Green Mansions By William H. Hudson Summary and Analysis Chapters 5-6

Summary

On the way to the forest, Abel is very happy at the thought of leaving the Indians for the "green mansions" where he had found "so great happiness." He is amused by watching a spider chase an imaginary fly, caused by a moving shadow. A sound of laughter from someone, equally enjoying the spider's motions, suggests again to Abel that the elusive singer is an intelligent being like himself. The next day, Abel's search is rewarded because he surprises a beautiful young girl near a stream. The girl vanishes so quickly that Abel doubts for a time whether or not he has been deceived by an illusion. Determined to meet the girl of the forest, Abel visits the same haunts for the next two days without success. He then decides to stay away for a while to feign indifference and thereby coax her into an appearance upon his return.

For two days Abel goes with Kua-kó and tries to improve his marksmanship with the zabatana. He astonishes the Indian by revealing his accidental and brief meeting with the girl of the forest. Elated by the success of his plan, Kua-kó explains to Abel that the white man, able to approach the girl, can kill her with the zabatana. He further shocks Abel by promising to let him marry Oalava, his sister, as a reward for killing "the daughter of the Didi." Knowing instinctively that the girl is no daughter of an evil spirit, Abel almost strikes Kua-kó in rage and ends by refusing to speak to the savage about the matter.

Abel, anxious to revisit the forest, ignores signs of an approaching storm and immediately enters his "beloved green mansions." He sees a coral snake on his path and starts to throw a rock at the serpent to protect himself. He misses and picks up another rock, but the forest girl suddenly appears and stops Abel. The young man is stunned to see the snake rest protectively beside her naked feet; he realizes that the girl is probably a wild solitary inhabitant of the woods and no fantastic vision or superstitious creation. Enraptured by her beauty, Abel tries to touch her but is bitten by the snake, which he has accidentally touched. Abel, sure that he will die within a short time unless help is obtained, runs in the direction of the Parahuari village. But he takes a wrong turn. Confused by the new scenery and drenched by the rain from the storm, he stumbles helplessly until he reaches a precipice. He falls to the bottom unconscious after endeavoring vainly to lower himself carefully to the top of a tree.

Analysis

Abel's love of the "green mansions" and his meeting with the girl of the forest are the two themes carried to new heights by the author in these two chapters. By now, Abel is completely dedicated to the overpowering grandeur of untrampled nature, the love of solitude, disgust with civilization, and respect toward "the Author of my being for the gift of that wild forest." He is, in fact, carried away to the point that he weeps upon looking at the wild, virgin woodland. Morally and psychologically, then, Abel is prepared for his encounter with the "forest nymph," as he now describes the girl.

This devotion to nature is evident in the long passages about Abel's observation of the spider's fruitless pursuit of the shadow of a dead leaf, the motions and outlines of the coral snake, the effects of a storm upon the forest, and the tropical foliage, in addition to the birds, encircling the mysterious young woman. Hudson's style is the rich poetry already noted in other chapters, but he adds to the brilliant range of vocabulary his intimate knowledge as a naturalist. Only a writer long acquainted with the life of birds, animals, and insects could have rendered so vividly the natural life of the tropical forest. There is, then, the union of the writer, or poet, and the scientist; these accounts of the South American fauna and flora are integral parts of Hudson's fame in his works.

The author likewise maintains a high level of reader interest by dramatic, almost melodramatic, efforts which are very successful. Suspense always remains high whenever Abel enters the woodland, and his accidental sight of the girl when she flees hastily answers the question about the identity of the forest dweller but stimulates the reader to inquire more about her. Hudson, however, builds up suspense slowly during the incident when Abel finally finds the girl and she remains. Abel had intended to kill the snake at the beginning, is amazed at the mutually protective reactions of girl and reptile, forgets the snake, and, ironically, is bitten by the creature he originally challenged. The scene then increases in excitement as Abel fears an immediate, horrible death from the snakebite, the girl runs away, the thunder and rain cause additional suffering, and the hero falls in a faint. When the chapter ends, there is no hint as to how he will survive the ordeal.

The theme of nature, so stressed in these chapters, is subordinated to Abel's meeting with the forest girl. Again, Hudson has slowly led up to the moment, and Abel's first sight of the "forest nymph" is characterized by some very human understandable reactions. The trips of Abel to the forest are almost in the tradition of the usual boy-meets-girl formula: Abel hastens to catch a glimpse of the elusive young woman; returns daily to see her; stays away to try to make her jealous; and, of prime importance, idealizes her evident beauty . The girl of the forest is the personification of the "green mansions," and Abel significantly associates the color of green with the girl. The two themes of natural and human beauty are blended in this important imagery: "This tint I presently attributed to the effect of the sunlight falling on her through the green foliage." Soon, however, Abel will personify this mysterious dweller of his "beloved green mansions" by noting the "pearly whiteness" of the girl's skin. In short, the forest girl is the amalgam of human perfection according to Abel's romantic interpretation and the most noble and beautiful aspects of untamed nature

Hudson provides his readers with a major clue to the explanation of the girl's presence in the woodland; this conclusion of Abel about the strange young woman is a key to future developments in the plot. Abel realizes suddenly and correctly that she is an intelligent, beautiful person; she is unique in that she is probably the sole survivor of a lost race on the South American continent. There is consequently a realistic basis for the romanticism of Abel regarding the "exquisite being," who now befriends him. It is within these chapters that Hudson's story takes a clearly marked and different direction. He is creating a romance, and one can recall the subtitle of Green Mansions as "a romance of the tropical forest." Fantasy enters the narrative as the plot makes use of the exceptional, the unusual — and the improbable.

Abel, nonetheless, is also very understandable in his thoughts upon seeing the strange and silent girl. He is a young man, falling in love with "a bright, beautiful soul," who, unlike his previously mentioned, rather amusing behavior, now evokes a serious response from Abel. Hudson rationalizes Abel's lofty flights of poetic imagination by writing that the girl of the forest is the expression of "this union in her of two opposite qualities, which, with us, cannot or do not exist together." Her exceptional appearance, combining the best of the two worlds of human beings and natural environment, supplies the reply to humanity's quest for earthly perfection.

The descriptions of the girl are extensive, lyrical, and idealistic; Hudson is sketching not only a new leading character in his story but also a memorable ideal for readers isolated in their daily routines. Abel can never return to the Parahuari village after this experience, and his failure to find the right path is perhaps a symbol of an ultimate rejection of the civilization, meager as it is, of the Indians. Likewise, Abel bared his enmity toward the savages, especially toward Kua-kó, when the proposal was made to him to slay the "daughter of the Didi" and to receive in turn Oalava as a wife. Abel made two mistakes in this confrontation with his Indian hosts: He told them that he had seen the forest girl, and he allowed the mask of his real feelings to fall by almost striking Kua-kó and also by constantly leaving the Parahuari encampment.

Nevertheless, the Indians recede in importance during these chapters because Abel is more engrossed in the "green mansions" and with the search for the girl of the forest. Therefore, perhaps, Hudson can add significantly to the poetic prose which is by now an increasing, important element of this book. There are several striking examples of Hudson's art, and two instances may be cited to illustrate his use of alliteration: "I had passed through the first strip of wood, and was in the succeeding stony sterile space, when a gleam of brilliant colour close by on the ground caught my sight" and "I could now only feel astonishment and admiration at the brilliant being." These stylistic features are not only ornamental devices on the structure of Green Mansions; they emphasize the narrative at two important moments, Abel's first sight of the coral snake and his first close view of the mysterious girl.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Abel becomes convinced that the creature in the woods is




Quiz