Chapter 3: Death and Unrequited Love of the Accompanist

In this chapter, I really wanted to explore the different factors that eventually led to the accompanist’s death. Just when I thought Roxanne Coss was finally getting released, the terrorists acknowledge her value and decide to keep her as leverage. I am not surprised that these men decided to keep her hostage because it proved that like the others, they are not immune to her beautiful voice. However, we are left helpless as we witness the first death since this hostage taking. Despite his initial release, the accompanist returned to the terrorists to request Roxanne’s release. His last act of love is giving up his life by staying by her side, therefore, foregoing treatment that could have saved his life. This moment leaves the most momentous effect on everyone in the room because they realize that the accompanist died out of selfless, unrequited love. It isn’t until he’s at the brink of his death that Roxanne reveals his name, Christopf, and we learn that she does not reciprocate his love which makes his death irrelevant. Death and unrequited love left quite an impact on me so I wanted to explore these two topics separately to further understand how these effect the human behavior.

The death of the accompanist was foreshadowed from the very beginning of the hostage crisis because of how sickly he became compared to the other hostages, indicating his poor state of mentally, physically, and emotionally handling the situation. Since it was revealed that he died from diabetes, I did a quick search for what symptoms someone with his condition would display. Properly known as diabetes mellitus, it constitutes that the patient’s body is deficient in secreting their own insulin or the insulin they do produce are ineffective, or both therefore resulting in high levels of sugar in their bloodstream (hyperglycemia). The patient’s body would eventually suffer from “long-term damage, dysfunction, and failure of various organs, especially the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and blood vessels.” Type 1 diabetes produce little to no insulin in their body so they require frequent insulin injection to properly control and monitor their blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes, most prevalent form of this disease, is caused by a combination of having resistance to insulin and failure to secrete insulin in response to increased blood sugar levels. The symptoms for a diabetic includes urinating profusely, intense thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, and extreme hunger.1 However, these symptoms don’t fit the symptoms that Christopf displayed so I had to do further research for what possible acute symptoms he could’ve developed from the prolonged lack of insulin in his system. Patients with diabetes can develop acute diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS) due to insulin deficiency. DKA is often seen in type 1 diabetes, while HHS is seen in type 2 diabetes. The mortality rate for DKA is less than 5% and for HHS is 11%. “Patients may develop progressive hyperglycemia over weeks or days, although patients with DKA may experience more rapid onset than those with HHS” as was seen in Christopf because his condition rapidly worsened in the possible 2 days he was held hostage. Both DKA and HHS would also show other symptoms like hypotension, signs of dehydration, tachycardia, and weakness. 2 Throughout the book, Patchett initially described him during the hostage crisis as pale and ill-looking, his eyes bloodshot, his lips blue, breathing shallowly, quite unsteady and too weak to support himself. After his outburst for the release of Roxanne, his breath became thin and rapid and his skin became wet and cold before going into a coma. The severity of Chistopf’s condition and his rapid deterioration lead me to believe that he had Type 1 diabetes.

Death is such an inevitable fact in the span of human life, yet every culture has inherently unique ideas of death, dying, bereavement and different forms coping. The medical definition of death requires that all specified conditions are met before someone can be declared dead: “absence of spontaneous response to stimuli; completely unresponsive to even the most painful stimuli; lack of spontaneous respiration for at least one hour; absence of postural activity, swallowing, yawning, or vocalizing; no eye movement, blinking, or pupil responses; a flat EEG for at least 10 minutes; a total absence of motor reflexes; and that there ought not to be any change in the above criteria if tested again after 24 hours.” Arbitrarily, if there are no obvious signs of life then the person is in all sense and purpose, dead. However, there are many cultures that would argue this definition and conceptualize that a person can “die” numerous times before their final death. It is interesting how a religion like Hinduism would argue that life is reborn with a new identity while Christians believe that once death occurs the person’s spirit either ascends to heaven or descends to hell. Yet, both religions developed from the notion that death is not final and that there is more to expect after death. The reality is that what comes after death is unknown and it’s this uncertainty that causes fear to grow the closer one feels to facing their own death. Cultural beliefs and religion are quite influential on the different rituals that are conducted by different cultures. I think that funerals and burial rituals are done more for the sake of those the deceased left behind because it gives them comfort and provides them closure they need to move on. Father Arguedas conducted the last rites by praying over Christopf’s body with holy oil as is practiced by someone of his stature. Funerals are held for the safe passage of the deceased into the next world, so when the terrorists were considering shooting Christopf’s body to send a message to the government, the hostages were quick to protest because this would be a form of disrespect and insult to the deceased.3

