A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis
Use the guidelines below to learn about the practice of close reading.
When your teachers or professors ask you to analyze a literary text, they often look for something frequently called close reading. Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form.
Fiction writers and poets build texts out of many central components, including subject, form, and specific word choices. Literary analysis involves examining these components, which allows us to find in small parts of the text clues to help us understand the whole. For example, if an author writes a novel in the form of a personal journal about a character's daily life, but that journal reads like a series of lab reports, what do we learn about that character? What is the effect of picking a word like "tome" instead of "book"? In effect, you are putting the author's choices under a microscope.
The process of close reading should produce a lot of questions. It is when you begin to answer these questions that you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper that makes the most of your close reading work.
Close reading sometimes feels like over-analyzing, but don't worry. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order form to as many questions as you can. When it is time to write your paper and formalize your close reading, you will sort through your work to figure out what is most convincing and helpful to the argument you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch. This guide imagines you are sitting down to read a text for the first time on your way to developing an argument about a text and writing a paper. To give one example of how to do this, we will read the poem "Design" by famous American poet Robert Frost and attend to four major components of literary texts: subject, form, word choice (diction), and theme.
If you want even more information about approaching poems specifically, take a look at our guide: How to Read a Poem.
As our guide to reading poetry suggests, have a pencil out when you read a text. Make notes in the margins, underline important words, place question marks where you are confused by something. Of course, if you are reading in a library book, you should keep all your notes on a separate piece of paper. If you are not making marks directly on, in, and beside the text, be sure to note line numbers or even quote portions of the text so you have enough context to remember what you found interesting.
The subject of a literary text is simply what the text is about. What is its plot? What is its most important topic? What image does it describe? It's easy to think of novels and stories as having plots, but sometimes it helps to think of poetry as having a kind of plot as well. When you examine the subject of a text, you want to develop some preliminary ideas about the text and make sure you understand its major concerns before you dig deeper.
In "Design," the speaker describes a scene: a white spider holding a moth on a white flower. The flower is a heal-all, the blooms of which are usually violet-blue. This heal-all is unusual. The speaker then poses a series of questions, asking why this heal-all is white instead of blue and how the spider and moth found this particular flower. How did this situation arise?
The speaker's questions seem simple, but they are actually fairly nuanced. We can use them as a guide for our own as we go forward with our close reading.
- Furthering the speaker's simple "how did this happen," we might ask, is the scene in this poem a manufactured situation?
- The white moth and white spider each use the atypical white flower as camouflage in search of sanctuary and supper respectively. Did these flora and fauna come together for a purpose?
- Does the speaker have a stance about whether there is a purpose behind the scene? If so, what is it?
- How will other elements of the text relate to the unpleasantness and uncertainty in our first look at the poem's subject?
After thinking about local questions, we have to zoom out. Ultimately, what is this text about?
Form is how a text is put together. When you look at a text, observe how the author has arranged it. If it is a novel, is it written in the first person? How is the novel divided? If it is a short story, why did the author choose to write short-form fiction instead of a novel or novella? Examining the form of a text can help you develop a starting set of questions in your reading, which then may guide further questions stemming from even closer attention to the specific words the author chooses. A little background research on form and what different forms can mean makes it easier to figure out why and how the author's choices are important.
Most poems follow rules or principles of form; even free verse poems are marked by the author's choices in line breaks, rhythm, and rhyme—even if none of these exists, which is a notable choice in itself. Here's an example of thinking through these elements in "Design."
In "Design," Frost chooses an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet form: fourteen lines in iambic pentameter consisting of an octave (a stanza of eight lines) and a sestet (a stanza of six lines). We will focus on rhyme scheme and stanza structure rather than meter for the purposes of this guide. A typical Italian sonnet has a specific rhyme scheme for the octave:
a b b a a b b a
There's more variation in the sestet rhymes, but one of the more common schemes is
c d e c d e
Conventionally, the octave introduces a problem or question which the sestet then resolves. The point at which the sonnet goes from the problem/question to the resolution is called the volta, or turn. (Note that we are speaking only in generalities here; there is a great deal of variation.)
