Not all were asleep in the night of our ancestors! --Pilosopong Tasio
Like it or not, all students have to take the Rizal course as a requirement for graduation -- no Rizal course; no diploma. Since there’s no way out of it, let’s enjoy it and learn as much as possible from the life and writings of José Rizal.
José Rizal has been called “The Pride of the Malay Race” and is honored by millions of Filipinos as the national hero. Others prefer to regard Rizal as just one among many Philippine heroes. In the 1970s, it was fashionable to downgrade Rizal’s place in history with the claim that the American colonial government needed a pacific hero unlike the revolutionary, Andres Bonifacio, and, thus, lead the Filipinos’ thoughts away from fighting with guns and bolos for independence.
Let us momentarily set aside questions on Rizal’s heroism and greatness. Instead, let us study the man through his life and his writings, and then decide how we would place him in history. After all, each person decides which heroes he or she will emulate. In the final analysis, it would be meaningless to merely accept Rizal as the great Filipino hero without understanding him as a man and as a patriot. More important to the student doing his first serious study on Rizal, this would avoid the pitfalls of preconceived notions. Hence, these study guides focus on the primary sources—original writings—of José Rizal as if he were just one of the many authors that lived more than a hundred years ago. At the end of the study, you can decide whether Rizal was a truly great hero, an accidental hero, or hardly heroic.
Rizal wrote two novels, essays, poems, and newspaper articles as well as a large amount of correspondence where he expressed his ideas in detail. Hundreds of books and thousands of essays and popular articles have been written on Rizal. Reading and studying all of these would take a lifetime, but it would take only a semester or so to study the more important writings of Rizal, particularly his two novels Noli me tángere and El Filibusterismo, as well as his two long essays, “The Philippines a Century Hence” and “The Indolence of the Filipinos”.
Noli me tángere
Literally translated, the Latin words “noli me tángere” means, “touch me not”, taken from John 20:17 when Mary Magdalene holds on to Jesus and he tells her not to touch him. Originally written in Spanish, the novel has been translated into many languages, primarily English and Tagalog for the Filipino student. One of the early English translators of Rizal was Charles Derbyshire. Derbyshire, a “Thomosite teacher” and Spanish scholar, came to the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. His translation, The Social Cancer, is found in this website. You will enjoy other excellent modern translations, such as The Lost Eden by León Ma. Guerrero.
Noli me tángere can be read and appreciated as literature; it can be examined as a social and historical document, but, better still, it can be studied as a literary work set against its historical backdrop. It would be interesting to view the historical context of the novel with the failed revolts of the Filipinos like, for example, that of Dagohoy and of Diego and Gabriela Silang. Also, it would be worthwhile juxtaposing the novel’s historical period within a 100-year span that includes the American Revolution in the 1760s, the French Revolution in 1789, the Bourgeois Revolution in Vienna in 1848 and the American Civil War in the 1860s. Rizal must have read of these world events and it certainly must have influenced his political ideas.
As a novel, José Rizal used some of the characters as his mouthpiece, or what can be called as persona through which the author expresses his ideas. Thus, the student must not be distracted with questions of whether Ibarra or Elias represents Rizal. In fact, Rizal speaks through both Ibarra and Elias, as well as through Pilosopong Tasio, Lieutenant Laruja, the schoolteacher, and even through the boy Basilio.
Before going further, let us take a short review of the elements of fiction within the context of literary forms. World literature is divided in two main groups: poetry and prose. There are three main types of poetry: Lyric, Narrative, and Dramatic. Fictional prose has two main types: the novel and the short story. These vary according to the author’s technique and style.
In contrast to the short story (short fiction), the novel has many characters and often as many conflicts—both external and internal—and several minor or sub-themes that revolve around the main theme. The setting may consist of two or more places, depending on how the plot was designed. Noli me tángere is a novel; hence, it has many characters within the main plot that give rise to several subplots. Some of these subplots can make up a complete story like, for example, the love story of Ibarra and Maria Clara or the story of Sisa.
There are seven elements of fiction: character, plot, setting, theme, conflict, point of view, technique and style. All these combine to make up the story from the simplest short story to the most complex novel.