Christopf’s death left a very lasting effect on the terrorists and hostages because he sacrificed himself for his love. I also wanted to explore his unrequited love because it leads him to making decisions that resulted in his death. It is his recklessness to prove his love that left everyone feeling his loss. I found that there are 5 different types of unrequited love and they are identified by their levels of interdependence: “(1) crush on someone unavailable, (2) crush on someone nearby, (3) pursuing a love object, (4) longing for a past lover, and (5) an unequal love relationship.” These forms of unrequited love are compared to consummate romantic love, which is defined as equal, reciprocal, enduring, and fulfilling. The forms of unrequited love that I found applied in Bel Canto are 1 through 3. These types of unrequited love especially revolve around Roxanne Coss because there are numerous men that yearn for her. Some men are not mentioned explicitly but they admire her from afar like fans that enamored with their favorite celebrities. This kind of relationship is “superficial, asymmetrical, and incomplete”. Mr. Hosokawa would also fall under this category because he doesn’t really know anything about her except for the opera music he has collected and plays he has seen her performed in. The accompanist would fall under number 2 and 3 because working constantly with Roxanne allowed him that proximity and to gain enough courage to pursue her. However, his intentions and feelings were not reciprocated so Roxanne frequently rejects his advances. This unequal intensity of “love” indicates that there is a lower level of interdependence. 5 We see interdependence between an opera singer and her fans because the fans need her to give her performance in order for her to build her own reputation as a famous performer. Interdependence is also personified by the relationship of an accompanist and a soprano because they need each other to ensure the success of a performance. Furthermore, we see the growing dependence and a greater interdependence due to their proximity between the translators and monolinguals to promote clear communication and between the terrorists and hostages as they coexist for the sake of each party’s survival. The accompanist felt more interdependence towards Roxanne because of his growing feelings towards her and it reveals a darker component of unrequited love, which is limerence. Limerence is a strong desire for one’s feelings to be reciprocated. 6 It is characterized by obsessiveness and glorification of the love object. His infatuation towards Roxanne turned into an obsession the more she rejected him because it made him work all the harder to make her reciprocate his love. The accompanist, including Mr. Hosokawa, highly idealized Roxanne because they valued her above everyone else. I am looking forward to seeing if Mr. Hosokawa will start developing the same kind of infatuated behavior towards her or if he will maintain a certain distance from her despite how he really feels. I find these connections very thought provoking and it’s interesting to see how it all leads back to Roxanne. The accompanist died a noble death because of his unrequited love for her but it was not meaningless because we can see that it brought up some change in attitude from Roxanne and it deeply affected the others who witnessed his passing.

Hannah Celemen

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 3: Death and Unrequited Love of the Accompanist

  1. slaudeman says:

    I found the discussion and research you did into the effect of death quite interesting. The book already has a very marked focus on religion in the group of hostages, and the way that people react to death depending on their religion. In Catholicism, the spirit separates from the body and is judged based on the individual’s life. It could be curious to think about what Christopf’s soul might have been. Was his final act selfless or selfish?
    On the other hand, the other hostages clearly see his actions as purely and perfectly selfless, his love and devotion to Roxane a testament to his faith to her. Psychologically, I think that Roxane’s part in the whole event may have a larger effect on her than we see in this chapter. She feels grief, yes, but I think that in the situation that she is in, her understanding of the situation is lessened by the stress and exhaustion she feels lost and confused. I wonder if this may show through later in the novel.
    You also commented on Mr. Hosokawa’s behavior towards Roxane. I think that it is safe to say that he has already developed an infatuation with her. We saw in chapter 1 that he went well out of his way to watch her sing, and that he did have a nearly unhealthy obsession with her as well as the opera. Perhaps that attraction will develop into something more than simply infatuation? It could be interesting to see how Roxane responds to Hosokawa’s attraction to her.

