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How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife
By Manuel Arguilla
"How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife," is a short story written by the highly acclaimed Filipino writer Manuel Arguilla. This award-winning story is a long-standing favorite in Philippine literature. To examine this piece, the author's background must first be considered. Formalistic, historical, and sociological approaches can also be utilized to analyze the story further. Prominent symbols and their interpretations will also be discussed.
About Manuel Arguilla
Manuel Arguilla was born to Crisanto Arguilla and Margarita Estabillo in Barrio Nagrebcan in Bauang, La Union on June 17, 1911. The Arguillas were a humble, hard-working family who farmed the small piece of land they owned to make a living. In school, Manuel was a sharp student who showed promise of being a brilliant writer at an early age. He graduated as salutatorian of his high school and then left La Union to study at the University of Philippines, where he would eventually earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. Around the same time, he married fellow writer, Lydia Villanueva,
and moved to Ermita, Manila.
After college, he worked at the Bureau of Public Welfare and taught at the University of Manila. After working at the bureau for a few years, Arguilla was selected
to be the managing editor of The Welfare Advocate, the business' newsletter. He served at the Bureau until 1943, when he was appointed to the Board of Censors. During this time, he was working at a Japanese propaganda agency and also as an agent of the Markings' Guerillas, an anti-Japanese rebel movement. In 1944, the Japanese discovered Arguilla's disloyalty and arrested him. A few months later, he was tortured and executed at Fort Santiago.
Arguilla is best known for the piece in discussion, "How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife," and over 50 other short stories, some of which include "Midsummer," "Heat," "Morning in Nagrebcan," "Ato," "A Son Is Born," and "The Strongest Man." His own life seemed to have influenced much of his work, as will be discussed shortly. Long after his death, Arguilla and his work is still celebrated for the authentic depiction of the lives of ordinary Filipinos, usually farmers and other rural folk. His short stories are simple yet seem to capture the complexities of the Philippine culture.
Formalistic Approach - Plot, Characters, Setting, Style and Theme
"How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife" is a short story about Baldo meeting his brother Leon's new wife, Maria. In the beginning of the story, Baldo picks up Leon and Maria at the edge of Nagrebcan, as one may recall, the barrio where the author was born and raised. Baldo notices at once how beautiful and fragrant his brother's wife is upon their introduction. He discovers that she does not call Leon by his name, instead, by the name of "Noel" (Leon's named spelled backwards). Baldo is a little confused at first. He wonders if their father would approve of this new name. He also notes that his
brother's wife does not have the traditional name of "Maring" or "Mayang," but rather, "Maria," a name he decides is different, but beautiful nonetheless.
Baldo, Leon, and Maria go off to the family's home in Nagrebcan. On the ride home, Leon makes his own observations as well. He sees that his father, who instead of sending Baldo with Castano and the calesa to pick them up, sends him off with Labang and the cart. Leon also notices that his father had instructed Baldo to take the route home through the fields, instead of on the main road. Leon seems a little confused and disheartened, but enjoys the beautiful stars with Maria on their ride home. Maria remarks that the stars are much bigger and brighter in Nagrebcan than in Ermita, the town where in his real life, Arguilla lived with his own wife Lydia.
Leon and Maria talk about the beauty of Nagrebcan, where "the air is clean and free of dust and smoke." As they approach the family's home, Leon sings, "Sky Sown with Stars." Leon asks Maria if she misses the houses, the cars, the people and noises that come from the city but Maria answers that she is glad they are not there. She is nervous to meet Leon and Baldo's father, but Leon assures her that he is gentle. They pass their neighbors on the way but Leon tells Baldo to make Labang run faster. When they arrive home, Leon and Baldo's mother and sister, Aurelia, meet Maria. Baldo notices that all the women seem to be crying. He goes upstairs to where his father is alone in the dark and tells him of how beautiful Leon's wife is and how Leon sang to her. Their father asks a few questions but then simply goes on to tell Baldo to water Labang. The story ends with Baldo recounting Maria's beauty and fragrance.
Arguilla's writing style in "How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife," is definitely very descriptive. He uses vivid imagery when depicting every scene in the story. The following lines are a good example of Arguilla's descriptive style in this piece:
The sky was wide and deep and very blue above us: but along the saw-tooth rim of the Katayaghan hills to the southwest flamed huge masses of clouds. Before us the fields swam in a golden haze through which floated big purple and red and yellow bubbles when I looked at the sinking sun. Labang's white coat, which I had washed and brushed that morning with coconut husk, glistened like beaten cotton under the lamplight and his horns appeared tipped with fire. (p. )
By using such evocative language, Arguilla allows the reader to imagine and experience every color, shape, and texture in the story as closely as he had in his own mind. "How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife" is a first person narrative, with one of the main characters, Baldo, giving his own personal account of the story. Baldo narrates the story clearly as if to imply that it had occurred recently, not something that happened in the distant past.
When considering writing style, it is also important to note that Arguilla left "How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife" open-ended. In the final scene, the reader is only left with Baldo's thoughts of Maria as he gives water to Labang. The reader never finds out what happens after Maria and Leon enter the house, or if Leon's father ever decides to come downstairs. This