust in her skill do not restore Abel's peace of mind. Abel is also suffering from physical exhaustion which saps his remaining strength. He is, after all, a city dweller who is unable to match the rugged efforts of Nuflo even though the latter is much older than he is. The very difficult journey from Riolama to the forest causes a further deterioration in Abel's physical resources. His mental stamina is of course reduced by anxiety and a growing depression about Rima. Nuflo and Abel are equally alarmed at finding the hut destroyed, and all hope for Rima's safety vanishes at this moment. Abel's capture by the Parahuaris, their hostile attitude, their presence in the "green mansions," and the casual way in which the Indians dismiss any fear about Rima's magic powers complete the full cycle of his belief in a tragic death for the girl. Indeed, only one question needs to be answered for Abel: How exactly did Rima perish?

In this crisis, Abel's pitiful state and his mounting agony have nevertheless stimulated him to one supreme effort — even if the endeavor costs him his life. He insists upon learning the precise facts about Rima's end, and he promises to wreak violence and death upon all the savages, no matter what the individual guilt may be. The harshness and cruelty of men are dramatically portrayed as Abel finally learns the horrible truth about Rima's murder. The story, though told at second hand by Kua-kó, still is vividly related. All the action is well motivated, and the tension is heightened by the keen narrative prowess of Hudson. The pursuit of Abel by Kua-kó is probably the most thrilling and melodramatic scene in the book. It is easy to comprehend Abel's emotions, his desperate gesture of defiance as Kua-kó approaches, and perhaps the experience of "a feeling of savage joy" at the outcome.

However, Abel, the civilized representative of the city, has demonstrated a violent nature which certainly imitates and rivals that of his Indian opponents. If one considers the condition of the savages, which breeds fear, prejudice, and superstition, their reactions to Rima's entrapment in the tree are not so startling. And, also, their treatment of Abel has been incredibly trustworthy. Hudson, by criticizing the savages through the eyes of Abel, may be expressing his own puzzled attitude about the violence and destruction of nature — just as inexplicable as the beauty and grandeur of untamed life. The forest in these chapters is no longer seen as a refuge but as a dungeon. The colors selected for the descriptions of the "green mansions" are dark instead of the former bright hues. In fact, nature is pushed to the background as the tragic deeds occur. It has lost its prominent place within the framework of the romance because of the frightful actions of the dwellers in the forest. Only in a brooding manner does the woodland reign supreme; gone, for instance, are the joyous sunsets of past chapters. In these dramatic episodes, then, there is logically no room for concern about the beauties of nature.

Although Rima disappears in the narration and her death concludes her active role in the story, she is the motive for Abel's actions and his complete change of personality. Rima was raised to the level of an ideal, and this personification of a dream so enriched Abel's thoughts that he could not conceive of her disappearance. Hudson, by making Rima a member of an exotic tribe of bird people, called attention to her unique status. She is, however, the creature of nature. Until her return to the woodland, only the favorable side of nature has been observed, but nature has an aspect of violence. The ferocity and force of nature, when the evil is unleashed, overwhelms everyone in its path. Rima, so enamored of the trees, is symbolically — and ironically — killed while seeking safety in one of the green mansions.

Abel, nevertheless, emerges in Green Mansions once more as the principal character. Temporarily, Rima dominated the action; the character development of the girl provided the main interest. But Abel has changed so greatly that he is unrecognizable as the romantic young man of the "green mansions" and the mountaintops of Ytaioa and Riolama. If, however, irony and a profound, puzzling philosophy about the vagaries of nature characterize Hudson's portrait of Abel, the result is also the beginning of a serious psychological study. The question to be answered in the two chapters and in succeeding ones is very direct: How will Abel face life without Rima?

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