Technique is the method by which the author developed the story. Style refers always to words -- the choice of words, how the words are combined to best express the author’s intention, and how the words are used to create images, atmosphere, and give a three dimensional portrait of people and places. Since Rizal wrote his two novels in Spanish, the study of his style would be next to impossible if the student does not read or understand Spanish. One could, of course, analyze the style in the translated version but it would not be as accurate. To explore the technique in the Noli me tángere, the student needs a background in literary criticism, which, in the Philippines, is a course for literature majors. Before examining the technique and style of the Noli me tángere, it would be best for the student to first acquire sufficient background in the study of literary works.
Character is the element of fiction that refers to the people in the story who take a major or minor role. A novel has several major characters but the most important of them would be the main character. Generally the main character is the hero of the story, but there are novels where the main character is not heroic at all. So, the more accurate term to use for the main character is protagonist. In the Noli me tángere, for example, some people think that Elias is the real hero whereas others claim that is Crisostomo Ibarra. How do we resolve this? There should be no argument at all. Elias and Ibarra are both heroic in their own way, but it is Ibarra around whom the story revolves. Therefore, Ibarra is the protagonist. The question of who should be the hero would depend on the reader’s personal values and perspective.
Plot concerns events in the story that are arranged according to how each event relates to another, particularly as one event is either cause or the effect of another event. The events may be presented in sequence or in some other way according to the author’s technique. For example, a flashback is a literary device used to bring the reader to an earlier event that happened long before the actual events in the novel. An example of a flashback in the Noli me tángere, is that part where Ibarra’s ancestry is traced through the story of an old Spaniard who is said to haunt a certain tree. Whatever way the events are arranged, the rule of cause-and-effect always applies.
Setting is where and when the story takes place. Remember that setting refers not only to the place and time of the story, but also to the social, cultural, historical, and political systems that influence the characters and events. The setting of the Noli me tángere is the Philippines in the 19th century, at the time when the Catholic hierarchy held both spiritual and political powers in Spanish colonies. At this time there were very clear class distinctions with the Spanish at the top holding most of the wealth, social prestige and political power, and at the bottom of the social scale are the natives who had much less than they deserve. Setting the conflict(s) within the context of the novel’s setting will explain a lot about the characters and the novel’s theme and sub themes.
Theme as an element of fiction is the idea that runs through the whole novel, repeated again and again in various forms and ways. Generally, the reader must read through some chapters before the theme is revealed and, sometimes, it is after reading the entire novel that the theme can be completely understood. Once the theme is understood, the reader may also understand the author’s intention or reasons for writing the novel. For instance, Rizal wrote in his dedication page in the Noli me tángere, “I will strive to reproduce thy condition faithfully, without discriminations; I will raise a part of the veil that covers the evil…” He clearly stated his intention of giving an accurate picture of the conditions in the Philippines at the time, and this gives the reader a good idea what the main theme would be.
Conflict refers to the opposing force or forces that concern the characters. Conflict may be external or internal to the character. Because the novel is long and has many characters, it would follow that there would be multiple conflicts not only in the protagonist but in the other important characters as well. External conflict may be 1) character versus character; 2) character versus the forces of nature, such as the sea, typhoons or earthquakes, or wild animals in a forest or desert; 3) character versus society. Internal conflict is said to reside inside the character because it is mainly psychological in nature, as in a character fighting against personal passions, a sense of inferiority, fears both known and unknown, etc. It is not very difficult to identify the external conflicts in the Noli me tángere, but it needs close attention to find the internal conflict. Crisostomo Ibarra shows both the external and internal conflicts in a protagonist. The external conflicts are clear enough: Ibarra versus Padre Damaso and Ibarra versus the social practices of the time. Was there also a psychological conflict in Ibarra? Undoubtedly so, as this can be seen, for example, in his long conversation with Pilosopong Tasio: Ibarra is torn between his love for native country and his love for Spain, the country of his Spanish ancestors.
