Green Mansions By William H. Hudson Summary and Analysis Chapters 9-10

Summary

Abel, certain that the old man has been less than honest with him, determines to learn about Rima's history from Nuflo because he knows now that the girl will not willingly reveal the whole truth. Rima, moreover, has become very aloof after their meeting at the mora tree. Nuflo disappears with his dogs for long hours during the day, and Abel is suspicious because Rima's guardian seldom returns with any sizable quantity of nuts and fruits from his expeditions. After scrambling through the woods and then falling asleep for a time, Abel finally spies Nuflo cooking an animal. One mystery, then, is easily solved: Rima, refusing to eat meat and not allowing Nuflo to kill any of the forest animals, has thereby deprived the old man of his pleasure in enjoying the taste of meat. But Nuflo, with his dogs, hunts animals and eats the meat without her knowledge. Abel suspects that Rima's sensitivity to odors and her domination of the woodland have betrayed Nuflo in his secret, but the old man is convinced that he is safe.

Realizing that he can "blackmail" Nuflo into telling him about Rima's past, Abel prods the old man with questions about the girl, but the wily peasant lies his way out of the trap. He insists that Rima is not a surviving member of a lost race but that her senses have been acutely developed because of living outdoors almost all the time; he denies that the bird language is really so different. Abel does not believe Nuflo and is less sympathetic toward hima as a result of the latter's evasive behavior; he is, in fact, increasingly angry as he starts back. On the way to the hut, Abel hears Rima, but she again avoids him when he starts forward to meet her. He cannot understand her changed attitude and her continual avoidance of him. Abel is depressed when Rima finally makes her appearance inside the hut, "silent and constrained as ever."

Hurt by Rima's neglect, Abel once more decides to play the same game: He will leave for a while to see if she misses him. Abel returns to the village of the Parahuari Indians but is surprised to find the site abandoned. He soon surmises from the evidence of orderly decampment that the Indians are visiting some neighbors, a usual procedure among the tribes. Abel is happy to be alone and reflects contentedly about his adventures so far, but he shortly starts to miss Rima and to regret his abrupt departure. He is disturbed in his tranquility by the appearance of Cla-cla, the old woman, who has been compelled to leave the other Indians on their trip because of her ill health. Despite her suspicions of Abel, which in turn arouse his fears about the Indians' hostility, Cla-cla accepts Abel as a companion for her miserable solitude. They sing and chat gaily, and the evening turns into a festive occasion for both to forget their sorrows. The next morning, however, Abel is so lonesome for the sight of Rima that he determines to go back to the forest without delay. Cla-cla's pleadings and the threat of an oncoming storm do not deter Abel from his decision. Escaping from the old woman, Abel hastens into the woodland, but he loses his sense of direction when the storm lessens visibility. Drenched by the driving rain, Abel is rescued by Rima, who had been waiting faithfully for him. But Rima reverts to her withdrawn attitude as soon as they come safely in sight of Nuflo's place

Analysis

These two chapters represent an emotional retreat from the tryst between Abel and Rima at the mora tree. Abel, piqued at Rima's inexplicable change and avoidance of his loving advances, concentrates on the mystery surrounding Nuflo, and, after exploiting this avenue of solution as much as possible, returns for a surprisingly pleasant interlude with Cla-cla at the deserted Parahuari site. In short, the love affair diminishes in terms of advancement, if not in importance, during the action of these chapters. Even at the end, when Abel is brought back by the attentive Rima, no progress has been made in further communication between the lovers.

Abel, nevertheless, has learned a few additional facts from the reluctant Nuflo that help him to piece together some conclusions about Rima. He is, for example, very positive that she is not of the same race as Nuflo. Although the episode between Abel and Nuflo offers some relief to the emotionally charged scene at the mora tree, tension arises between the two men because each one is dissatisfied at the other's questions and answers. Abel, in fact, is angry at the old man; his curiosity about Nuflo changes into antipathy after the confrontation.

