Lit Crit: Hernando R. Ocampo's "We or They"

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The Inconvenient Truth
A New Critical and Marxist Analysis of “We Or They” by Hernando R. Ocampo

The story’s setting of a historical Philippine period portrays strong Marxist undertones that display the social class system and the different types of oppression that was evident during the Commonwealth era such a physical oppression, emotional oppression, intellectual oppression and indirect oppression. Over the years, people all over the world have been oppressed and have oppressed others, and this oppression evolves along with every other element in the human life. From the various social classes present in earlier times, the common social classes in modern times would only be dividing people into two – the bourgeoisie (ruling class) and the proletariat (working class).

During this time the Filipino people are seen as low life servants to foreign comers, even in their own country. “We or They” greatly exhibit the common bourgeoisie versus proletariat condition that was evident even in the reality of the Philippine peoples’ remarkable history.

In the story, we see how every aspect that affect a person’s social class affects every other element related to living, the most evident of which would be politics and economics. “We or They” is a story that also shows that social classes are not only based on the wealth and name of a person but also through the nationality. We or They gives us the impression of a literal story, but there are still a number times symbolism was used. One symbol would be the jute sack carried by Tura and his fellow farmers. The jute sacks they hold used to give them their needs for everyday life and they were satisfied, but as the foreign colonizers came, their jute sacks this time, carried burdens instead of food, nevertheless, they kept their hopes up.

…Tura left the house very early in the morning with a jute sack slung across his right shoulder. Long ago the sack used to contain rice for his family… But now the jute sack was bulging with the sharp, hard edges of three big stones…

“Mister Remulla said with these stones we’ll soon have something to eat, and that is all I care about...”

Tura, the story’s main character, is in the proletariat class, thus the one being oppressed in the story. At the beginning of the story, we would have the impression that Mr. Remulla is an American and that Tura showed much faith in what he says for he is the one in power. This further shows how socioeconomic conditions affect the people not only physically but also intellectually.

“How could there be? Mister Remulla knows what he is doing. He said that is what they do in America. He ought to know.” And slinging the jute sack with the three big stones across his shoulder, Tura left his wife, Marta, at the threshold, while his three children ill-clad and ill-nourished, looked sheepishly on.

We can evidently see that the working class is indirectly being oppressed because of how Mr. Remulla is able to manipulate them while in their minds; they see Mr. Remulla as someone who can help them and liberate their families from the hunger they suffer.

“Long-live Mister Remulla,” the people shouted, waving their placards in the air, and the man bowed gracefully; then responded “Long live!”The crowd echoed the response: “Long live, long live! Long live, viva!”

The ideology, capitalism is very much evident in the story from the very start. Capitalism is the economic system wherein those who work and are labeled as ‘poor’ stay poor even through their hard work because the profit of their work ends up the ruling class, or the ‘rich’ and they’re able to maintain or expand this wealth. In layman’s terms, “The poor get poorer, the rich get richer”.

Another factor that caused proletariats hardships is the presence of injustice shown when the authorities arrived but not to defend those who are oppressed but to oppress them, as well as to take back the rice...
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