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Green Mansions

William H. Hudson

Summary and Analysis Chapters 7-8


When Abel regains consciousness, he finds himself in the hut of an old man, Nuflo. The forest girl is also in the shack and watches Abel very carefully although she remains in the background. Nuflo identifies the girl as Rima, his granddaughter, but Abel is not convinced by his explanation. According to Nuflo, Rima is seventeen years old, has been baptized a Christian, and has received a rudimentary education-principally through the efforts of Nuflo. Abel supposes that he was saved from death from the snakebite because of the lack of sufficient venom in the reptile's fangs. Nuflo and Rima speak Spanish, but Abel observes that she is reluctant to express herself in that language. Abel, weak and bruised from his ordeal, rests comfortably in his new home.

As Abel regains his strength, his curiosity is aroused by the facts of Rima's life and the reason for Nuflo's isolated existence in the hinterland. Although the old man is very talkative, he is still reticent about certain details of the past, and Abel secures with difficulty an indirect admission from Nuflo that Rima is not really his granddaughter. Rima is downcast because Abel cannot communicate in the bird language she prefers to use instead of Spanish. She is elusive and mysterious, and her silence tantalizes Abel. Abel tries to make her understand that she must talk to him in Spanish despite her preference for the language of the birds. Rima, remaining distant most of the time, is questioned further by Abel; slowly she tells him about the past and about her present anguish. Rima's mother died when she was very young, and she was given some religious instruction by the priest at Voa where they lived. Her obvious anguish at the loss of her mother hides also "some secret trouble," but Abel treats her gently in hope of winning her full confidence — and her love.


The plot revolves in these chapters around Abel's growing love — and curiosity — about Rima and her nascent affection for him. Many of the mysteries slowly developed in the preceding chapters have been clarified: the identity of the forest girl, some elucidation as to her presence in the woodland, and the causes for her exceptional ways with birds and animals. Principally, of course, a new, important character, Nuflo, has been introduced; the old man serves as an amusing counterpoint to the serious love affair, now budding, between Abel and Rima. But new mysteries have arisen to disturb Abel, and his dissatisfaction with some of Nuflo's — and Rima's — facts leads him to query the two hosts persistently. There is, ironically for Abel, a spur for further information each time he succeeds in extracting some fact from Nuflo and Rima.

It is clear within these chapters that Abel is completely in love with Rima; Hudson has painted glowingly the portrait of romanticized, sentimental emotions in his hero, as he starts to do very gradually in his heroine. Abel, for example, muses ecstatically about Rima in the paragraph beginning "Have you ever observed a humming-bird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers . . ." But Abel, despite this poignant series of repeated rhetorical questions, is astonished at the realization that there are two Rimas. His mounting passion for Rima, the bird-girl, faces a challenge from Rima, the human being. Rima, inside the hut, presents an inconspicuous, humble figure with little or no attraction for Abel. The contrast for Abel is very disconcerting, and the problem is first noted by him in Rima's mood when he urges her to use Spanish during their conversations. The situation for Abel is of course ironic: He prefers to listen to Rima's bird language although he is then only a silent partner in any dialogue, but Rima is a different person for Abel when she communicates in Spanish.

Another illustration of this dichotomy in Rima for Abel is the change he observes in her when the girl is in the hut and in the forest. The hut is obviously a symbol of civilization, an artificial environment with no connection to the "green mansions" now preferred by Abel. But Abel dominates the situation within the hut because he is, after all, a product of civilized life. He can talk at length with Nuflo, and he can control the dialogue. Although he wants to commune with nature, Abel is always at a disadvantage in the woodland because Rima can elude him easily, and she can revert to the language of the birds. Abel, crippled psychologically when Rima is at her best, has to plead with the young girl to help him.

Rima, nonetheless, is a very insecure person in her unique world because she carries within herself the inheritance of Abel's world, or at least some semblance of a civilized environment. Rima, beginning to fall in love with Abel, needs the protection of the young man because of her unexpressed fears and hopes. Abel is, after all, the first youth she has met in her life, and she is constrained in her intuitive impulses to love him openly. Living many years with Nuflo and seeing only the hostile Parahuaris, Rima has developed into a shy introspective girl who is approaching womanhood — and is in love for the first time. Despite the influence of her withdrawn unusual life until the meetings with Abel, Rima becomes more open in her attitude by the end of the eighth chapter; she is struggling successfully against past memories in favor of love for Abel.