Point of View refers to the narrator from whose eyes we see and understand events, from whose ears we see, and from whom we understand the other characters. Point of view may be 1) the “I” narrator or the first person point of view; 2) the omniscient narrator: an unseen person, who can be anywhere at anytime, who tells the story and who can even “get inside the mind” of any character so that the reader would know what that person is thinking or feeling; 3) a minor character who is not a major participant in the events, which limits his narration only to events where he is present or tells of events that he had heard about. Ibarra is the protagonist but is not the narrator; the story unfolds through the omniscient point of view.
Noli me tángere is fiction in the sense that the characters were not actual persons, but the story is not less true. Filipinos did talk, think, and act that way during those times and, to a certain extent, they still do. The Spanish officials and friars did have the power of life and death over the natives. Parents demanded and received absolute obedience from their children, even choosing the marriage partner for them. In this sense, the novel was true, as a faithful reproduction of how it was in Rizal’s time.
It could be said that Rizal’s first novel mirrors the typical Filipino’s idea of what a good story should be: a little of everything—romance, comedy, tragedy, passion, violence, and characters that are easily identifiable as hero, villain, winner, loser, wannabe, or a nobody.
It would not be surprising if the love story of Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria were all that a young student would remember after just one reading of the novel. After all, everybody loves romance. But there is so much more to the novel than these doomed lovers. Most of the characters are colourful and drawn larger than life, as each were meant to represent a type of Filipino or a type of Spanish colonial official.
We can now proceed with the study of Noli me tángere as a novel, and we can start by looking at the characters. Let’s do some comparisons and contrasts of these characters, as well as some juxtaposition to see what kind of portraits Rizal drew:
The Characters of Noli me tángere
Crisostomo Ibarra and Elias could very well be two sides of the same coin. Both were young and most probably handsome, but Ibarra was rich and favored, whereas Elias was poor and hunted by the authorities. They were both victims of injustice that could be traced to their parents and grandparents, who made them fight for justice but each in his own way. Some writers have likened Ibarra to José Rizal and Elias to Andres Bonifacio, but this does not add up, considering that Ibarra was the revolutionary Simon in the sequel, El Filibusterismo. One could, of course, argue that Simon’s revolution failed because Rizal wanted to show that revolution is not the answer to the Philippines’ problems. It could also be argued that this was Rizal’s way of showing that a premature revolution is bound to fail because the people have not been sufficiently prepared for it. Clearly, Ibarra and Elias were the apparently unlike characters through which Rizal gave voice to his social and political ideas.
Exercise. Find other characters in the novel that Rizal used as a voice for his ideas. Give the chapter(s) and the pages (in a book form) or paragraph (if off this Web Site) where you find very close similarities to what Rizal said through Ibarra. Find those statements by these characters that serve as counter-arguments to Rizal’s own ideas.
Maria Clara and Sisa would be the opposite of each other, but look closely, and you would find that they are very much alike in temperament despite the great difference in their social class. Both women are beautiful: Maria Clara the mestiza with creamy white skin and high nose, and Sisa the ideal of the native feminine form. Both have more heart than brains, and though Sisa escaped into madness early in the story; Maria Clara was a half-crazed nun at the end of the novel.
Sinang, Doña Victorina, and Doña Consolacion provide the comic relief that lightens the darker moods in the novel. Sinang is such a pretty, jolly and kind young native woman that one wonders why she wasn’t in the starring role. She personifies the Filipina unspoiled by silly notions of imitating the European. In stark contrast to Sinang is Doña Victorina in her outlandish clothes and pretentious attempt to speak Spanish. Doña Victorina is more ridiculous than funny, but she serves the purpose of showing how laughable persons could be when they reject and deny their own identity in favor of an imitation. Of the female characters in the novel, Doña Consolacion is the most grotesque, called by the irreverent as “the muse of the constabulary”. She does not have a single redeeming factor that would lead the reader to pity her. In Chapter 57, her cruelty is highlighted. When Tarsilo was being interrogated, he caught sight of Doña Consolacion and he exclaimed “I’ve never seen an uglier woman!” and, turning to the alferez said, “You’re going to flog me to death, Señor Alferez, but tonight your woman will revenge me by embracing you.” These are strong and brave words from one who knows he is going to die, but it raises the question: Is Doña Consolacion cruel because she is ugly; or is she ugly because she is cruel? Was there a time when she was not ugly and cruel? If there was such a time, as is likely it raises the issue of what had made her turn into a monstrous creature. Similar questions apply to the other characters, both the natives and the Spanish.
