A Literary Criticism of the Novel the Firewalkers by Erwin E. Castillo

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“A Literary Criticism of the novel The Fire Walkers by Erwin E. Castillo”

“We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth…” – President Barack Obama on his inaugural speech.

Relation with other nations is one of the most important things for the United States of America today. As history have shown, the need for the connection with other countries had been existing since the late exploration period, where United States had just achieved their independence from the British monarchy and began their own conquest around the globe. The Americans are the second, yet the most celebrated colonizer of the Philippines. Until today, the Filipino-American bond is evident, from the highlighted date of July 4 as the Filipino-American friendship day, through Filipinos being the most excellent speaker and teacher of the English language in Asia, to the full coverage of the inauguration of the new leader of the US, President Barrack Obama. The camaraderie of the two nations has come a very long way. One of the major reasons for such friendship is the kind of orientalism the Americans have manifested during their residence in our country. Orientalism is the study of the orientals – non-European civilizations – and their culture. Although the Spaniards, the colonizer prior to Americans, had their orientalism too, that of the Americans was different. The Spanish orientalism is ethnocentric. Historically, as the Spaniards occupied our country, they began the eradication of the primitive Filipino culture as they find it offending to the teaching of Christianity. They have accused the ancient Philippine beliefs as a cult, and manipulated the religion of people through reduccion – segregation of people from the woodlands to the pueblo (town) near the church. The context of orientalism actually draws an abstract boundary between the more urbanized west (occidentals) and the exotic east (orientals), according to Edward W. Said in his book Orientalism. The American’s way of interacting with the Filipino people have blurred this cultural boundary and therefore make the Filipino see them as a friend rather than as the enemy. The freedom to live our culture, as already have been influenced by the friars, could be attributed as the primary reason for our closer ties with the Americans, even stronger than that of the Japanese who is also a colonizer of the Philippines and a fellow Asian. American orientalism dwells solely on the purpose of learning other culture and not to judge it as right or wrong as compared to theirs. This paper aims to give details about Erwin E. Castillo’s novel, “The Firewalkers” and how it, as a literature, illustrated American’s curiosity of Filipinos – who they are and how they live – as a major factor of their strong bond as friends. Using the lens of a Marxist reader, the study would analyze the novel and its historical background, the conflict between the classes it raised, and the implication of these aspects as perceived in the present. The novel the Firewalkers (2003) by Erwin E. Castillo, it is set during the American colonization in the year 1913, in Lakambaga, Cavite. The novel revolves around the life of Gabriel Diego who is the sergeant of police. He, being a widower and unfortunately childless, is a lonesome person. His wife and child died, as said to him, from a plague during his captivity by the Americans. In his house, he has his servants – a family country relative – but their presence is not that momentous to him. He doesn’t attend the church, and spends his time patrolling around the town alone wearing his “Sevastopol cap, his faded khaki uniform with creases as sharp as blades, hair and mustaches close-cropt.” (3; ch. 1). The only friend, as could be considered, he has been the Augustinian priest he “played checkers with” (3; ch. 1). Over the glasses of wine and lemonade, they talked about anything and, almost, everything under the sun. Gabriel Diego is a very lonely...
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