Williams’ The Red Wheelbarow: A Marxist Interpretation (by Kiel De Guzman)

In interpreting the poem The Red Wheelbarrow, we are to use the Marxist approach and criticism, but before that, let us know Karl Marx.

According to BBC History, Karl Marx is a German revolutionary communist and a philosopher. He published ‘The Communist Manifesto’ which asserts that in all histories of human race, there is a social hierarchy constituting different classes which is the source of the societal conflict and that the only solution is the proletariat’s (working class) victory. He is the proponent of the socioeconomic analysis named Marxism, which “considers that a revolutionary process that will lead to a society based on cooperation and the free distribution of goods and provision of services is necessary” (Recluse, 2013).

Having known Marx, it is evident that he believes that there is no absolute equality in the society. In the context of the Philippines, for example, there is a ruling power which only constitutes one per cent of the society’s population. Now, let us see the diagram showing the class types that make up the Philippine society.

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The picture illustrates the “Social Stratification” in the Philippines or otherwise known as Tatsulok ng Lipunan in Filipino.

Basically, there is what we call the “ruling power” who are at the top of the triangle, manipulating the ones below to get as much novelty as they can. Are the names of the social classes too heavy to carry? Do not mind because our focus will only be to the class at the bottom of the triangle.

Magsasaka, when translated to English means “farmer” or “peasant.” Since the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” contains images of objects in the farm, it is predictable how this interpretation will go like.

It is surprising that the poem, even written in the most concise manner, elicits a huge number of interpretation because of its universality. In fact, the poem was written by the American poet William Carlos Williams but contains meaning that is applicable even in the Philippine context.

In interpreting the poem’s meaning, below is a matrix that presents certain images and their colors along with the underlying meaning behind every aspect.

Lines Images Colors
so much dependsupon No image is presented. However, the lines give an advanced description of the subject. The subject is primarily the farmer or the farmers. In the Philippines, rice is the staple food, so the lines are parallel to the basic characteristic of the farmers. Most farmers do their job for almost their lifetime and even pass it to their offspring. There is the obvious situation of typical farmers in the Philippines—suffering from extreme poverty. Despite the fact that they suffer from poverty, they still continue farming for there is no other means of living in their situation in the province and “so much depends upon” them—the Filipinos.
a red wheelbarrow Wheelbarrow, as mentioned in the previous part, symbolizes the poor type of farmers. Poor farmers are those that neither own a land for farming nor materials to use. Why wheelbarrow? Because farmers seem to be materialized by ruling powers for giving them (1) unequal share in the land. That is, in the context of the Hacienda Luisita, farmers get only 33% of the land while the Cojuanco’s constituted the other 67%.  In this situation, the farmers do not get the area of land they need for living. When will the next harvest be? Do they still have the supply of rice at that time? These questions haunt them. (2) Farmers in, for example, the Hacienda Luisita, are payed 9.50 pesos per week (Bayan U. S. A., 2010). Will this be enough for their daily expenses given that some families in the province are of large sizes?

In this way, the image is the complete opposite of personification—it ismaterialization. The farmer, representing his fellow farmers, is being materialized since the treatment to them is inhumane.

Red symbolizes the revolutionary nature of farmers. Many farmers in the Philippines are victim of feudalism and other forms of exploitation. As farmers experience more and more of these, they tend to be militant, for they see no other means of escaping to their situation. Revolutionists are called the “Pulang Hukbo” or “Red Army.” To sum it up, red symbolizes the farmers’ militant nature.
glazed with rainwater The wheelbarrow, being glazed with rain water,symbolizes the farmers being cleansed, being new. On the onset of the farmworkers’ life, they lack the knowledge of their situation. In the later time, farmers receive new knowledge about their situation, who directly and indirectly exploits them, and how they were exploited. Since farmers are now knowledgeable of their context, they tend to do “pagpapanibagong hubog” as a means of changing their perspective and do necessary actions to mitigate their situation. The dusts in the body of the wheelbarrow are then washed away, bringing out its new image.

Rain water may also be associated with what the farmer have for eating. Since farmers experience having lack or no supply of food at all, there are instances when they boil stones with water and use its broth as a soup. A wondering mind might ask: “What will they get from it?” or “Is it safe to eat that kind of food?”

 

Rain water, as mentioned in the first paragraph, symbolizes knowledge. What if the wheelbarrow becomes full of water? What if their knowledge is enough or even exceed their capacity? These will be addressed in the interpretation of last two lines.