Exercise. Identify the other female characters and find the common traits that make them representations of the types of Filipina found in Rizal’s time and in the present time. What are the traits shared by the two Doñas; what traits make them different? Doña Consolacion was a poor native before she married the alferez and, as his wife, she assigned powers to herself that she wouldn’t otherwise have. In the process, she became hideous figure; a fact that is easily apparent in her but is less so in other characters. Find those characters that had undergone this kind of transformation in a less marked manner, and identify those traits that they share with Doña Consolacion.
Pilosopong Tasio may be the one character that is distinctly different from the rest. He is also the character that makes a detached comment on everything that is happening in the country -- both good and bad -- much in the same way as would an onlooker. Tasio lives in the same society, yet he wasn’t really a part of it. In his long conversation with Ibarra, we get the feeling of hearing someone talking to himself, as if he were Ibarra in his old age; Ibarra the young Tasio.
Exercise. Is Tasio a fool, or is a man of wisdom? Everyone knows Tasio. Some people were acquainted with him way back when Tasio was the heir of a rich family up to time when his only wealth was his books. Younger people like Basilio know him only as a kind old man. Ibarra came to Tasio for advice and in Chapter 25, the two exchange ideas and talk of their hopes and their sorrows. Tasio related to each in a particular way. Find examples of how Tasio talked to other people like, for example Kapitan Tinong.
Father Damaso, Father Sibyla, and Father Salvi represent the hateful Spanish friars at the time. They show few sympathetic traits that would lessen the gravity of their faults. This may be a literary weakness on the part of the author, but it could also be a deliberate exaggeration that was meant to emphasize the negative results of the Church meddling in government and politics.
Group Discussion. Nobody is perfect -- no one can be thoroughly good or completely bad. Father Damaso is so obviously a villainous character but towards the end of the novel, he revealed that he too could love in a most sincere fashion. Father Sibyla is sinister and the reader is kept wondering what evil intent he has on his mind. Father Salvi is the type of man—priest or layman—who fights a losing battle with his vile passions, which is probably why he does not have time to meddle in politics or the local government. Discuss the change in the role of the Church in Philippine society today, in the social and political level.
There are many more characters in the novel that complete the view of people at this time in Philippine history. You can continue the study of characters by following the examples already given.
The Plot of Noli me tángere
The plot of a novel is more than “what it is all about”. The plot is the series of events arranged according to causality—how an event results in another event, expected or unexpected, which in turn becomes the cause of further events, leading to a logical conclusion. To tell what the Noli me tángere is all about is quite easy: it is about a man named Crisostomo Ibarra who tried to bring progress to his people but was instead accused of being a filibuster (subversive) and ended up losing not only his love, Maria Clara, but also his freedom and almost lost his life too. But that is not the plot of the novel.
Within the main plot of the novel are subplots, most of which would make a complete story. Examples of these are: the story of Sisa and her sons Basilio and Crispin; the story of Tarsilo Alasigan; and the story of Maria Clara. Let us examine the plot of the story of Sisa, to give you an idea how to define the plot in fiction. It would help to first write the plot in a numbered sequence to illustrate cause and effect.
1. Sisa had two sons, Basilio and Crispin, who worked as sacristans
2. Although they were very young, they had to work like servants at the church because Sisa hoped that they would learn to read and write in exchange for their work at the church.
3. Their father was a mean and heartless man who comes home only to see if there is anything more he could get like a free meal or something that Sisa has that he could sell to use for his gambling.
4. On the eve of All Saints Day, the father came home and found nothing but the special supper for Basilio and Crispin that Sisa was preparing and ate all of it except one small sardine.
5. It was getting late and Sisa began to worry about her sons, not knowing that Crispin was as good as dead and Basilio had barely escaped.
6. The next morning Sisa went to the Church looking for Crispin but was told that her son was a thief before she was driven out and sent on her way.
