Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433

Love is a central theme of the novel. People who think they have nothing in common—like the very young South American revolutionary, Carmen, and the Japanese translator, Gen—fall in love, as do Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa. Both are relationships that under other circumstances would have been impossible.

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Even those who don't fall in love soften toward one another. For example, Beatriz, after telling Carmen she will be killed for bringing together Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa, thinks "that probably wasn't true." Love transcends nationality, education, and political allegiance. Patchett's message is that when all else is stripped away, love has transformative power and is a beautiful thing.

The power of art to build community is another central theme of the novel. As the beginning of Chapter 6 says, after it is all over, people remember "two distinct periods: before the box and after the box." Before the box bearing Roxane's music arrives, the captives live in constant fear of death; after the box enters the house, Roxane, the symbol of art, "was in charge." Her singing transforms the president's home in a joyous way, and the listeners divide the day into three parts: "anticipation," "pleasure of," and "reflection on" her singing. The generals, we are told, don't mind their loss of power, because her music allows them to sleep more peacefully at night. It "calms" the captives, allows the revolutionaries to "focus," and "quells" the noise of the crowds outside. After Roxane begins her daily routine of singing, relationships soften between captor and captive, and love begins to blossom.

It is important to note that the book...

(The entire section contains 433 words.)

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