Frost uses the usual octave scheme with "-ite"/"-ight" (a) and "oth" (b) sounds: "white," "moth," "cloth," "blight," "right," "broth," "froth," "kite." However, his sestet follows an unusual scheme with "-ite"/"-ight" and "all" sounds:
a c a a c c
Now, we have a few questions with which we can start:
- Why use an Italian sonnet?
- Why use an unusual scheme in the sestet?
- What problem/question and resolution (if any) does Frost offer?
- What is the volta in this poem?
- In other words, what is the point?
Italian sonnets have a long tradition; many careful readers recognize the form and know what to expect from his octave, volta, and sestet. Frost seems to do something fairly standard in the octave in presenting a situation; however, the turn Frost makes is not to resolution, but to questions and uncertainty. A white spider sitting on a white flower has killed a white moth.
- How did these elements come together?
- Was the moth's death random or by design?
- Is one worse than the other?
We can guess right away that Frost's disruption of the usual purpose of the sestet has something to do with his disruption of its rhyme scheme. Looking even more closely at the text will help us refine our observations and guesses.
Word Choice, or Diction
Looking at the word choice of a text helps us "dig in" ever more deeply. If you are reading something longer, are there certain words that come up again and again? Are there words that stand out? While you are going through this process, it is best for you to assume that every word is important—again, you can decide whether something is really important later.
Even when you read prose, our guide for reading poetry offers good advice: read with a pencil and make notes. Mark the words that stand out, and perhaps write the questions you have in the margins or on a separate piece of paper. If you have ideas that may possibly answer your questions, write those down, too.
Let's take a look at the first line of "Design":
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white
The poem starts with something unpleasant: a spider. Then, as we look more closely at the adjectives describing the spider, we may see connotations of something that sounds unhealthy or unnatural. When we imagine spiders, we do not generally picture them dimpled and white; it is an uncommon and decidedly creepy image. There is dissonance between the spider and its descriptors, i.e., what is wrong with this picture? Already we have a question: what is going on with this spider?
We should look for additional clues further on in the text. The next two lines develop the image of the unusual, unpleasant-sounding spider:
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Now we have a white flower (a heal-all, which usually has a violet-blue flower) and a white moth in addition to our white spider. Heal-alls have medicinal properties, as their name suggests, but this one seems to have a genetic mutation—perhaps like the spider? Does the mutation that changes the heal-all's color also change its beneficial properties—could it be poisonous rather than curative? A white moth doesn't seem remarkable, but it is "Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth," or like manmade fabric that is artificially "rigid" rather than smooth and flowing like we imagine satin to be. We might think for a moment of a shroud or the lining of a coffin, but even that is awry, for neither should be stiff with death.
The first three lines of the poem's octave introduce unpleasant natural images "of death and blight" (as the speaker puts it in line four). The flower and moth disrupt expectations: the heal-all is white instead of "blue and innocent," and the moth is reduced to "rigid satin cloth" or "dead wings carried like a paper kite." We might expect a spider to be unpleasant and deadly; the poem's spider also has an unusual and unhealthy appearance.
- The focus on whiteness in these lines has more to do with death than purity—can we understand that whiteness as being corpse-like rather than virtuous?
Well before the volta, Frost makes a "turn" away from nature as a retreat and haven; instead, he unearths its inherent dangers, making nature menacing. From three lines alone, we have a number of questions:
- Will whiteness play a role in the rest of the poem?
- How does "design"—an arrangement of these circumstances—fit with a scene of death?
- What other juxtapositions might we encounter?
These disruptions and dissonances recollect Frost's alteration to the standard Italian sonnet form: finding the ways and places in which form and word choice go together will help us begin to unravel some larger concepts the poem itself addresses.
Put simply, themes are major ideas in a text. Many texts, especially longer forms like novels and plays, have multiple themes. That's good news when you are close reading because it means there are many different ways you can think through the questions you develop.
So far in our reading of "Design," our questions revolve around disruption: disruption of form, disruption of expectations in the description of certain images. Discovering a concept or idea that links multiple questions or observations you have made is the beginning of a discovery of theme.
