The Plot

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 533

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Abel Guevez de Argensola, a member of a wealthy Venezuelan family, joins a conspiracy to overthrow the government. When the plot is discovered, he is forced to flee into the wilderness of Guyana. After months of illness and misfortune, he settles in the village of an Indian chief named Runi. Near the village is a forest in which lives a supernatural creature who kills hunters.

Undaunted, Abel enters the forest and discovers abundant wildlife. A melodious, birdlike voice follows him as he explores. One day, he comes upon a young woman lying by a stream. Her small, delicate form and resplendent beauty captivate him. They meet when he hurls a stone at a snake and she comes to defend it. Her dark hair falls in a cloud on her shoulders and arms; her skin is pearly white, sometimes lustrous and iridescent. When he is bitten by the snake, he leaps off a precipice in a panic and falls unconscious. He wakes in the hut of an old man named Nuflo, who lives with the young woman. Abel learns that Rima, the luminescent creature with the mysterious voice, will not allow harm to come to any living creature in the forest.

Rima and Abel seal their mutual love by promising to do everything to please each other. She wants, most of all, to find her mother’s people. Nuflo is persuaded to take Rima to Riolama, where her mother died. On the journey, he tells Abel the story of Rima’s origin. Seventeen years earlier, Nuflo and other members of an outlaw band found a beautiful woman in the forest. In danger from the rest of the gang, Nuflo and the woman escaped to a Christian settlement, where she gave birth to Rima and soon after died. Nuflo took the child to the forest, where Rima grew to hate the natives for killing the animals and frustrated their attempts to hunt. When a native was killed chasing her, the Indians took her for an evil deity.

When the three find no one at Riolama, Abel persuades Rima that her mother was the sole survivor of a catastrophe that destroyed her people. After deciding to live with Abel in her forest, she returns alone to prepare for him. When Abel and Nuflo arrive, they find Rima gone. While the three of them journeyed to Riolama, the natives had returned to hunting in the forest. One day, Rima was seen, chased, and trapped in a tree. The natives set the tree on fire, and Rima fell into the flames. To avenge Rima’s death, Abel destroys Runi and his people with the help of a rival chief. In the forest, he finds that Nuflo has been killed by the Indians.

After months of near starvation, Abel leaves the forest, taking Rima’s ashes with him in an earthen jar. He regains his mental and physical health by the time he reaches Georgetown, where he settles and finally achieves self-forgiveness and removal of the guilt he suffered as a result of killing God’s creatures. Confident that Rima’s ashes would mingle with his, Abel ends his days free of the sorrow that once darkened his life.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 601

Ytaioa

Ytaioa (ee-TI-oh-ah). Solitary hill situated in the savanna region west of Parahuari, whose lower slopes protect a densely forested oblong basin. In the heart of this forest—the “green mansions” of the novel’s title—the wanderer Abel finds a kind of natural paradise which contrasts as sharply with the Native American village in the neighboring Parahuari hills as with the turbulent civilization he had earlier fled. It is a vivid place, roofed by the crowns of tall trees and lavishly furnished with ferns, mosses, creepers, and shrubs. The shade of the canopy creates a perpetual twilight, full of the music of birdsong.

Rima is the incarnate spirit of this forest, integrated into its lush ecology more fully and more intimately than would ever be possible for the corrupt Native Americans of Parahuari or for refugees from civilization like Abel and the old man who passes himself off as her grandfather. The rain forest is, in this metaphorical reckoning, the edenic garden which humankind’s ancestors deserted when they fell into the bad habits exhibited by savage Native Americans and technologically sophisticated colonists alike. Unfortunately, it remains a wild place, subject to the harsher vagaries of nature, as Abel discovers when he is bitten by one of its serpents. It is, however, the consequences of that bite that allow him to forge a more intimate relationship with Rima.

Abel takes Rima up the slopes of Ytaioa in order to show her more distant peaks. She has her own names for some of them, but has no idea how big the South American continent really is. The geography lesson he gives her changes her notion of the world and of her situation within it; it is this new sense of place that drives her to leave her petty garden in a desperate attempt to find a greater “Eden,” from which even she is an exile. This further Eden is supposed to be situated in the legendary mountains of Riolama for which Rima was named, but it is irredeemably lost—and while she and Abel absent themselves in the search for it, the fragment of Eden that they had is invaded and despoiled by the Native Americans. Rima is destroyed by fire, the first and foremost of all technological devices.

Parahuari

Parahuari (pehr-ah-WAHR-ee). Hilly region to the west of the part of the Orinoco River which flows from north to south between what became the Venezuelan province of Amazonas (known in the novel as “Guayana”) and the Colombian province of Guainia (which was also part of Venezuela when the novel was written). Parahuari is the site of the Native American “village”—a single mud-walled and palm-thatched hut with subsidiary extensions—where Abel’s journey comes to its first terminus, in a haze of drunken idleness.

Manapuri

Manapuri (mah-nah-PEW-ree). Native American settlement on the Orinoco between its confluences with the River Meta and the River Guaviare, consisting of a number of hovels with walls of mud or plastered wattle and roofs of thatched palm leaves. In the story, it represents one of the intermediate stages of civilization through which Abel “descends” as he journeys up the Orinoco into the dark heart of the continent.

*Georgetown

*Georgetown. Capital and chief port of British Guiana (now Guyana), to the east of Venezuela. This is where the second phase of Abel’s odyssey comes to an end, when his haunted flight from Rima’s ashes finally brings him “home” to civilization. It is where the narrator listens sympathetically to his tragic story, in a house on Main Street symbolizing all the anaesthetic comforts of modern life.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 150

Frederick, John T. William Henry Hudson. New York: Twayne, 1972. Explores the plausibility of the character Rima in relation to the humanity of the other characters.

Haymaker, Richard E. From Pampas to Hedgerows and Downs: A Study of W. H. Hudson. New York: Bookman Associates, 1954. Presents Rima as more of a passion than an actual individual. Explores Hudson’s tragic vision in the context of Rima’s death.

Miller, David. W. H. Hudson and the Elusive Paradise. London: Macmillan, 1990. Contains a chapter discussing the symbolic/mythopoetic elements such as landscape, snake and bird, darkness, and the character Rima.

Ronner, Amy D. W. H. Hudson: The Man, the Novelist, the Naturalist. New York: AMS Press, 1986. Explores the concept of humanity fusing with spirit as seen in Abel’s relationship with Rima.

Shrubsall, Dennis. W. H. Hudson, Writer and Naturalist. Tisbury, England: Compton Press, 1978. Contains an exploration of the origins of Green Mansions.

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