Despite the problems both lovers face, Abel and Rima understand each other better at this stage in the story; they have succeeded in breaking down the barriers which separate them or at least in hurdling the psychological obstacles to their love. The outside world has been completely eliminated as a factor in the lives of the two young people, and they stand alone in "that immense aerial palace hung with dim drapery of green." Nuflo and the Indians — and Abel's Venezuela — have no role in the dialogue between Rima and her lover. Rima's recurring secretive and sorrowful moods have as yet no meaning for Abel; the idyll is almost perfect.

This idyllic mood is intensified by Hudson's use of language because he writes appealingly to the emotions of his readers. Both the speech and behavior of Abel and Rima are romantic, and there are no realistic descriptions of the scenes. Hudson, then, returns in his narration of the love between Abel and Rima to the tradition of the early nineteenth century rather than to the realism and naturalism of his own age. Romanticism is the primary characteristic of the language, feelings, and reactions of the hero and heroine; and Hudson employs several techniques of the Romantic doctrine, especially during "that afternoon with Rima in the forest under the mora tree." One should observe these devices, particularly: an argument to the emotions rather than to reason; a poetical, flowery idiom to describe the conversation, setting, and feelings; and a basic, melodramatic ring to the action.

Hudson, although he has been criticized for his reliance upon the stock devices of the nineteenth-century Romantics, is, however, slowly developing a philosophical ideal. He is striving to depict the search for innocence and perfection against the background of pure or untamed nature. The afternoon that Abel spends with Rima by the mora tree in the forest emerges as one of the emotional highlights of Green Mansions. The poignant memory of that day will haunt Abel for the rest of his life. Hudson seeks to uplift his audience by showing them, in the distance, peaks of happiness and of sorrow; he must omit discussions of social, political, and everyday problems to achieve this evolving philosophy toward life.

There is, nevertheless, the character of Nuflo, introduced in these chapters, who provides a balance of realism to the idealism of the two lovers. With the addition of this new character to the plot, Hudson is able to use more dialogue which, up to this point, has not been a marked feature of the novel. Although Nuflo has nothing of the intellectual that characterizes Abel, the two native speakers of Spanish contrast favorably. Nuflo gives the impression of an average human being who has tried to accept life and to adjust to circumstances after long years of suffering and effort. Nuflo possesses a peasant's native intelligence, bolstered by alert reactions and some poetic feeling; he is sometimes humorous as he fends off Abel's inquisitive remarks. For example, Nuflo is witty and philosophical in his replies to Abel about his real relationship to Rima, especially when he calmly answers that one is never sure of anything in this world. The old man also has some pungent comments about social and political conditions in South America, the Indians, and the way of life in general, which recall Abel's reflections on similar topics in the first chapter. Certainly a sympathetic character in these two chapters, Nuflo is mysterious and ambivalent in his manners, however, and Abel is not prepared as yet to fathom the old man's secrets. The old man's talkativeness, probably the result of his isolation from other human beings and his inability to communicate effectively and at will with Rima, does not irritate Abel, who has not had the chance to speak so freely for a long time. Clearly both men seem to enjoy and to like each other despite certain points of friction regarding Nuflo's and Rima's earlier lives

This new development in the plot — Abel's residence in Nuflo's hut — is characterized by less attention to the "green mansions" because of Rima's presence and by the temporary disappearance of the Parahuari tribe from the action. Also, the style is less poetic because of the omission of nature as Abel's paramount interest and the common setting of Nuflo's hut with the old man's conversation requiring ordinary speech. But there is still a very lyrical quality to the language when Abel speaks to Rima or thinks of her; then, he idealizes the girl and the surroundings. A typical example of Hudson's art in this regard is the simile used by Abel to describe Rima: "her eyes . . . now looked dark as wine when we lift the glass to see the ruby gleam of light within the purple." Hudson, however, has been criticized for allowing stylistic qualities to create an exaggerated impression of Rima, and the comment of the hero upon looking at Rima is perhaps a proof of this fault in Hudson's writing: "The exquisite fragrance of her breath was more to me than the most delicious viands could have been."