    –Sara Laudeman

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  2. dgromels says:

    Hello Hannah,
    I enjoyed hearing about your research on levels of unrequited love in class on Friday, particularly because the men’s obsession with Roxanne perplexes me. Other than her singing talent and her outer beauty, there does not seem to be much that is attractive about Roxanne; on the contrary, I find her vanity and self-absorption to be quite off-putting. I also find it interesting that Patchett includes the sentence, “The kind of love that offers itself so easily, so stupidly, is always the love that is not returned” and then contrasts the destructive, unrequited love of the accompanist with the requited love of Simon Thibault for his wife, suggesting that the men (Hosokawa, Father Aguidas, and the accompanist) are foolish for placing such importance on a woman they do not know well.

    It seems that Hosokawa and Aguidas may be developing what was just a distant, level one infatuation with Roxanne before the hostage crisis into a more pronounced obsession due to the stress of the situation as they struggle to build a connection with others. I was interested to know if there is a connection between infatuation and crisis situations, so I did some searching online. In his book on interactions in social psychology, Tamotsu Shibutani explains that people seek to connect with others both romantically and socially through shared values and experiences. In a crisis situation, “the customary standards of conduct become less enforceable,” promoting the development and expression of romantic feelings in a way that would not occur in a normal setting. He writes that when people are place in highly stressful situations with others, they will frequently develop feelings of infatuation based on common fear, often with people who they would otherwise not have due to differences in socioeconomic class or ethnicity (Shibutani 328-329). This seems to be what is occurring with the characters in the book, but it could also incorporate some of the “gift theory” Dr. Pereira brought up in our first discussion. I am interested to see if Hosokawa and Father Aguidas begin to develop the limerence you described in your post, as I’m sure that would greatly complicate the dynamic between the two of them as well as the other characters.

    Shibutani, T. (1974). Society and Personality: An Interactionist Approach to Social Psychology. Transaction Publishers.

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  3. Colin Murphy says:

    Hi Hannah,

    Thanks for your fantastic contribution to our class blog!

    Like you, I also conducted research on the effect that love can have on human behavior (for Chapter 2). Quite obviously, the immediate example from this chapter is the accompanist’s sacrificing his own life to spend his last few minutes protecting the one he admires. After reading your post, I’ve learned this is more specifically an example of unrequited love (of the second form – for someone nearby)!

    As you and I both discuss in our posts this week, the tragic death of the accompanist truly does have quite an effect on the audience (for both the hostage party-goers and us – the readers). Christof’s death is a turning point, where before the audience believes the accompanist is 1) merely pretending and afterward 2) a selfless guard. It’s funny how humankind casts such broad and unjustified assumptions with certainty only to find one tiny piece of evidence that completely breaks any previous theory. And not only do the hostages and Roxanne Coss appear changed, but so do the terrorists!

    You raise an interesting point when considering a change in relationship between Roxanne and Mr. Hosokawa. The two definitely do appear “loosened up” a bit following the death and are left casually chatting with each other by the end of the chapter. I too wonder if Patchett is foreshadowing toward an improved relationship!

    Once again, you’ve written an excellent post and I can’t wait to see how the characters’ roles will evolve over the course of the rest of the novel. I will leave you with a question to ponder: How might the change in relationship between Roxanne Coss and Mr. Hosokawa influence the relationship between the hostages and terrorists?

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  4. annawallace003 says:

    The accompanist’s death is one that has a lot of emotion behind it, literally. You talked a bit about his reasoning for not foregoing treatment and I think it was important to bring this up given what you did your research on. Like you said, I think we all knew deep down that the accompanist wouldn’t last much longer however; I don’t think anyone would of guessed the reasoning for his death. I am glad that you took the initiative to dig a little deeper and learn about diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state. What you found was able to give me a sense of closure as to why he got severely sick in such a short amount of time as apposed to everyone else. I thought it was interesting that you analyzed how death is perceived by different religions. We don’t know what religion the accompanist was a part of, even Roxanne didn’t know, however it is believed that he was religious in someway or another. The next part of your post was my favorite because I have never really thought about the different types of unrequited love. I also agree that the accompanist’s love for Roxanne falls under the category of two and three, having a crush on someone nearby and pursuing a love object. Roxanne spent a lot of time with him so it is understandable for him to develop a close relationship with Roxanne but it feels as if he interpreted her feeling the wrong way, which resulted in him getting rejected, and literally dying for her love.

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