7. Not long after, soldiers came to Sisa’s house and, not finding Crispin, arrested Sisa instead.
8. Unable to bear her shame at walking to the town in full sight of everyone and the grief at losing her sons, Sisa escaped into madness.
9. Sisa would continue looking for her sons, asking everyone she meets if they had seen Basilio and Crispin, singing to herself and totally unaware of what is really happening around her.
In paragraph form, this is how the plot of the story of Sisa would be written, details added to fill out the nine items.
Sisa had two sons, Basilio and Crispin, who worked as sacristans. They were her only treasures because her brutal husband had used up everything of value that she owned. Although it was painful not to have them with her at home, she put them to work as sacristans, not knowing that the young boys were cruelly maltreated. On the eve of All Saints Day, Sisa prepared a special supper for her sons who would be coming home for that special holiday. Unfortunately, her husband came home and ate all the food. Basilio came home very late that night. He was forced to admit to his mother that Crispin could not come home because the senior sacristan had accused him of being a thief, but did not tell her that, before he escaped, he heard Crispin’s anguished cries as the senior sacristan beat him with a cane behind locked doors. That night Basilio woke up in a sweat because he dreamed that Crispin had died after the senior sacristan beat him on the head with a heavier cane. The next morning Sisa prepared a basket of vegetables for the curate before going to the rectory to see her son Crispin. Sisa did not get to see the curate but only servants and the cook who told her that her sons were thief and that they would soon be arrested. She was driven out of the rectory. Soon after, soldiers came to the house and, not finding Crispin or Basilio, arrested Sisa instead. She was forced to walk to town between two soldiers and she could hardly bear the shame. After waiting for two hours, Sisa was sent home because the alferez ignored the curate’s accusation against the boys. Finally, Sisa found her way home but she did not find any relief or consolation. It was then that she saw a piece of Basilio’s shirt with bloodstains. She brought it out to see more clearly in the remaining light of the late afternoon. Sisa could not see or understand what she was seeing; she could only stare straight at the dying sun. Such suffering was too great for the gentle Sisa to bear, and the next day, she wandered about smiling, singing, and talking with all of God’s little creatures. Sisa had escaped from her sorrows into merciful madness.
Exercise. Write the plot of the Noli me tángere, first doing it in numbered sequence, before writing it in paragraph form. You can start with this:
1. Crisostomo Ibarra came home from his travels abroad and the story opens with a dinner party where Kapitan Tiago would introduce him as a guest of honor.
2. Among the guests were friends and enemies who had played a role in his life and would later determine the course of his life and love.
As the protagonist of the novel, Crisostomo Ibarra is the character in whose character the main conflict resides. It is easy enough to identify the external conflicts: Ibarra versus the society of his time -- its values and its prejudices; Ibarra versus Father Damaso and, indirectly, with the other friars; Ibarra versus Kapitan Tiago whose very strong sense of self-preservation puts him in direct conflict with the love between Maria Clara and Ibarra. Other conflicts, mostly internal reside in other characters such as Sisa, Doña Victorina, Doña Consolacion, and Elias. However, the more internal conflict within Ibarra is the more interesting one, as it expresses the dilemma of present-day Filipinos: the conflict between traditional values and one’s personal values that had been developed through time.
In long dialogues with Pilosopong Tasio, Ibarra reveals the conflicts within him. His father was Spanish and his mother was Indio, which makes him a mestizo or half-breed. Thus, he feels a loyalty to the country of his father’s ancestors that tend to clash with his natural love for his native land. Being a mestizo, Ibarra is not good enough for both the Peninsulares and the Filipinos; and, it is not surprising that his own countrymen would regard him with suspicion and wary respect, as he is not really “one of them.”