Water is generally depicted as blueand blue symbolizes grief. Farmers feel the melancholy of being victims of the system. They are frustrated for not being able to give the needs, even the primary needs, of their children—education and health—and household. As farmers of the old times, they are just passive, responding to their situation with mere pity on themselves.
beside whitechickens Chickens often get food on every surface they pick. Chickens are like rich countries. One of them is the United States. The US had much wealth that they can get. Similar to Morton’s (in Sales, 1992) analogy, when a glass is already full of water, one finds another glass to fill. If the US had no longer space to put its wealth in, it has to search for another storage. One of them is the Philippines. Since US is the imperialist of the Philippines, it took advantage of its natural resources to create more wealth as they do not stop making as much money as possible.

However, there is the word “beside.” This signifies that the US imperialist directly affects the farmers in terms of (1) export, (2) mining, and (3) militarization. (Gonzales, 2016). Farmers are affected by the idea that the Philippines is export oriented but is import dependent. Farmers produce raw materials including spices, rice, and other goods. They are being exploited because the good they worked hard for are sold for the cheapest price but are processed in another country to be sold as an expensive finished product, which, farmers cannot afford. For example, they make cocoa but they do not get to taste imported chocolates. Chickens may eat the plants farmers had planted, but will give fertilizing solid waste in return. Mining affects the farmers when they dig too much for mineral resources and tend to destroy the land farmers plant their seeds. It is as if chickens look for worms under the healthy soil, distorting the arrangement of plants. Lastly, in militarization, US troops are settled to stay on lands used for farming. The analogy goes like: the land intended for planting is used as chicken’s poultry. US militaries will soon die during wars, just like chickens in the farm that are meant to be slaughtered soon.

 

Addressing the question, the wheelbarrow becoming filled with water means the revolution has already started. The farmer has known enough about his situation and about how to respond to it. He then spills out, like water, the knowledge he has and in turn, repelling the chicken. This is a manifestation of how revolution works.

White symbolizes the American imperialists aiming for more wealth. However, this does not necessarily mean that Filipinos should hate all Americans. It is the system that people should be against, not the ordinary people. (Gonzales, 2016)

 

The poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” is such a universal text. It can generate a bunch of interpretations and it is surprising that it even matches with the Philippine context of farmers experiencing exploitation from ruling powers. The colors embedded to the images not only make the full picture vivid and alive but also add to the meaning and emotion in every lines.

 

References:

Ayroso, D. (2015) Mining Act: 20 years of mining plunder, pollution and destruction must end. Retrieved from http://bulatlat.com/main/2015/03/03/mining-act-20-destruction-and-pollution-must-years-of-plunder-end/#sthash.8uldzBQ1.dpuf

Bayan U. S. A. (2010). US-funded Oplan Bantay Laya must end.Retrieved from http://bayanusa.org/us-funded-oplan-bantay-laya-must-end/

British Broadcasting Corporation. Karl Marx (1818 – 1883).Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/marx_karl.shtml

Gonzales, J. M. (2016). Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino. Personal Collection of J. Gonzales. Philippine Normal University, Manila, Philippines

Ocampo, S. C. (2014). Hda. Luisita massacre: No justice after 10 years. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2014/11/15/1391859/hda.-luisita-massacre-no-justice-after-10-years

Recluse, A. (2013). The basic principles of Marxism – Critique Sociale. Retrieved from https://libcom.org/library/basic-principles-marxism-critique-sociale

Sales, G. (1992). Jazz: America’s Classical Music, p. 57.

 

Image Source:

Pambansang Demokratikong Paaralan. (2005). Maikling Kurso sa Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino. 3rd ed. p.18.

 

Blog reposted from https://literaryblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/30/digging-in-to-the-words-a-formalist-and-marxist-view-on-the-red-wheelbarrow/

 

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Film Analysis: Okuribito (The Departures)

Film Analysis: Okuribito (The Departures)

One of the themes portrayed in the movie Okuribito (The Departure) about the Japanese’ belief about having a dead body “cleansed” before placing inside the coffin. In the film, using the different body movements the encoffiners are doing during the session, focus and passion are seen. Those movements gave the audiences a live experience on how the encoffiners give the last cleansing of the dead that gives them a peaceful departure.

The symbols/visual metaphor that are used in the movie are the cello and the stone which are both recurring in the beginning and in the end of the film (sometimes also occurs in the middle part). The cello is a significant thing, and as for me a symbol, in the main character’s life. There are two cellos in the film, the first is the cello that he bought and he used for the orchestra and the other one is the cello which he possessed since he was young. Both cellos serves as a doorway to the main character’s life. The cello which Kobayashi secretly bought for the orchestra symbolizes doorway – a doorway to the “should be” career of Kobayashi and the future of him and his wife. On the other hand, the cello which he possessed since he was young is the doorway to his past and also the doorway to his bright future. Moving to the stone, it was mentioned in the movie that rough-textured stones signifies “having concern” The smooth-texture stone signifies “having peacefulness.”  These two symbols gave the audience a visual experience that whenever these symbols happened to show it signals the audience to remember what relationship to the character they have.

