Summer Solstice

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Representing Men’s and Women’s Speech: A Linguistic Analysis of Nick Joaquin’s “The Summer Solstice”1 Aileen O. Salonga

Without a moment’s hesitation, he sprawled down flat, and, working his arms and legs, gaspingly clawed his way across the floor, like a great agonized lizard, the woman steadily backing away as he approached, her eyes watching him avidly, her nostrils dilating, till behind her loomed the open window, the huge glittering moon, the rapid flashes of lightning. She stopped, panting, and leaned against the sill. He lay exhausted at her feet, his face flat on the floor. She raised her skirts and contemptuously thrust out a naked foot. He lifted his dripping face and touched his bruised lips to her toes; lifted his hands and grasped the white foot and kissed it savagely—kissed the step, the sole, the frail ankle—while she bit her lips and clutched in pain at the window-sill; her body distended and wracked by horrible shivers, her head flung back and her loose hair streaming out 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. (Joaquin, “The Summer’s Solstice” 38)

Introduction The passage above comprises the last two paragraphs of “The Summer Solstice,” a popular and rather controversial short story in the Philippines written by Philippine National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. The short story’s popularity relies on a number of things: 1) it is one of the most anthologized of Joaquin’s works; 2) it seems to be one of Joaquin’s personal favorites, since he also wrote “Tatarin: A Witches’ Sabbath in Three Acts,” which is a drama version of the short story;2 and 3) its drama version was turned into a popular movie some years back, making the story familiar even among non-literary Filipinos. The short story is also controversial, primarily because of the conflicting interpretations that generations of Filipino critics have ascribed to it. One point of contention among these critics is the story’s ending— whether it signifies the triumph of the pagan, the primitive, and the woman, on the one hand, over Christianity, civilization, and the man, on the other, or vice versa.3 The story’s ending is, of course, only one part of the story; there is much in “The Summer Solstice” that needs to be examined and analyzed. Moreover, approaches other than those usually utilized in literary criticism can be used in examining and analyzing the short story, which may then yield significant insights not only into the story itself but previous interpretations of the story as well. This paper then is an attempt at doing something new to the story. While the story’s ending and existing body of criticism remain crucial to my analysis, I endeavor to look at an aspect of the story that has not been explored and use an approach that has not been employed in previous interpretations. Specifically, I intend to do a linguistic analysis, focusing on the speech representation of the characters in the story.4 This is not to suggest that linguistic criticism is better than literary criticism; this is only to show that there are other possibilities of analysis, which may enrich, supplement, affirm, contest, or make more profound existing interpretations that have been arrived at through literary criticism. I also believe that particular



attention given to the workings of language in literary texts allows for a deeper appreciation of both language and literature. In this paper then, I aim to show that a linguistic analysis of the story’s speech representation of its characters reveals stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity that highlight and naturalize gender differences and the hierarchical relationship between them. Since I am concerned with this linguistic feature, it follows that I deal mainly with parts of the story in which...
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