Towards the end of the novel, it is revealed that the real father of Maria Clara is Padre Damaso and this apparently villainous friar was, at last, shown as a person capable of loving somebody outside of himself. This is an instance where external and internal conflicts merge, showing the complexity of characters that first seemed to be mere stereotypes. Maria Clara did not really resolve the conflicts within her; she chose to escape, by entering the convent as a nun. Rightly or wrongly, Maria Clara has been held as the ideal Filipina which, perhaps, is the reason why many Filipinas prefer to be or pretend to prefer being a Maria Clara type with all its dubious virtues. Many had used the convent as an escape from a world that could not give them happiness or the fulfilment they crave. Interestingly, Maria Clara’s escapism was revealed in the Epilogue when two patrolmen who sought shelter from a storm under the eaves near the nunnery. They saw “a white figure standing almost on the ridge of the roof with arms and face raised toward the sky as if praying to it”. She escaped a problem through religion that was itself a part of that problem. One could very well ask what she thought of Padre Damaso being her real father in terms of the reverence she has been trained to give to friars and everything connected to religion.
Conflict is essentially related to plot, such that the development of the conflict(s) simultaneously develops the plot, and the resolution(s) of the conflict wraps up the story and brings it to an end. It could happen that the conflict(s) is not satisfactory or completely resolved, giving the reader a sense of frustration, or at least a doubt of what the author really wanted to say. Rizal wrote a sequel to the Noli me tángere, the El Filibusterismo where the conflicts within Crisostomo Ibarra in the person of Simon developed further.
1. As for the other characters in the Noli me tángere who do not resurface in El Filibusterisom, we can only wonder what happened to them and how they resumed a life with the conflicts still unresolved. Make a list of these characters and identify the conflict -- external, internal, or both -- and how these were resolved.
2. To a large extent, the conflicts in Rizal’s first novel continue to be the same or closely similar conflicts in Philippine contemporary society. If you were a writer, how would you resolve these in a story?
3. Pilosopong Tasio wrote in hieroglyphics because, as he told Ibarra, “I do not want to be read now.” Yet he continued to write so that the next generations would know that “not all were asleep in the night of our ancestors”. Some people regarded Pilosopong Tasio as a fool no better than the mad Sisa. Did he escape into insanity like Sisa, just as Maria Clara escaped into the nunnery? How did he resolve his own conflicts?
Point of View
Point of view as an element of fiction refers to the narrator or the one telling the story. In many ways, the narrator determines how a story is told because events are filtered through his own perceptions and, therefore, the interpretations are uniquely his own.
Rizal used the omniscient narrator in the Noli me tángere, but there are events that are told directly by the characters themselves. For example, the character of Doña Consolacion is revealed by the omniscient narrator and is supplemented by direct statements from other characters, as in this exchange between Ibarra and Tasio.
"The Muse of the Civil Guard? Who is she?"
"The alferez's woman, whom you didn't invite to your picnic. Yesterday morning the incident of the cayman became known through the town. The Muse of the Civil Guard is as astute as she is malignant and she guessed that the pilot must be the bold person who threw her husband into the mudhole and who assaulted Padre Damaso. As she reads all the reports that her husband is to receive, scarcely had he got back home, drunk and not knowing what he was doing, when to revenge herself on you she sent the sergeant with the soldiers to disturb the merriment of your picnic. Be careful! Eve was a good woman, sprung from the hands of God -- they say that Doña Consolacion is evil and it's not known whose hands she came from! In order to be good, a woman needs to have been, at least sometime, either a maid or a mother."
1. Find instances in the novel where only the omniscient narrator relates the event or the character.
2. Using Doña Consolacion as an example look for other instances in the novel where direct statements add significant details.
3. How does the interpretation and tone differ when told by an omniscient narrator from that which is told by one of the characters?
All stories happen in a certain place(s) at a certain time. This is known as the setting—the place and time within which the story is placed in its physical and social context, or the context through which the story should be understood. It is utter folly to interpret those past events according to present circumstance, but the opposite is not true. The present can be understood by tracing its relation to the past.
In the first chapter, the author mentions a specific time, the last of October that, in the Philippines, is the time for preparing for the special day those who had died. This is a curious tweaking of two feasts that come one after the other: All Saints Day in November 1, followed the next day by All Souls Day. Do Filipinos regard all their dead as “saints”? Whatever their reason, that is the tradition that, apparently, was also observed during Rizal’s time.
