Dead Stars Analysis by Paz Marquez Benitez

Dead Stars Symbolism

The ‘Dead Stars’ represent a presence that is unrecognized. It speaks of emotions and relationships that may exist but are not realized and lose their real meaning and significance.

In the story, the attraction between Alfredo and Julia is a forbidden and taboo phenomenon. They both felt is to be real but never accepted their mutual attraction nor confessed it. They wilted to the social expectations and did the morally ordained thing.

However, the truth remains that they never intently examined their sentiments and relationship. Therefore, when they reunite after eight years they do not have the same passion for each other.

Their emotions became a transient and fleeting occurrence, much like the stars that are left as relics of their old glory and shine. These stars are dormant and the fire within them is vanquished but they remain as obtrusive reminders of their tangible existence.

They are an illusion of something that might have been lively and thriving previously, evidence of their vital past. But now they are a mere illusion of something that cannot be revived.

Even the moral fortitude of Esperanza is symbolized in her devotion to her husband even after learning about his dalliance with Julia. She has a strong belief in the institution of marriage and loyalty and fulfils her commitment for the same even though she might not ever truly love Alfredo.

Dead Stars Setting

The story uses the third-person voice and is set in the early 1900s. The story is set in Don Julian’s and Judge Del Valle’s houses located in the Philippines. It foreshadows the social make-up and dominant views of the place at that time.

The society is male-dominated and represent the features of such a social setup. As the author is a female writer placed in a male-dominated age and World, the story became a precursor to the growth of Filipino English literature.

In a patriarchal society, man is the ultimate authority in defining norms, moral or otherwise. Women are secondary and precluded group when it comes to deciding the dominant idea and pervasive issues. But the woman is not just anti-man or inadequate-man; she is also what man can never be.

This necessitates the balance between the two and if this equilibrium is challenged by revolutionary or reformist zeal than it is often stifled and silenced. They both cannot exist unilaterally or autonomously and need mutual reaffirmation by each other.

Hence, women often become an afterthought in such male-dominated and chauvinistic times even though the subtle and inextricable inter-dependence of the male and female forms is always a function of a cohesive social system.

Dead Stars Moral Lesson

The story is infused with moral and intellectual approaches highlighting the values and morals in place in that age, culture and place. Historicism and the historical context of the story give it salience in terms of understanding the thoughts and subsequent actions of the characters like Alfredo, Julia, Esperanza etc.

It depicts a plethora of battles that a human being is involved depending on the circumstances and interactions with other human beings. Characters like Alfredo, Julia etc are fighting not just against the odds fate has put before them but also their circumstances, public and moral obligations.

To make matter worse they are also embroiled in a battle against their own emotions and understanding, a battle within themselves. They lack the certainty of thought, sentiments for each other and thus their actions (Lies, ridicule, insults etc) reflect their ambiguity and desperation. 

Paz Marquez’s penmanship mirrors the dominant social views and established conventions of literature as well society. It expounds various human emotions (like affection, compassion, jealousy, concupiscence etc.) and relationships involvement (like betrothal, courtship, friendship, professional obligations etc.).

Thus, it creates a veritable knowledge base to contrast and compares the society of her age and place with the contemporary or any other age. It provides a lens to make meaning about the extant culture, customs, traditions etc.

Consequently, it reflects the malleability of such social mores, practices and customs with a corresponding change in time and even landscape. Both the leading women conform to the masculine dominant and their ideology. They remain loyal to the man in their lives, Alfredo.

Hence, they both never criticize or lament Alfredo’s lies and deceit but acquiesce to his manly exceptionalism.  Alfredo. On the other hand, is portrayed as weak-willed, easily seducible, contorted with his changing emotions and vulnerable to irrational actions.

Eventually, he surrenders to the social expectations and does the moral good even though he ends up building a loveless home with Esperanza, his first love.

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