What is happening with disruption in "Design"? What point is Frost making? Observations about other elements in the text help you address the idea of disruption in more depth. Here is where we look back at the work we have already done: What is the text about? What is notable about the form, and how does it support or undermine what the words say? Does the specific language of the text highlight, or redirect, certain ideas?
In this example, we are looking to determine what kind(s) of disruption the poem contains or describes. Rather than "disruption," we want to see what kind of disruption, or whether indeed Frost uses disruptions in form and language to communicate something opposite: design.
After you make notes, formulate questions, and set tentative hypotheses, you must analyze the subject of your close reading. Literary analysis is another process of reading (and writing!) that allows you to make a claim about the text. It is also the point at which you turn a critical eye to your earlier questions and observations to find the most compelling points and discard the ones that are a "stretch" or are fascinating but have no clear connection to the text as a whole. (We recommend a separate document for recording the brilliant ideas that don't quite fit this time around.)
Here follows an excerpt from a brief analysis of "Design" based on the close reading above. This example focuses on some lines in great detail in order to unpack the meaning and significance of the poem's language. By commenting on the different elements of close reading we have discussed, it takes the results of our close reading to offer one particular way into the text. (In case you were thinking about using this sample as your own, be warned: it has no thesis and it is easily discoverable on the web. Plus it doesn't have a title.)
Frost's speaker brews unlikely associations in the first stanza of the poem. The "Assorted characters of death and blight / Mixed ready to begin the morning right" make of the grotesque scene an equally grotesque mockery of a breakfast cereal (4–5). These lines are almost singsong in meter and it is easy to imagine them set to a radio jingle. A pun on "right"/"rite" slides the "characters of death and blight" into their expected concoction: a "witches' broth" (6). These juxtapositions—a healthy breakfast that is also a potion for dark magic—are borne out when our "fat and white" spider becomes "a snow-drop"—an early spring flower associated with renewal—and the moth as "dead wings carried like a paper kite" (1, 7, 8). Like the mutant heal-all that hosts the moth's death, the spider becomes a deadly flower; the harmless moth becomes a child's toy, but as "dead wings," more like a puppet made of a skull.
The volta offers no resolution for our unsettled expectations. Having observed the scene and detailed its elements in all their unpleasantness, the speaker turns to questions rather than answers. How did "The wayside blue and innocent heal-all" end up white and bleached like a bone (10)? How did its "kindred spider" find the white flower, which was its perfect hiding place (11)? Was the moth, then, also searching for camouflage, only to meet its end?
Using another question as a disguise, the speaker offers a hypothesis: "What but design of darkness to appall?" (13). This question sounds rhetorical, as though the only reason for such an unlikely combination of flora and fauna is some "design of darkness." Some force, the speaker suggests, assembled the white spider, flower, and moth to snuff out the moth's life. Such a design appalls, or horrifies. We might also consider the speaker asking what other force but dark design could use something as simple as appalling in its other sense (making pale or white) to effect death.
However, the poem does not close with a question, but with a statement. The speaker's "If design govern in a thing so small" establishes a condition for the octave's questions after the fact (14). There is no point in considering the dark design that brought together "assorted characters of death and blight" if such an event is too minor, too physically small to be the work of some force unknown. Ending on an "if" clause has the effect of rendering the poem still more uncertain in its conclusions: not only are we faced with unanswered questions, we are now not even sure those questions are valid in the first place.
Behind the speaker and the disturbing scene, we have Frost and his defiance of our expectations for a Petrarchan sonnet. Like whatever designer may have altered the flower and attracted the spider to kill the moth, the poet built his poem "wrong" with a purpose in mind. Design surely governs in a poem, however small; does Frost also have a dark design? Can we compare a scene in nature to a carefully constructed sonnet?
A Note on Organization
Your goal in a paper about literature is to communicate your best and most interesting ideas to your reader. Depending on the type of paper you have been assigned, your ideas may need to be organized in service of a thesis to which everything should link back. It is best to ask your instructor about the expectations for your paper.
