(In which one virtue never wins.)
In our Literature class, we were talking about the different types of conflicts as part of our discussion on the plot of a short story.
Professor: Have you read “The Plighted Word” by Narciso G. Reyes?
(Edit: Dear Reader, for the full text of “The Plighted Word” by Narciso G. Reyes, click here.)
The students looked at each other. My friend asked me if I had. “I don’t remember if I had. It must be a no.” I said.
The professor, seeing the puzzled look in our faces, ended our agony by starting to tell the summary of the story.
Professor: The setting was wartime and it’s about the love story of Flora and Tonio. Flora’s father decided that she marries the son of the landlord. Tonio is a soldier and so his father doesn’t consider him a good choice for a husband. He told Flora that if she marries Tonio, she will be widowed early but if she marries the rich boy, she will have a good future. So everything about the wedding was being planned by the two parties. Flora told Tonio “When Sunday night comes, consider me dead. I am going to marry Damian, the son of the landlord, just like what my father said.”
The night of pamamanhikan came and Tonio survived an ambush. He came to Flora’s house and called out her name. Flora heard him and all their sweet memories under the moonlight came to her. And you know what she did? She covered her ears so she couldn’t hear him. When Flora didn’t come out, Tonio left. That’s how the story ends.
Groans of disappointment filled the room.
The professor’s smile seemed to me that she enjoys the sound of our sympathetic groans. Then we moved on.
Professor: In the first part of the story, who or what are in conflict with each other?
Class: Flora and her father.
Professor: Then it’s man versus man. What about in the last part?
Class: Flora and her self.
Professor: (Nodding.) It’s man versus self. Now remember that it is literature because it symbolizes something deeper. What does the father symbolize?
Professor: Yes. (Pauses.) Realism. What about Flora?
Professor: Love and Emotions. Romanticism. (Pauses.) Who won?
Class: Her father.
Professor: Then it's realism. What does Flora's conflict with her self symbolize? (The class was quiet.) Flora was supposed to follow her father’s decision since the wedding has been planned, otherwise, she will embarrass her father. What does that symbolize?
Professor: Idealism. What about Flora’s attitude toward Tonio?
Professor: Which won?
Professor: Young people will always argue that romanticism must always be first and idealism and realism should be less prioritized. But that just shows how young they are.
There was a brief moment of silence as if everyone’s contemplating on what seemed to be a newfound knowledge. Suddenly it all came to me. My thoughts wandered from the present to some months ago. I saw it. Out of the darkness, all the letters flashed in gold.
This is reality. You have to accept it.
I like you but if it goes on, it will be more painful.
I’m ending it now.
Just forget about me.
The painfully slow flow of my thoughts was stopped and I was brought back to reality.
“…we have to do a genre analysis. Now please look at the next page…”