(Short Story) Midsummer by: Manuel Arguilla
(Reaction) Rustic Seduction by: Antonio Conejos
View other reactions on works by Manuel Arguilla.
Midsummer is an illustration of how setting can reflect the mood and tension between characters as well as provide an appropriate backdrop for their interactions.
Simply put, the setting of the story is hot, a vista of unremitting heat. The heat of a Philippine summer is the backdrop for the same heat of attraction which occurs from a chance encounter between a man and a woman on a rural road.
Both characters are studiously mute at first, neither wants to seem overly forward or fresh. The woman though, not coy, certainly gives the man room to follow if he wishes.
She stood straight and still beside the road and regarded him with frank curiosity. Suddenly she turned and disappeared into the dry gorge. The man on the other hand has certainly noticed the woman, so much so that the thoughts of a mundane task invariably turn to her,
The twisted bamboo rope bit into his hardened palms, and he thought how the same rope must hurt her.
At this point the attraction of the two, amidst the dry, hot terrain of summer, is implied but not overtly stated. The attraction of the characters is much like the heat of summer, unremitting (as seen in how they both try not to think about it) and inescapable.
So pervasive is the heat (of both the setting and the attraction of the characters) that even water does not cool it down. Ironically, water even intensifies the ardor of the pair. For water in Midsummer is consistently used as a device to allow one character to appreciate the physicality of the other.
Water highlights the intrinsic femininity of the woman for the man,
But she staggered a little and water splashed down on her breast. The single bodice instantly clung to her bosom molding the twin hillocks of her breasts warmly brown through the wet cloth. Water as well displays the masculinity of the man to the woman. As he draws water for her,
He lowered the bucket with his back to her, and she had time to take in the tallness of him, the breadth of his shoulders, the sinewy strength of his legs. Down below in the small of his back, two parallel ridges of rope-like muscle stuck out against the wet shirt. As he hauled up the bucket, muscles rippled all over his body.
The lines above amply demonstrate how each character is
hot and bothered, as it were, by the other.
In the end, both acknowledge the attraction between them. The woman invites the man to visit her,
You come. I have told mother about you. The man on the other hand is ennervated as he once again sets off to follow his young lady,
He felt strong. He felt very strong. He felt that he could follow the slender, lithe figure to the end of the world.
Arguilla's Midsummer is a sensual story whose passion is transmuted in the heat of the setting and of the palpable attraction between the characters.
Another of the stories I took up in Freshman college. It does what it does well, use the setting as a reflection of the attraction of the characters; but honestly it doesn't age very well. There is something plodding and a bit contrived about the whole story, as if the characters were cut outs in some idealized depiction of rural Philippine life back in the day.
Personally I'm not too fond of how this reaction came out as well. It's really a one note essay; a note which is beat on incessantly throughout.