Knowing how to organize these papers can be tricky, in part because there is no single right answer—only more and less effective answers. You may decide to organize your paper thematically, or by tackling each idea sequentially; you may choose to order your ideas by their importance to your argument or to the poem. If you are comparing and contrasting two texts, you might work thematically or by addressing first one text and then the other. One way to approach a text may be to start with the beginning of the novel, story, play, or poem, and work your way toward its end. For example, here is the rough structure of the example above: The author of the sample decided to use the poem itself as an organizational guide, at least for this part of the analysis.
- A paragraph about the octave.
- A paragraph about the volta.
- A paragraph about the penultimate line (13).
- A paragraph about the final line (14).
- A paragraph addressing form that suggests a transition to the next section of the paper.
You will have to decide for yourself the best way to communicate your ideas to your reader. Is it easier to follow your points when you write about each part of the text in detail before moving on? Or is your work clearer when you work through each big idea—the significance of whiteness, the effect of an altered sonnet form, and so on—sequentially?
We suggest you write your paper however is easiest for you then move things around during revision if you need to.
If you really want to master the practice of reading and writing about literature, we recommend Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain's wonderful book, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature. Barnet and Cain offer not only definitions and descriptions of processes, but examples of explications and analyses, as well as checklists for you, the author of the paper. The Short Guide is certainly not the only available reference for writing about literature, but it is an excellent guide and reminder for new writers and veterans alike.
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.
In Rafael Zulueta da Costa’s 1940 poem Like the Molave,the speaker entreats our national hero, Jose Rizal to inspire generations with his unwavering perseverance for nationalfreedom. Moreover, the poem foresees the future of Filipinos in our countrywide failings such as our dependence upon others and upon the government, lack of self-restraint and loss of social dignity from a mistaken notion of modernity. Furthermore, the speaker tells the other
heroes who bravely died in the process of freeing our country to enthuse the Filipinos by shedding their blood once again until we realize and develop the patriotic fervor of staying independent, like the Molave, an indigenous hardwood that can withstand tough storms and thus resilient in nature. Basically, the connection of the country’s national heroes to ordinary Filipinos and theMolaveunites in the spirit of ‘Filipinism’, a contemporizednationalistic act of improving the country by making it self-sufficient through first and foremost, raising social consciousness.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The recognition of Rafael Zulueta da Costa’s poem Like the Molave in the Commonwealth Literary Awards(beating Jose Garcia Villa’s entry) exhibits the interpretation of the existing scene of a raw semi-autonomous Philippine state in 1940. The Commonwealth Literary Awards was instituted by the government during those times to initiatenational consciousness of the Filipinos;a trend in literature during the pre-independent Philippines. In the same way, the state’s definitive stamp of approval to Zulueta da Costa’s poem means that the literary work expressively revealssocial and economic problems of the individual and of society. (Syed, 23)</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the poem, the persona asks the national hero to “…sleep not in peace”or not to cease incausing freedom because theentire country is not yet over with the struggle for independence as suggested by the lines “…There are a thousand waters to be spanned, mountains to be crossed, and crosses to borne…”Through these figures of vast landscapes and heavy connotation of hardships to endure, it can be inferred that the speaker discusses the massivesubject of the problem – Filipinos all over the archipelago. Subsequently, the following statements reveal what bothers the speaker.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Our shoulders are not strong; our sinews are<br /> Grown flaccid with dependence, smug with ease<br /> Under another’s wing. Rest not in peace;<br /> Not yet, Rizal, not yet.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In connection to Rizal’s dream for the nation, even during the 1940’s thePhilippine’s pre-independencewas hazy because the Filipinos were still limp and dependent to the colonizers where“…sinews are grown flaccid, under another’s wing…” These phrases point out suchweaknessesin barely standing up on our own by growing complacent and conditioned to post-colonial mentality. Even back then, when the scars of wars were still fresh, Filipinos have always been perplexedabout the nation’s own identity because of consistent foreign influences. The tone of resistance from the beginning is maintained in the line “…Not yet, Rizal, not yet.” where the persona in the poem orders Rizal not to rest in persistently hauntingor reminding Filipinos of their ancestors’long lost aspiration for independence.