A Structuralist Reading of F. Sionil Jose’s “Hero”
Let me ask you one question, who here doesn’t know Batman, Superman, Spiderman or even Kick Ass? Most of us know them, right? They have fought with the Joker, Green Goblin, Lex Luther and Red Mist. Don’t you ever notice that mostly all the time the villains are the proud ones that spreads to the world that they have saved someone? While the real heroes wear masks, capes and jumpsuits to prevent the public from knowing who they really are and they keep their mouth shuts about something extraordinary they did.
Francisco Sionil Jose was born on Rosales, Pangasinan during December 3, 1924. (http://www.engr.uvic.ca/~art/afsj.html) His novels and short stories depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society. (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/F._Sionil_Jos%C3%A9) In other words, he writes short stories about injustice and “Hero” is evident of injustice.
In this short story, Cornelio De Dios, a tragic hero who saved the country and was not had given any credit or recognition. “A tragic hero is a man of noble stature. He is not an ordinary man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him. His own destruction is for a greater cause or principle.” (http://shakespeare.nuvvo.com/lesson/4435-elements-of-a-tragic-hero-in- literature ) The question is, how is the archetypal tragic hero seen in F. Sionil Jose’s “Hero”? In F. Sionil Jose’s “Hero”, the archetypal tragic hero is evident through the binary oppositions of health vs. sickness and rich vs. poor and through the conflict and setting seen in the text. This paper desires to achieve the following goals at the end of this essay: a) how the binary opposition of health vs. sickness reveals the archetypal tragic hero; b) how the conflict reveals the archetypal tragic hero; and c) to discuss the features and traits of the main character that embody the archetypal tragic hero.
To achieve these goals, there are two assumptions that will be used to critique this story. The first one is New Criticism, this enables to explore and dissect all the literary elements that were used in the story and how it signifies something or someone. The second is Structuralism, “it attempts to identify the smallest meaningful units in a work and study their modes of combination with a view to understanding how meaning is created rather than interpreting the actual meaning conveyed by a particular text.” (http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/structuralism.html)
This story took place during the Filipino-Japanese war and what happened after it. Cornelio De Dios, an ex-history teacher, a corporal, the main character and the archetypal tragic hero who fought for peace and independence of the country. Lieutenant Andres Bravo, the platoon leader and so-called “Hero” is the one who is very full of himself and spreads to everyone that he is the one that saved the country from the invaders.
“Yes, everything was happening very fast. You were
wounded, you know. You may lost a bit of your
memory because of that but I remember everything...”
“I fought them.” Andres Bravo said hoarsely, but there was no strength, no conviction in his voice.
(Waya-Waya and Other Short Stories From the Philippines, 1980, p.174)
The setting of the text started in 36-B Wagas Street. This is where Cornelio De Dios lives. The front door of the house was always open because no one would want to steal anything from there. There is nothing fancy in this house and this is not a typical house that people would want to live in.
You peered into the cramped living room, nothing there
but a shabby rattan sala set, a dining table that listed,
and beyond the dining table, a vintage refrigerator that creaked, the rusting kerosene stove and a few pots and pans.
There was also an old wall clock that...