By Chapter 26, the time of the setting is the 10th of November, the eve of the fiesta in Ibarra’s hometown. This means that, by the third of the novel, only 11 days had passed from the time the story began. The day after the fiesta comes 16 chapters later, with Maria Clara lying sick, apparently due to a broken heart, with Dr. Espadaña trying to cure her with a "Lichen with milk in the morning, syrup of marshmallow, two cynoglossum pills!"
Two chapters later, Rizal tells us, “long days and weary nights passed at the sick girl's bed”. We could then assume that the following 11 chapters were these “long days and nights” during which everything happened until Chapter 55, when we read of Maria Clara being well enough to sit at the piano while secretly waiting for Ibarra, before the end of the chapter, was arrested at his home. From the time of Ibarra’s arrest, the novel moves on quickly to the others arrests, the death of Pilosopong Tasio; a reference by Kapitan Tinong to Padre Burgos in the next, the parting between Maria Clara and Ibarra in Chapter 60. In Chapter 61, Elias saved Ibarra during the chase in the lake and told him that they would meet each other on Christmas Eve at the tomb of Ibarra’s grandfather. The novel ends with Chapter 63 where Ibarra finds not Elias but Basilio to whom he said this famous line, "I die without seeing the dawn brighten over my native land! You, who have it to see, welcome it--and forget not those who have fallen during the night!"
This means that in fictional time, the story took place in just more than two months -- from the 10th of October to Christmas Eve. Yet, Rizal had practically told the whole sad story of a colonized race within the timeframe of his own experience and the memory of other characters in the novel.
Identify the actual time in history of 1) historical events, like the execution of the priests—Padre Gomez, Burgos and Zamora; 2) personages; 3) local uprisings and to the ideas of liberalism that Ibarra experienced during his travels, that were mentioned in the novel.
Technique and Style
Technique refers to the method and devices that the author uses; style refers to language. Since the Noli me tángere was originally written in Spanish but is studied in translation, style will not be primary consideration here. However, good translations of the novel give the readers a fairly good idea how Rizal used words to make a point, as in showing the pretentious use of “Spanish” by Doña Victorina in her letter to Linares.
The Noli me tángere can be regarded as a historical novel, as it has mostly fictional characters but also historical persons like Father Burgos (see Chapter 56), who lived in actual places within a social system that was then typical of a colonized land. Admittedly, Rizal exaggerated a bit, as in his portrayal of characters like the friars Damaso, Salvi, and Sibyla; the two women who were preoccupied with prayers and novenas, and, the Espadañas but, on the whole, the novel follows the basic rules of realism.
Humor worked best where a more serious presentation of the general practices of religion during that time (and even up to present time) would have given the novel a darker and pessimistic tone. Rizal’s description of the lavish fiesta showed the comic antics at church and the ridiculous expense for one day of festivities. Rizal had a sharp pen that could ridicule which allows us to laugh at ourselves.
Find examples of the use of satiric humor and discuss how many of such types of people and practices can still be found in present-day Philippines. Discuss how and why such practices persist.
The title Noli me tángere contains the main theme -- the cancer in the country’s socio-cultural and political life had grown so malignant that it was best not to touch it. Did Rizal mean that the organism should be left to die as it eventually would, or did he mean that the cancer could be excised by total surgery? Both are extremely painful. Total surgery would have meant a clean cut that is tantamount to a revolution or the total change of the existing structural system. The novel ends without giving the answer, though it could be said that the suggestion of an answer was attempted in its sequel, El Filibusterismo where Simon’s violent revolution failed.
There are several sub-themes, not less important when taken as the parts that make up the whole, but minor when taken singly. A few examples are:
· Religion is not as important as the basic truths of love, justice, and compassion.
· Greed breeds corruption.
· Self-preservation tests the strength of friendships
Notice that a theme is formulated as a sentence, not as a phrase or a single word, because a theme is a statement that gives a stand or a position about a particular idea.
Find at least three sub-themes in the novel and formulate it as a sentence. For example, how would you state the theme of...
1. the love between Maria Clara and Ibarra
2. Sisa’s unthinking loyalty to her husband and her devoted love for her two sons
3. Kapitan Tiago’s collection of saints and his actual religious convictions.