A Literary Analysis on Manuel E. Arguilla’s Short Story and Wilfrido Ma. Guererro’s One Act Play

Introduction

We know for the fact that short stories and one-act plays were the fully developed forms of Literature during the Colonial Period (American Occupation). The short story was to be the showcase for the skill and art of Filipino writers using English. One of the finest short story writers during this period was Manuel E. Arguilla (1910-1944) who also covered a broad range of subject matters and themes drawn from the experiences of Filipinos living in the 1930s. The sarsuwela was replaced by one-act plays in 1930s. One-act plays which were written by the students were staged. Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero (1917-1995) was the most prolific of the Filipino playwrights using English as medium of expression (Lumbera B. and Lumbera C., 2005). In this period, the English language was used as the medium of instruction in all Philippine schools because of the imposition brought by the Americans. English opened the floodgates of colonial values through phonograph records, textbooks, and magazines originally intended for American children which influenced young Filipinos. There was an establishment of public school system which marked the beginning of Philippine writing in English. It is said that the University of the Philippines was founded in 1908 in order to train young Filipinos for tasks in colonial bureaucracy (Lumbera B. and Lumbera C., 2005). Indeed, there was a spread of American culture happened during this period. The American style of writing and its subject matters were incorporated, adapted, and imitated by the Filipino writers. As a result, Philippine literature became international.

I want to discuss Manuel E. Arguilla’s short story entitled “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” and Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero’s one-act play entitled “Wanted: A Chaperon” for this literary analysis. I have chosen these works because I find them interesting. These two works are interesting because they give the readers meaningful and moral lessons in life. Even though we have already discussed these in high school and in college, it seems that the lessons from these stories are truly unforgettable and valuable.

In order for me to discuss these topics, various methods or literary theories will be used. First, I will use Formalism which serves as the starting point for the analysis and discussion. The analysis will also use Marxism to further discuss the chosen topics. I will begin with Arguilla’s “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife”. This is to be followed by Guerrero’s one-act play “Wanted: A Chaperon”. After which, will be the analysis of their similarity and differences.

Analysis and Discussions

The story “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” was set during the 1930s in Nagrebcan, Bauang La Union. The place is a province and we know that the people who are living there would most likely be the farmers. The story is told in the 1st person point of view and this narrator is Baldo, the younger brother of Leon. His older brother is Noel but named by Maria as Leon. As what Baldo realized: “But it was only the name of my brother Leon said backward and it sounded much better that way.” Another major character found in the story is Maria who is the wife of Leon. For Baldo, her name is “sosyal” and it is obvious that she comes from a city.

The conflict shown in the story is centered between Maria and herself, as well as the society by which Baldo and Leon lived in. We know that Maria is from a city while her husband Leon is from a province. Maria is concerned if she’s going to be accepted or not by Leon’s family despite of her social status. She was even tested if she is worthy to be the wife of Leon. This was seen when Baldo ignored his older brother’s question about why did they have to go to Waig instead of Camino Real.

I think Maria is a good character in the story. I like Maria not because she’s kind and lovely, but because she is not the typical “matapobre” as seen in the story. She is indeed a sympathetic woman. In fact, Maria was a bit anxious because of meeting Leon and Baldo’s parents for the first time. Maria is worried that she will not be accepted by Leon’s father because she may not able to adapt their way of living in the province. However, on their way home, she discovered the differences of the life of the people lived there and the life in the city where she met and fell in love with Leon. We can see Maria’s response when Leon asked her: “You miss the houses, and the cars, and the people and the noise, don’t you?” My brother Leon stopped singing. “Yes, but in a different way. I am glad they are not here.” I appreciate her the most simply because she accepted and respected Leon for what he really is. She didn’t care what Leon’s life back in Nagrebcan. She was a supportive and a loving wife to Leon. She was so endearing and kind-hearted lady. She was very keen to meet Leon’s family. It is somewhat discouraging that the rural is different from the city but the closer they get to the house, Maria still managed to overcome any trials. She admits for having some fear, but she also shows clearly it did not stop her. I believe that social status is not a hindrance if you truly love each other.

The first theme of this story is that no matter what it takes to be with the one you love, you will do anything to be with that person. I know that having a long and strong relationship with the person you love is seldom nowadays. People tend to love one another at first but eventually end up being bitter. Well, that kind of relationship is not a true love after all. If I’m going to apply this significant theme or message to the life of Filipinos then it can be said that as Filipinos, we are very emotional when we think of true love. We also care about true love. There are Filipinos who turn to sacrifice and endure things just to be happy. If you are sacrificing it truly means that you value and you truly love this person (Adofina et al., 2013). In the story, we can see that Maria will sacrifice anything just to be happy with Leon, her only love. I can say that this love is true and genuine. This kind of love then is truly authentic.

Another theme that is portrayed in the story is the saying that “Don’t judge the book by its cover.” Baldo, when he first saw Maria, was surprised to see that his brother Leon accompanied a woman who is different from them because of her name, as well as lovely and beautiful appearance. He said to himself that: “He did not say Maring. He did not say Mayang. I knew then that he had always called her Maria and that to us all she would be Maria; and in my mind I said ‘Maria’ and it was a beautiful name.” It is then obvious for Baldo that Maria came from a city. As a person living in a province, he has already the belief that people like Maria doesn’t belong to them and is impossible to adapt their way of living in the province. But despite of the test ordered by his father, Baldo somehow realized that Maria is also a friend and should be treated like them knowing that she proved worthy of it.