Abel's return to the Parahuari village is, of course, motivated by his hurt at Rima's attitude; because he has previously expressed such an evident — and increasingly bitter — revulsion against the Indians, his ability to reside once more among his previous hosts is very surprising. The surprise is greatly augmented by his enjoyable visit with Cla-cla, although she was the only Indian with whom Abel felt any sympathy during his first days among the tribe. Indeed, one should keep in mind Abel's happy visit with Cla-cla when the tragic circumstances occur at the book's conclusion. This amusing and warm vignette of Abel with Clacla in the empty Parahuari camp provides one of the lighter moments of the entire romance of Hudson. Seemingly, Abel has for the moment forgotten, or at least put aside, his preoccupations about Rima's history as well as his love for her.

However, Abel is not the same individual he was before knowing Rima; his brief excursion back to the village has allowed him to take stock of his changed vision. He reminisces that he never would have believed in the possibility of such an easy and felicitous adjustment to a life of solitude in the jungle. For Abel, a man of Caracas — "that little Paris in America" — the change has been completely beneficial. "I was changed, and this change — so great, so complete — was proof" thinks Abel, "that the old artificial life had not been and could not be the real one, in harmony with my deeper and truer nature." In short, Abel has now accepted the primitive life; for Hudson's hero, these thoughts denote a profound and sincere outpouring of feeling. So enamored of nature is Abel that he is almost disposed to forget Rima as he gladly forgets his friends and his past. This momentary sentiment is naturally the reaction of a youth who has been spurned by a girl; the fleeting rejection is repaid by an eagerness to see her again — and quickly.

There are notable poetical passages about birds, an integral part of Hudson's world of nature, and the following selection is one of the most significant in Green Mansions: "O mystic bell-bird of the heavenly race of the swallow and dove, the quetzal and the nightingale! When the brutish savage and the brutish white man that slay thee, one for food, the other for the benefit of science, shall have passed away, live still, live to tell thy message to the blameless spiritualized race that shall come after us to possess the earth, not for a thousand years, but for ever; for how much shall thy voice be our clarified successors when even to my dull, unpurged soul, thou canst speak such high things, and bring it a sense of an impersonal all-compromising One who is in me and I in him, flesh of his flesh and soul of his soul." In this paragraph, which stands out in the text like a soliloquy in a drama, Abel has moved from lyrical stirring reactions to the "green mansions" to the expression of a philosophical position and a religious creed. Nature, victimized by the extremes of a primitive people and the degradations of civilized explorers, is in danger of disappearing. The loss of nature would be for Hudson the loss of proof of a divine presence. Hudson, though he avoids in the book the use of the word God, nevertheless speaks of the "One" embodied in nature. This pantheistic belief of Hudson becomes for Abel the source of a higher or religious spirit.

Despite these lofty thoughts regarding nature, Abel does not see only the favorable aspects of the "green mansions." There is once more the description of a jungle storm, and the fury of the two tempests almost destroys Abel. On both occasions, he loses his way and is saved by Rima, who knows how to meet these natural phenomena. Abel, although he feels an overpowering affinity with nature, lacks the experience and common sense of Rima in dealing with these unpleasant manifestations of the jungle. Life, then, can be difficult — and perilous — in the "green mansions." There are more compensations than demerits in Hudson's whole view, and the beauty of nature outweighs disadvantages in the vastness of the South American continent.

If, as the surface action of these two chapters indicates, the love between Abel and Rima is at a crucial stage where neither seems capable of communicating with the other, their true sentiments are clearly delineated. Rima's loyalty in waiting for Abel during his jaunt to the village is like her previous faithfulness when he stayed away. Her problem is, then, an inability to express the new emotion of love. Abel, on the other hand, is frustrated because he cannot conceal his love for Rima. "And I could no longer thrust it back, or hide its shining face with the dull, leaden mask of mere intellectual curiosity," muses Abel poignantly, "because I loved her; loved her as I had never loved before, never could love any other being, with a passion which had caught something of her own brilliance and intensity, making a former passion look dim and commonplace in comparison — a feeling known to everyone, something old and worn out, a weariness even to think of." Clearly, then, Abel and Rima are to meet, discuss, and resolve the crisis of their mutual love.

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