The sounds used in the film that I found effective and memorable is the one the main character was playing in the middle and the latter part of the film.  This is so because it shows the ability of music to be dynamic when used in films. The first time the main character played this piece is that he feels resentful to things. The song portrays the sadness and the hopelessness in the current life of the main character. Particularly, it was mentioned in the movie that “it’s my (his) father’s favorite song” to which he has a problem with his father because he believes his father left them for another woman. On the latter part, that piece was played again but this time it already conveys something positive rather than the first one. Also additional musical instruments can also be heard making the music lively and positive. These two sounds enhanced the films capacity to give impact and Goosebumps to the audience.

Based from the elements I have observed in the film I can say that it is a good film because the used visual elements allowed the audience to experience the Japanese film portraying its culture like how the Japanese value the ritual of having the body “cleansed” (through encoffining) before being placed inside the coffin. Also the meaning of the different types of stones emphasized an important unseen theme in the film – the reason why the father gave Kobayashi a stone that is rough, as what mentioned earlier this type of stone means “having concern.” In relation to Kobayashi the stone signifies that in the latter part of the film he will “have concern” for other people and so it was, his job being an encoffiner. While on the other hand the stone which Kobayashi gave to his father is a smooth one which means “having peacefulness.” In the last part of the film it was justified specifically in the scene where Kobayashi encoffined his own father – he gave his father “peace” through encoffining.

Analysis of the short story “The Lottery” (A term paper for Ethics by Mi Jerica Joyce T. Dalunag)

Analysis of the short story “The Lottery” (A term paper for Ethics by Mi Jerica Joyce T. Dalunag)

 

            The first thing that comes in my mind whenever I hear the word “lottery” is easy money, for my father used to play such game, having in mind that his numbers were “lucky,” in order to have a few more. But having read this short story, it seems that my perception of the word “lottery” is something opposite with that of the story. Although the story started in somehow a common scenario in a village where there is “peace,” in the end it turned out in to something that is, again, opposite to what I expected. I found the story ironic. Everyone in the village is to participate and should participate to the lottery, and the “should be lucky” one to get the paper with a black spot gets a “reward” of being stoned. Such irony in life is something I experience the same and reflects to how immature I’ve been for the past years.

Firstly, I am the box that was used in the lottery. The box that is if needed is like the main attraction in the midst of the crowd, as if the only hope for betterment. And at the same time, the same box that was unjustly treated as if it had never been a part of something remarkable, something important. The same box that was “splintered badly,” is of no use anymore and is meant to be replaced by another one – a new one. The box that has nothing to say because it’s just a mere object. As for me, because of such immaturity, I just let them do the same to me, making myself as an object – the one used for immediate aid.

Secondly, I can see myself in little Dave’s situation. The young and pure heart to which is the well of all positivity and optimism. The one who easily trusts anyone not knowing of the things round him, it is as if every moment is meant for laughter and joy. Trust that can be easily given by anyone. Same as to mine – my every decision is greatly influenced by people who are around me. Even I have the ability to say, to reason, or even to object, because of having such a heart that is so pure and is afraid to hurt anyone or fail the expectations of anyone, I keep my mouth shut just to please them.

I have been such for the previous years of my existence but then I realized who I really am all the time. I am one of those children who gathers the stones. One of those who, despite of all the knowledge and ability to think, is part of throwing stones without any knowledge or understanding why must do such act. To throw stone to someone or something just because it’s the norm of my environment, the norm of the society which I belong with. The one who throws the stone because it is what is should be done.

But with all these, I can say that I am also Mrs. Hutchison the one who was in the very beginning a very confident looking one with a commanding voice to her husband. But then the same woman who was the lucky one who was drawn in the lottery to experience the ones in a life time reward. The reward that made me realize one thing, that there will be others, despite your ability to reason and speak out, who will throw rocks upon you that would cause you to fall, and in the end, still, the one who has nothing to do but to unwillingly accept the reward that was for hers. But then it’s not always that my whole being is the same as her, I have my own way of facing the things that are approaching me, and as a response, no matter how others throw rock upon me, in the end, it’s still up to me if I want my life to be a life worth living, which requires a happy life or become a martyr.

