Green Mansions By William H. Hudson Summary and Analysis Chapters 3-4

Summary

Returning several times to the forest, Abel is gradually convinced that "the bird or being" follows him during each of the visits. He concludes that the Indians may know more about this mystery than they have revealed. Offering Kua-kó his metal match-box in return for the native's services as a guide through the woodland, Abel is at first spurned by the frightened Indian. Kua-kó, however, cannot resist the offer for long and so he accompanies Abel to the forest. Although Kua-kó takes along his zabatana, a long tube from which the Indians blow poisoned arrows, the young brave refuses to kill any game within the boundaries of the forbidden forest. He explains accidentally to Abel that "the daughter of the Didi," who dwells among the trees, would throw the poisoned dart back at him. Abel, although he laughs at this explanation, understands that he has become involved in a greater mystery. Kua-kó's alarmed behavior and abrupt silence confirm Abel's impression. Overcome by his fears, Kua-kó suddenly bolts from Abel's side and flees as fast as he can in the direction of the Indian village.

Alone, Abel suddenly hears the mysterious creature nearby; he is completely bewildered by the apparently human emotions conveyed by the beautiful melodies of what he now calls "being, not bird." There is anger or resentment in the voice although Abel also feels that the creature is kindly disposed toward the young man's presence in the woodland. But Abel, like Kua-kó, begins to be overwhelmed by the imaginary terrors of the vast forest and by his own isolated situation. The suspense is broken when Abel finds himself in the surroundings of araguatos, or howling monkeys, who terrify him at first and then amuse him later with their antics and "unparalleled vocal powers." When the woodland voice becomes silent, Abel goes back calmly to the Parahuari village.

After reflecting on his latest adventures, Abel enters the encampment of his hosts more confidently because he is now sure that the creature in the woods is friendly toward him and unfriendly toward the Indians. Runi and Kua-kó, obviously curious about their guest's impressions and experiences, conceal their desire to find out the truth. Nevertheless, they question Abel as slyly as possible; his report about the tame araguatos amaze the Indians who have never observed the howling monkeys at such close range. Runi, in fact, admits that the Indians never go to the forest to hunt despite the abundant game there. Abel impresses Kua-kó by giving the savage the match-box despite the fact that the Indian did not earn his prize. Kua-kó, in turn, surprises Abel by starting to teach the white man the use of the zabatana. When Abel becomes somewhat proficient in the use of the deadly weapon, Kua-kó eagerly agrees with his pupil that the latter might be able to shoot within twenty yards "a bird not smaller than a small man." Kua-kó, laughing heartily, puzzles Abel by inquiring "whether a small woman was not the same as a small man."

Becoming curious once again about the "mysterious melody," Abel prepares to pay another visit to the forest, but he is determined to go alone from now on. While Abel is out with Kua-kó for further practice with the zabatana, he makes an excuse and returns to the village to ward off any suspicion before going into the woodland.

Analysis

Abel is committed without question to the mystery of the forest, as he has already realized. He is now more cognizant of his own personal involvement not only in the world of "green mansions" but in the fact that "in this wild and solitary retreat some tremendous adventure was about to befall me." The woodland is intimately associated for Abel with the owner of the voice which constantly draws him into the "green mansions." Hudson, however, slowly and skillfully leads his readers to the solution of the mystery; his explanations present a very penetrating psychological study of human emotions through the portrait of Abel.

Abel learns, or deduces, a great deal about the source of the mysterious, delightful melodies. Principally, he comes to the conclusions through his own reactions that the voice belongs not to a "bird," as he thought previously, but to a "being" who is an unusual — and unique — resident of the woodland. It is of course true that Hudson already hinted at this solution, but the confirmation is firmly conveyed in these two chapters. Also, through the inadvertent remark of Kua-kó to Abel during the zabatana practice, it is implied that the inhabitant of the forest is "a small woman." Abel, of course, does not grasp fully Kua-kó's meaning at this time. Other facts about the "being" are brought out: Abel is in no danger and on the contrary is welcomed into the area; the Indians are enemies of the creature because they fear to go into the forest; and the birds and animals feel an affinity for "the daughter of the Didi." The episode with the howling monkeys is revelatory for Abel — and for the Indians — of this strange bond of unity.

While Abel is approaching closer to this evidently friendly environment of the "green mansions" and the elusive creature, the conflict between Abel and the Parahuari tribe has been intensified. Abel is unaware that Kua-kó and Runi's interest in the forest is far from being innocent curiosity. They see in Abel the agent by whom they can eliminate the "small woman," who frightens them from hunting in the woodland. Although Abel is as yet unaware of the sinister plans of the Parahuaris, the reader can immediately and surely comprehend Runi and Kau-kó's interest in Abel — and his mastery of the zabatana. Abel is very pleased at their discomfiture at his success in coming and going at will without any hindrance from the "daughter of the Didi."

Hudson uses suspense, fear, and mystery as Abel and Kua-kó explore the forest. Nothing really happens to cause the Indian to react in such an abnormal manner — except his own imagination — and Kua-kó's cowardly, hasty flight is somewhat humorously described. But Abel, though disapproving of his guide's behavior, follows the savage; the two fugitives offer a memorable picture of human beings caught in the trap of their fears. When Abel stumbles and luckily loses Kua-kó, the hero's plight ironically improves instead of worsening as he initially thinks Hudson sketches an impressive scene of one individual surrounded by the immensity of an unknown natural setting. His descriptions, precise and striking, can be appreciated in this moment when Abel looks up at the trees and observes for the first time an araguato: "High up, where a pale gleam of tempered sunlight fell through the leaves, a grotesque human like face black as ebony and adorned with a great red beard, appeared staring down upon me." Hudson succeeds in evoking a startling image through familiar items, such as the colors, and he relates these features to his hero's past experiences — before identifying the howling monkey.

Nevertheless, the adventures, emotions, and reactions of Abel are within the realm of the possible; there is nothing bordering on the fantastic or improbable — as yet — in these chapters. The reader, all in all, can accept Abel's excursion into the forest as an event that could happen to him. The explanations of the Indians, though necessarily an exotic feature for an American or English audience, are valid and understandable, and Hudson's psychological portrayals of the Parahuari savages are logically drawn. Abel's relations with the natives offer no objections and might be the expected reactions to a wanderer in his particular situation. Hudson is especially believable in his extensive analysis of Abel's thoughts in the woodland. Every fear and deduction are logically explained, and the varying moods of Abel from his terror at the screeching of the howling monkeys to his later laughter at the comical behavior of the araguatos allow the reader to follow, sympathize, and imagine himself in the exact predicament. Hudson's appeal is, of course, centered on the romantic, adventurous spirit of his readers; this attraction will be more strongly expressed in the coming chapters.

Throughout the book, Hudson inserts his love of nature by means of the descriptive passages. Even at a critical moment, the author insists upon a poetic rendition of the scenery which, instead of detracting from Abel's mood, contributes to a deeper understanding of the situation. "The sun was sinking behind the forest, its broad red disc still showing through the topmost leaves," writes Hudson, "and the higher part of the foliage was of a luminous green, like green flame, throwing off flakes of quivering, fiery light, but lower down the trees were in profound shadow." The passage adds not only to the beauty of the scene, but Hudson also repeats his theme of the "green mansions" — the principal theme of the novel.

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