PURPOSE OF THE TEXT: Jose Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere during the time of the Spanish occupation in the Philippines. The novel is a reflection of what the Filipinos were going through during that time. He wrote it to open the eyes of the Filipinos to the reality that they were being oppressed. Rizal's book persistently unmasks contemporary Spaniards in the Philippines of every kind. He exposes corruption and brutality of the civil guards which drive good men to crime and banditry. He focuses on an administration crawling with self-seekers, out to make their fortune at the expense of the Filipinos, so that the few officials who are honest and sincere are unable to overcome the treacherous workings of the system, and their efforts to help the country often end up in frustration or in self-ruin.The Noli is Rizal's exposé of corrupt friars who have made the Catholic religion an instrument for enriching and perpetuating themselves in power by seeking to mire ignorant Filipinos in fanaticism and superstition. According to Rizal, instead of teaching Filipinos true Catholicism, they control the government by opposing all progress and persecuting members of the ilustrado unless they make themselves their servile flatterers.
Rizal exaggerated a bit, as in his portrayal of characters like the friars Damaso, Salvi, and Sibyla; the two women who were preoccupied with prayers and novenas, and, the Espadañas but, on the whole, the novel follows the basic rules of realism. Humor worked best where a more serious presentation of the general practices of religion during that time (and even up to present time) would have given the novel a darker and pessimistic tone. Rizal’s description of the lavish fiesta showed the comic antics at church and the ridiculous expense for one day of festivities.
TONE: The superstitious and hypocritical fanaticism of many who consider themselves religious people; the ignorance, corruption, and brutality of the Filipino civil guards; the passion for gambling unchecked by the thought of duty and responsibility; the servility of the wealthy Filipino towards friars and government officials; the ridiculous efforts of Filipinos to dissociate themselves from their fellowmen or to lord it over them--all these are ridiculed and disclosed. Nevertheless, Rizal clearly implies that many of these failings are traceable to the misguided policy of the government and the questionable practices of the friars.
TITLE: "Noli me tangere" is a Latin phrase that Rizal took from the Bible, meaning "Touch me not." In John 20:13-17, the newly-risen Christ says to Mary Magdalene: "Touch me not; I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."
STORY/CONTENT: The first of two canonical 19th-century novels, Noli Me Tangere revolves around Crisostomo Ibarra who, after a seven-year stay in Europe to study, comes home to his town of San Diego, brimming with the desire to contribute to the development of the townspeople. More specifically, as a reformist, he aims to make education accessible to more people. His idealism, however, cannot bear fruit because of insidious forces bent on destroying him. Ibarra learns that his father, Don Rafael, had been embroiled in a conflict with Padre Damaso, who eventually causes his humiliation and death. It is not only political power that the friar wields; he has also used power to seduce the mother of Maria Clara, Ibarra's sweetheart. Ibarra has another enemy in the person of Padre Salvi, who lusts after Maria Clara. It is also Padre Salvi who almost causes Ibarra's death at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the school. Things come to a head when Ibarra is implicated in a failed uprising instigated by Padre Salvi. The young man is imprisoned but is eventually rescued by Elias, whose life Ibarra has saved in the...