(Updated on 08 August 2016)

 

Baro’t Saya: The Philippines’ National Costume

Baro’t Saya: The Philippines’ National Costume

It is evident in most of the works of Amorsolo, a well-known Filipino portraitist and painter of rural landscapes, that Filipinas wear this ensemble of a upper clothe called baro and the skirt called saya to which is called the Baro’t Saya. In many festivals nowadays, the clothing would never be out of place. In prestigious beauty contests it is alive and is even made more beautiful through different renditions of the today’s well-known designers as what Pita mentioned in her online article posted on year 2012, “While historical structures are preserved and restored, traditional Filipiniana, on the other hand, are being modernized. The baro’t saya, recognized as the traditional attire for women, is essentially a matching blouse with full sleeves and skirt, and was usually worn with a tapis or pañuelo (scarf). The fabrics used are often indicative of whether an ensemble is meant for everyday wear or for more formal occasions.” The dress may look ordinary but it tells something about the country to which it belongs to. But despite of the fact that in both different eras, the past and the present, the dress that can be said as to “stunning” is a mere product of the Spaniards, who we know, have brought great sufferings in our country. Still, even though unofficial, Baro’t Saya stands and reigns with the title “The National Costume of the Philippines.”

Gabaton (2015) in her online article entitled Pamantayan ng Kagandahan sa Kamaynilaan mentioned, “Malaki ang pagkakahawig nito sa kasuotan ng mga prayle noon, bilang pagtalima sa kasulatan ng pagiging “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Also according to the article entitled Fashion beyond Times, “the Tagalog women started to modify their traditional dress (Baro’t saya) into a more conservative look with longer length of the skirt. The reason for this change in their dressing was to respect the foreign priests.” From these I thought of the idea that Spaniards really are the ones who have influenced the natives to be “in” with Baro’t Saya.

In an online article entitled Baro’t Saya (2015) it was mentioned: “The Spanish presence was echoed in the patterning of the baro: floriate, trellis-like, lace-like designs soon enough make for the standard “look.”” From that, I have asked myself “Why? Do Filipinas have a “non-standard” looks to be said as to “…soon enough make for the standard “look.”” And so as today people treats Baro’t Saya as to the national costume even though it is obviously seen that it looks like it replaces our own way of covering ourselves.

During early times we know natives have already this own specific way of, not only in clothing, but also in the everyday living. Before they have come in the land there is already a system of dressing called Ma-I. Also, other than Ma-I and Baro’t Saya different indigenous settlers of the country has its own dressing, so why is it that Baro’t Saya is more acknowledged rather than that of the others which to my point of view, I think, shows more nationalism. Also as to me Spaniards have this iconoclastic “motive” in the way our early natives live their life. From the customs to beliefs, and from beliefs to living, oppressors have successfully got in the stream of our early culture.

The T’boli people lived in the province of South Cotabato and according to a researched article they scattered in the Highlands of the country when the settlers (Spaniards) touched the Philippine Island. The way T’boli natives dress (the women) is quite different to what other women use to wear when the Spaniards have come. It is because of the fact that T’boli natives where fortunate enough not to be bound by the culture Spaniards have brought. This just means that some natives were not in favor of others changing their way of living. According to the article Travel Tales & images from the ancestors lived centuries ago.” Up to now there is still a purity of what culture the T’boli natives possesses but it does not mean that are considered to be pure Filipinos because in the first place they are influenced also by the early people they interact with during trading. 

Though it is still unclear to why is it that Baro’t Saya is considered as to our national costume, we can’t deny the fact that it has played a major role in our life with the oppressors. It can remind of the sufferings our early people experienced in the hands of those who are the ones who have influenced us this, but also, it is evident also that it signifies what a Filipino pride is.

Notice on how to every detail of Baro’t Saya was able to lift up a true Filipino is. Capuchino’s online article posted in the year 2014, During the colonial times the attire was made from flimsy materials of piña, jusi or abaca. Due to the flimsiness of the material, women adopted to use a dark colored tapis on their waist and an inner camisa or an alampay (scarf) to cover their bosoms. It is not just the Baro’t Saya’s appearance that does matters, rather to which it was made. According to an article posted on Textile World Asia (2015) “Abaca fiber is prized for its mechanical strength, buoyancy, resistance to saltwater damage and long fiber length” Just like the Abaca fiber that we know is used in making our Baro’t Saya, Filipinos are simple but behind this “simpleness” true beauty is found. Like abaca, we possess the strength and endurance that lifts us up among the others. Also it was mentioned in the same article that “…Philippines exported abaca fiber worth US$140.3 million and pulp worth US$104.4 million, according to FIDA.” So it was evident that not only in terms of quality it does excel, rather also it shows that we do export quality good materials that do help raise our economy.

Baro’t Saya can be very simple if one would just look at its physical feature. But if one is able to see “something” beyond the dress, then it would tell a great story. To whatever the history of Baro’t Saya is, whether it is a product of colonization of the Spaniards, yes, it counts, but what is important is what it reflects to us Filipinos. What matters is how one would value and give meaning to it. It is a no question anymore to ask why Baro’t Saya stands and reigns with the title “The National Costume of the Philippines” because it didn’t fail to prove itself that it really is.