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Significantly, the speaker uses Rizal as an icon for empowerment because of his well-known belief of youth as hope of the nation. The line “…The land has need of young blood – and, what younger than your own, forever spilled in the great name of freedom…”affirms such notion that the persona’s concern in the poem pertains to the young generation who should bear on or uphold our country’s independence and freedom achieved in bloody wars that took countless of heroic lives. Evidently, the lines “…Infuse the vibrant red into our thin anemic veins; until we pick up your Promethean tools and strong, we carve, for all time your marmoreal dream…” render the idea of the poet; Rafael Zulueta da Costa’s social consciousness as the fuel to ignite and drive the patriotic act of ‘Filipinism’ among his countrymen.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Through infusing or carrying on the nationalistic spirit to the next generation, history will be made known on how epic were our heroes and thus will touch the hearts of the oblivious Filipinos who will then preserve our independence knowing we got freedom out of blood, sweat and tears. In the same manner, the allusion of Prometheus in Greek mythology as a titan who stole fire from Gods to give it to mankind only asserts the impression that Rizal bravely gave light to Filipinos during history’s dark ages despite of knowing the consequences. (qtd. in Victoriano 25)</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In addition to that, Jose Rizal is considered as the pioneer of the nationalist literary tradition in our Philippine Literature because of his two novels that destabilized the Spanish colonial structure with his anti-colonial visions, awakening the common Filipinos’ patriotism. In short, Rizal, the literary writer, instigated social change and revealedthe writer’s significant role in informing and enlightening the readers about society—in persuading people to act and participate in social change. (Riyel, par. 17)</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Relatively, the speaker in the poem also asks the “…souls and spirits of the martyred brave” to “Arise and scour the land! Shed once again your willing blood!” and not just Rizal alone. The tone in this line is quite strong, imperative and confident knowing that these noble heroes of our ancestry, rest assured that they would be willing to die all over again in hopes that we realize how much freedom means to them and for the future generations’ independence from the bonds of the colonizers.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Until our people, seeing, are become<br /> Like the Molave, firm, resilient, staunch<br /> Rising on the hillside, unafraid,<br /> Strong in its own fiber; yes, like the Molave!</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Finally, the poem ends in connection to one of President Manuel Quezon’s speech on August 19, 1938 in the Rizal Memorial Field; two years prior to when this poem was published. The late President’s theme was the apparent degeneration of the Filipino national character and modern Filipino youth’s tendency toward parasitism, choosing convenience over principles, thinking that lip-service and profession are equivalent to deep and abiding faith, inconstancy and easily admitting defeat.Unlike our ancestors who were strong-willed, earnest, adventurous, daring and courageous, they became pioneers like other giants in our history who gave luster to our name but now dead where it seems that their virtues were buried with them. (Bernad, 3)</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The verse “…Until our people, seeing, are become like the Molave, firm, resilient, staunch, unafraid, strong in its own fiber…” reaffirms the poem’s purpose of raising social awareness through ‘seeing’ to make Filipinos act on a decisive effort in supporting each other for the greater benefit of the nation like how Molave, a tough Philippine tree can stand on its own.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Without a doubt, Rafael Zulueta da Costa’spoem Like the Molaveis a notable poetic expression of Filipinism. Garneringapprobations when it won the Commonwealth Literary Award in 1940, Carlos Romulo himself, as a critic and chairman of the board of judges exuberantly commended the work saying that this poem is an eloquent statement of Filipinism which only goes to show that Filipino poetry in English is starting to become infused with social and cultural significance. (Reyes, 119-211)</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">El Filibusterismo is the sequel (of sorts) to Rizal’s Filipino classic, Noli me tangere. It is set some thirteen years after the events of the earlier book, and many of the figures from Noli figure in it. Noli is, of course, dominated by Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra and his ideals for a better future for the Philippines — including fostering education as a means of improving the lot of the Filipinos. In both novels the corruption of those in power, and especially the friars — representatives of the powerful Catholic Church — is repeatedly shown and attacked. At the beginning of El Filibusterismo Ibarra is supposed to be long dead, and in his stead Simoun is introduced, a jewelry merchant whom little is known about. The wily merchant clearly has big ambitions — and quite possibly the means to accomplish them — though he plays his cards close to his vest. For good reason, too. One man learns his biggest secret early on (and the reader surely will have guessed it, too …) — but Simoun trusts that his secret is safe with him: “Like me, you have accounts to settle with the rest of society”. Simoun reveals that:</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">“I’ve traveled the world over and worked day and night to amass a fortune to carry out my plan. Now I’ve come back to destroy that system, to shatter the corruption, to push it to the abyss to which it rushes without even its own knowledge, even if it means a tidal wave of tears and blood. It has doomed itself, but I don’t want to die without seeing it in tatters at the bottom of the cliff.”