Tatarin and Empowered Female Characters in Nick Joaquin’s “The Summer Solstice”
There was a popular notion that poetic language is the language of “images” and this conception was accepted by the theorists of Symbolism. “The Summer Solstice” is considered to be a sort of revelation of women empowerment through the use of gothic and barbaric images. In the last part of the story, a reader is introduced to the idea of man’s submission to woman by the image of a “man crawling on the floor like an agonized lizard, his face flat on the floor, as his lips touched her toes.” This act could be considered as a form of worship to a god or to someone whom you see as a powerful and superior being.
The woman, on the other hand, portrays the image of a woman under the power of the Tatarin being a form of witchcraft, as depicted in the story. A reader is then given a hint by a rich description of the ritual of the Tatarin.
“…they covered their heads with their black shawls and began wailing softly, unhumanly-a hushed, animal keening…”
The description of Amada’s husband and lord being silent all along while she was naked and screaming in bed is also a powerful scene in the story.
The writer never mentioned sexual submission, whipping and women dominating in the bedroom, the reader is only being provided with images.
The emphasis on the independent value of words extended to the creation of “nonsense” language into a new form of creation. The story is able to submit itself as to what Roman Jakobson called “organized violence” in which a writer is able to roughen up an ordinary language into “formed speech.” Instead of merely narrating the events in the story, Joaquin was able to capture the finest and important moments because of his careful use of his language.
“…her hair flung back and her loose hair streaming out of the window-streaming fluid and black in the white night where the huge moon glowed like a sun and the dry air flamed into lightning and the pure heat burned with the immense intense fever of noon…”
And so, somehow, a reader is introduced to such words which deliberately suggest enchantment and a sense of magical realism. The tone of the story is veiled with sexual desires, superiority and fear.
Then came the idea of foregrounding. Dona Lupeng’s characterization in the end becomes a strong central figure in the story so as to draw out the repressed desires of women and they are being released from such repression through men’s ultimate submission.
The transcendental effect, therefore, is achieved following the idea that literature is always metaphorical and symbolic. Though its goal is not to deliberately reveal issues such as feminism, etc, the content is able to stand with the effective elements of the form. After all, the form is always the main focus of Russian Formalism.
Tatarin- a pagan ritual to the moon led by female priestesses
Nick Joaquin, the writer of The Summer Solstice
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