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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309

The two main characters in the novel are two brothers, Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò and Biaggio Piovasco di Rondò. The “baron in the trees” of the title is Cosimo, the elder brother; he is the protagonist. Biaggio, four years younger than Cosimo, is the narrator.

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Three other members of the Piovasco di Rondò family are Arminio, their father; Corradino, their mother; and Battista, their sister. Outside the family, their neighbor Violate (or Viola) Ondariva plays an important role. This young woman is Cosimo’s great love.

The plot develops around Cosimo’s biography in the years he lives in the trees, beginning when he is twelve. The reader’s understanding of his character is controlled, however, by Biaggio’s position as narrator. The two brothers in some ways grow close, as Cosimo largely depends on Biaggio for food and information, yet both the practical realities of their lives and their worldviews increasingly diverge. The more Cosimo comes to symbolize rejection of the artifice of society, the more Biaggio epitomizes staunch endorsement of the status quo.

More extreme than Biaggio’s loyalism is Battista’s devotion to the artifice of upper-class society. She precipitates the crisis by preparing the dish that Cosimo deems inedible (snails) and other fashionable but unappealing concoctions. Her social-climbing aspirations are realized through her marriage to an aristocrat.

Their father, Arminio, is instead the embodiment of failed ambition, as he longs for the dukedom his family once commanded. In character, habits, and appearance, he harkens back to the glories of court life. Arminio does not merely reject but is utterly unable to comprehend Cosimo’s unorthodox antisocial life.

Their mother is Corradino, the so-called Generalessa, whose father was actually a general. While in some ways she is more stern and imposing than her husband, she manages to accept, if not actually understand, her son’s choices.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 792

Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò

Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò (koh-ZEE-moh peeoh-VAHS-koh dee rohn-DOH), who is twelve years old at the narrative’s outset. He is the eldest son in the Piovasco family and successor as baron of the Ombrosa estate. Cosimo is energetic and determined, an idealist who insists on acting on his principles. the central figure in the story, he sets the main action going when he refuses to eat a meal of snails prepared by his sister. Sent from the table, he climbs into a holm oak on his family’s estate and vows never to descend from the trees. Cosimo eventually develops instincts and senses different from other humans as a result of living in the wild and having to be ever watchful and alert. This vigilance becomes “his natural state, as if his eyes had to embrace a horizon wide enough to understand all.” Despite his arboreal life, he becomes studious and well read in the philosophy of the Enlightenment; as a reader as well as a tree dweller, he acquires, virtually and literally, a bird’s-eye view of his era.

Biaggio Piovasco di Rondò

Biaggio Piovasco di Rondò (bee-AHJ-jee-oh), Cosimo’s brother, eight years old at the outset of the action. He narrates the tales of Cosimo’s extraordinary life. Though at first regarded by Cosimo as weak because of his failure to resist their father, Biaggio is a close friend and confidant to Cosimo. Biaggio takes his brother food and supplies when needed and keeps Cosimo informed of events that Cosimo cannot observe. Throughout the narrative, Biaggio maintains an attitude of wonder and awe at his brother’s exploits.

Violante (Viola) Ondariva

Violante (Viola) Ondariva (veeoh-LAHN-teh on-dah-REE -vah), a neighbor to the Piovasco family and member of the rival Ondariva...

(The entire section contains 1440 words.)

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