</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">What Simoun rages against is a sclerotic system in which a few wield great power and use it to hold the masses back. Education — which few have access to, and which in practice turns out to be a beating (or numbing) into submission — and claims of moral authority, in particular, are among the ways the friars and the nation’s elite maintain complete control. They even take pride in the fact that: We’re not like the English and the Dutch who, in order to maintain the people’s submission, make use of the whip … We employ softer, more secure measures. The healthy influence of the friars is superior to the English whip. It makes for a largely docile if frustrated population, with almost no one daring to voice even the slightest criticism, or admit to any thought that is not in lock-step with those in power, as:</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Here any independent thought, any word that does not echo the will of the powerful is called filibusterismo and you know well what that means. It’s madness for anyone to have the pleasure of saying what he thinks aloud, because he’s courting persecution.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Simoun is convinced now that open filibusterismo does not suffice; stronger measures are called for — and he has the plan(s) to overthrow the existing order and mindset. Yes, he has the grandest revolutionary visions: When the poor neighborhoods erupt in chaos, when my avengers sow discord in the streets, you longtime victims of greed and errancy, I will tear down the walls of your prison and release you from the claws of fanaticism, and then, white dove, you will become a phoenix to rise from its still-glowing ashes. A revolution, woven in the dim light of mystery, has kept me from you. Another revolution will return me to your arms, bring me back to life, and that moon before it reaches the height of its splendor, will light up the Philippines, cleansed of its repugnant trash — And later:</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">“Tonight those most dangerous of tyrants will rocket off as dust, those irresponsible tyrants who have hidden behind God and the state, whose abuses remain unpunished because no one can take them to task. Tonight the Philippines will hear an explosion that will convert into rubble the infamous monument whose rotteness I helped bring about. “</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Twice the novel builds to a climax, to the promise of incredibly violent upheaval — an explosion into revolution — only for the grand plans to implode. Rizal takes his characters to the brink of a violent overthrow of the existing order — and then draws back, returning to the historical Philippine reality. There are a variety of reasons for why the plans are not carried through as originally intended, but certainly Rizal’s own message (as also expressed by characters in the book) is that violence is not the preferred solution, and that, while change is necessary, it should come about peacefully and sensibly. So while the novel does not provide all the simplistic cathartic satisfactions of utopian revolutionary fiction — wishful thinking fiction — in its realism, admitting to the near-overwhelming might of the powers-that-be (while also condemning them through and through as base and corrupt), it is a more quietly effective work of literature.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">El Filibusterismo is a social-critical work, with many chapters and scenes set pieces that show just how corrupt and debased this society — and especially high society, and the friars — have become. Or rather: remain — since, as one character notes, if after three and a half centuries of ‘education’ and leadership by those in power this is all it’s come to … well, that’s a pretty sad and sorry indication of how very wrong the approach has been from the get-go.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Occasionally, Rizal is too specific in his prescriptions and moralizing — the case for education, and in particular for teaching Spanish, is a good one, but Rizal tries a bit too hard to weave that repeatedly into the narrative — but it’s the stray stories, illustrative of excess and corruption, that ultimately prove most distracting. Some of these are very entertaining, and some of the points both amusing and well-made, but ultimately Simoun is left in the shadows too much of the time. Almost too powerful a figure, it’s understandable that Rizal did not constantly want him at the fore, but he’s certainly the figure readers want to hear and see more from. Meanwhile, Rizal also isn’t quite willing to allow other significant figures, such as Basilio (who becomes a doctor) to take a more prominent place in the narrative either.