In search of the “Viper” and “Filipinas”
(A Literary Analysis of
F. Sionil Jose’s VIBORA!)
by Francis B. Tatel
“No matter how bad a book might be, something of value could be gleaned from it”.
“A book that has no value is a trash.”
Before a reader accept or reject a work of literature as a paragon of beauty, virtue and excellence, he must first measure its quality by studying and analyzing the various values it offers. But first let us give the definition of “values of literature” in order to have a common point of reference and therefore avoid confusion and mistakes. The phrase "values of literature" refers to those qualities of poems, stories, novels, etc. that make them worthwhile to read. If we feel our time reading is well spent, we can say that a work has value for us. If reading the work was a complete waste, then we might say it has no value for us. And there is a spectrum between the two extremes.
It is very important to analyze literary pieces because it is universally known that literature attempts to promote certain ideas, values, or ideologies. So studying a certain literary piece assures someone to know its precise nature and content. Let us not forget that all literary works are produced by specific human beings belonging to specific cultures at given historical times and occupying very definite positions within the structures and hierarchies of their societies. Not surprisingly, the ideas and values which literary works seek to promote are influenced by the history, culture and circumstances relevant to the individuals who produce them. Rather than a disinterested or idealistic endeavor, literature is a very worldly and very practical sort of activity aimed at the promotion and dissemination of cultural values and views of the world which are tightly connected to the interests of the author and of the dominant and other powers in her/his society. It should be noted of course that the relation of the author to the powers, institutions, and systems of belief of his/her time can be one of affinity, opposition, or even ambiguity.
For these reasons, an understanding of literature and of particular literary texts depends not only on the isolated reading of certain individual works and the consideration of their authors’ lives and their circumstances but also upon a solid knowledge and critical examination of the human history, language, and culture (including art, music, philosophy, religion, science, politics, etc.) of which literature forms part and which it represents. The study of literature is therefore an eminently interdisciplinary endeavor through which we attempt to make sense of the human experience throughout history and of the ways in which human beings represent that experience and come to an understanding of themselves and of the world around them. Literary texts in effect often veil the 'truth' which they seek to convey in an attempt at enhancing its attractiveness and endowing it with a sense of mystery and transcendental value. Literature, much like modern advertisement, is often an attempt at persuasion which operates on subliminal levels and artfully instills its message by concealing it under a cover of fictional situations and devices affecting the audience on emotional, intuitive, experiential, and instinctive levels. An excellent specimen of literature conveys its true message by constructing a set of emotionally charged and seemingly "realistic" situations leading to the almost unavoidable, but always unstated, conclusion of the story's intended moral. Literary texts thus convey meaning to their readers in ways which go far beyond the mere literal or "surface" level of signification. Indeed, literary texts distinguish themselves from other texts by the subtleties and intricacies of their...
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