This chapter had interesting things going. I’ll just quote parts from the novel and write my take on each of the excerpts.
Maria Clara was ravishingly beautiful… her lips seemed only to smile…she greeted old friends from her childhood, now the admirers of her stunning youth…She found everything good and beautiul. She radiated love with a virginal grace that, unconscious of everything but pure thoughts, never blushes falsely, though when a lively joke was offered, she hid her face behind her fan, and a brief tremor coursed through her body.
Yada Yada Yada Half the page was devoted to this description. All I want to say is that this made me want to gag. This is not the first time that Rizal devoted half a page to her perfectness. It’s annoying to read these lines. However, I think Rizal had his reasons. I’d like to predict that Rizal wants to emphasize Maria Clara’s youth and beauty now so that he can convey some sort of tragic twist of events and support it with details of Maria Clara losing her innocence. I think that in effect, Maria Clara will be a representation of the evil consequences of corruption.
The leper ran away, the whipper ran after him, and the mayor yelled, “Listen, better to drown than to end up like you!”
“He’s right,” Maria Clara murmured.
This needs some setting up. What happened is that there is this town leper who saw a young boy fall into a canal. The leper saved the young boy. However, the father of the young boy found out and complained to the mayor. The mayor had the leper be whipped 6 times in the middle of the street. As the leper ran away, the mayor yelled, “Listen, better to drown than to end up like you!” And in the next paragraph, Maria Clara agrees with this statement.
The leper is a representation of the main theme in this novel: the social cancer. It’s helpful to know that Noli Me Tangere was also published as “The Social Cancer.” And this social cancer, from what I’ve read so far, is a phrase describing the fear and corruption of people.
A follow-through question would be, “How is the social cancer transmitted?” I predict that the novel says “ignorance.” The biggest indication is Ibarra’s desire to build a school for the town. It’s his main project so far in the novel. In Chp.25 (I have a blog post dedicated to this chapter as well), Ibarra goes to Old Tasio for advice about how to get people to support him in efforts to build the school. (Blog post on Chp. 25)
It also helps to do some research on leprosy. Scientists still do not know how leprosy is transmitted. (How Is Leprosy Transmitted?)
I’d also like to point out that this excerpt reveals a little something about Maria Clara: her fear of being alone and outcast. Maria Clara and the leper are foils in this interlude because Maria Clara basks in compliments about her beauty. She has many friends…you can even call them a posse because they’re always following her as well. On the other hand, the leper is the complete opposite. Everybody stays away from him. Nobody touches him for fear of getting the disease. Again, an emphasis on ignorance here because people don’t know how leprosy is transmitted (thus assuming that they can contract it just by touching him). Also, an emphasis on fear…they fear what they do not know.
“I had a garden and flowers, I had sons, garden, and flowers!” –Sisa (The Madwoman)
I don’t yet have blog posts about the chapters before Chp. 25. So I’ll summarize a little for you here about Sisa. Sisa is a woman who recently lost two sons. These two sons were killed (because of greed) by those who should be keeping peace in the town. I won’t say anymore so I can explain further in another blog post. What I’d like to point out is the use of the word, “garden.” Yes, Sisa had a garden (a humble one at that). However, I think this word was chosen especially because garden is associated with life. “I had a garden” translates to “I had a life” and “I had sons” is another way of saying that her sons were her life. They took her sons from her and so they rob her of her life. Her reason to live.