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">While much of the social criticism here is specific to a time and place, enough is certainly universal; Rizal was also clearly well-versed in the European fiction of the time, and El Filibusterismo is certainly comparable to — and often more entertaining — than much of the social fiction coming out of Europe at the time.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A passionate work, verging sometimes on the melodramatic, El Filibusterismo is an entertaining document of its times, and a fine novel. If Noli me tangere remains the best introduction to the modern Philippines, El Filibusterismo is nevertheless a worthwhile follow-up.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">To the Women of Malolos” was originally written in Tagalog. Rizal penned this writing when he was in London, in response to the request of Marcelo H. del Pilar. The salient points contained in this letter are as follows: 1. The rejection of the spiritual authority of the friars – not all of the priests in the country that time embodied the true spirit of Christ and His Church. Most of them were corrupted by worldly desires and used worldly methods to effect change and force discipline among the people.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">2. The defense of private judgment<br /> 3. Qualities Filipino mothers need to possess – as evidenced by this portion of his letter, Rizal is greatly concerned of the welfare of the Filipino children and the homes they grow up in. 4. Duties and responsibilities of Filipino mothers to their children 5. Duties and responsibilities of a wife to her husband – Filipino women are known to be submissive, tender, and loving. Rizal states in this portion of his letter how Filipino women ought to be as wives, in order to preserve the identity of the race. 6. Counsel to young women on their choice of a lifetime partner</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Rizal’s Message to Filipino Women<br /> Jose Rizal was greatly impressed by the fighting spirit that the young women of Malolos had shown. In his letter, he expresses great joy and satisfaction over the battle they had fought. In this portion of Rizal’s letter, it is obvious that his ultimate desire was for women to be offered the same opportunities as those received by men in terms of education. During those days young girls were not sent to school because of the universal notion that they would soon only be taken as wives and stay at home with the children. Rizal, however, emphasizes on freedom of thought and the right to education, which must be granted to both boys and girls alike.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Responsibilities of Filipino Mothers to Their Children<br /> Rizal stipulates a number of important points in this portion of his letter to the young women of Malolos. The central idea here, however, is that whatever a mother shows to her children is what the children will become also. If the mother is always kissing the hand of the friars in submission, then her children will grow up to be sycophants and mindless fools who do nothing but do as they are told, even if the very nature of the task would violate their rights as individuals.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Qualities Mothers have to Possess<br /> Rizal enumerates the qualities Filipino mothers have to possess: Be a noble wife.<br /> Rear her children in the service of the state – here Rizal gives reference to the women of Sparta who embody this quality Set standards of behavior for men around her.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Rizal’s Advice to Unmarried Men and Women<br /> Jose Rizal points out to unmarried women that they should not be easily taken by appearances and looks, because these can be very deceiving. Instead, they should take heed of men’s firmness of character and lofty ideas. Rizal further adds that there are three things that a young woman must look for a man she intends to be her husband: A noble and honored name</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A manly heart<br /> A high spirit incapable of being satisfied with engendering slaves.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">ANALYSIS</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">“To the Women of Malolos” centers around five salient points (Zaide &Zaide, 1999): Filipino mothers should teach their children love of God, country and fellowmen. Filipino mothers should be glad and honored, like Spartan mothers, to offer their sons in defense of their country. Filipino women should know how to protect their dignity and honor. Filipino women should educate themselves aside from retaining their good racial values. Faith is not merely reciting prayers and wearing religious pictures. It is living the real Christian way with good morals and manners. In recent times, it seems that these qualities are gradually lost in the way Filipino women conduct themselves. There are oftentimes moments where mothers forget their roles in rearing their children because of the overriding idea of having to earn for the family to supplement their husband’s income. Although there is nothing negative about working hard for the welfare of the family, there must always be balance in the way people go through life. Failure in the home cannot be compensated for by any amount of wealth or fame.</p>