We can also see Filipino values or traits that are revealed within the story. One trait is the goal to obtain one’s trust most especially when you want your parents to have a permission to marry your chosen loved one. Filipino parents are very hard to impress. It is hard to get their trust as well. But what Maria did in the test that the father of Baldo and Leon gave to her proved that she really deserved and love Leon. She will sacrifice anything to be happy and be with her only love. Another value that is revealed within the story is living a life of contentment. Filipinos who live in the province are very well known to be simple yet they are contented for what they have. They are happy with small things and appreciate what they have and how they live life.

The one-act play “Wanted: A Chaperon” was set in the living room which was simply furnished one Sunday morning, at about eleven. It is a comedy. The story is told in the 3rd person point of view. The characters involved in this play were Don Francisco the father, Doña Petra the mother, Nena their daughter, Roberting their son, Doña Dolores, Fred her son, Francisco a.k.a. “Francis” the servant, and Pablo the mayordomo. The play was written in a way that is simple, usual, and humorous.

The play is all about the traditional way of courting and accompanying women on a party and in other occasions which means that the portrayal of old customs are seen in that play. Don Francisco is so strict not just with Roberting during the money conversation, but also with his daughter Nena because he doesn’t want Nena to go on a party or in any occasions unchaperoned most especially she’s a lady. We can see this when Don Francisco had a conversation with his son Roberting: You young modern people. Do you realize that in my time when I was courting your mother, her father, her mother, her three sisters, her young brother, her grandmother, five first cousins and two distant relatives sat in the sala with us?” He also added the reason of what he said about courting: “Because in those days we were more careful about a woman’s reputation.” One night, Nena goes out with Fred, her friend. Unfortunately, rumors right after their date were spread. Many people think that something bad is happened to the two of them. And for the townspeople, it’s inevitable. Until Doña Dolores, mother of Fred, goes to the house of Don Francisco insisting that something happened between his son and Nena. It is Doña Dolores’ plan to insist his son Fred to Nena but nothing really happened in fact. The same situation is happened to Don Francisco’s son Roberting at the end of the play. So to avoid these issues Don Francisco and Doña Dolores look for chaperons for their children to guide them instead of the muchacho (servant) (Casuyon, 2011).

The writer poked fun at middle-class characters grappling with the problem of Americanization (Lumbera B. and Lumbera C., 2005). To use a Marxism approach for this play, we can see how Don Francisco wanted to call himself as someone who is high than their servant Francisco. He even changed Francisco’s name into Francis to avoid confusion. Francis often gets into trouble and that’s why he was being yelled by Don Francisco.

The message or the theme of the play is that our traditional culture, customs, and ways of living must always be alive in our heart knowing that these are now fading most especially in the technological age by which we are living in. We have been adopting other countries’ cultures or activities that we are not open to our own culture. Don Francisco said that: “Outward things change, like the styles of women’s dresses and men’s ties, but the human heart remains the same.” I think the play is a best example on how we should live our life with our own. That is why there is a saying in Filipino that says: “Dapat nating mahalin ang sariling atin.” We should then live life in accordance to our original beliefs that our ancestors wants these teachings to be a mark for us Filipinos.

Another theme in the play is the giving of importance to the reputation of women. As we all know, most young women nowadays are getting too liberated. They are liberated in terms of their sexual behaviors or clothing ways that men would easily tempted to them. As a result, they’ll end up being harassed or raped. They’ll also end up being pregnant in an early age which can also lead to abortion. However, the play only reminds us that young women should behave in their daily living. It’s important for them not to be influenced too much by the other cultures most especially some Westerners and Americans who are sexually liberated. Filipino young women from the past used to be conservative and modest. They were accompanied and courted by their parents or relatives whenever they have occasions. We all know, for some reason, that women are treated equally. But they should also learn and strive to live life carefully and wisely most especially in the present time.

Also, there are people who tend to be so judgmental nowadays. They easily give comments and opinions to other people without certain evidences. They are gossipers who make the issues very complicated (Casuyon, 2011). I think, we have to get rid of this unpleasant attitude as well because this would definitely causes a lot of trouble.

Now, we can see clearly the differences between the two works above. In terms of their similarity, Arguilla’s short story and Guererro’s play portrayed the socio-economic problems in Philippine society. The characters think that social status really defines them. We can see that Maria is from a city while her husband Leon is from a province. Maria is concerned if she’s going to be accepted or not by Leon’s family despite of her social status. We can also see that Don Francisco thinks himself as high than their servant Francisco by treating him immorally. He has a conflict with that kind of situation.

Conclusions and Insights

The two works are very good pieces because of the elements of fiction used and the way these stories were defamiliarized. These works are great because of the subject matters and styles of writing used by outstanding writers and playwrights during the time of American Colonial period. I can say that we should learn to make a difference in our lives because having a chance is the greatest gift we can receive. Don’t let things like social status defines us. We should learn to be sympathetic and understanding persons to others, be able to adopt our old ways of living at least, be happy, and be wise. In these ways, we can live life meaningfully.

References

Adofina, J., Endon, D., & Reyes J., (2013). A report on how my brother leon brought home a wife. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from http://www.slideshare.net/sicachi/how-my-brother-leon-brought-home-a-wife-28707267  

Casuyon, J. (2011). Plot of wanted: a chaperon. Retrieved March 10, 2015 from http://stylistcasuyon.blogspot.com/2011/03/worksheet-1-wanted-chaperon.html

Lumbera, B. & Lumbera, C.N. (2005). Philippine literature: A history and anthology. pp. 95-96. Manila: Anvil Publishing, Inc.

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