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Paz Marquez-Benitez, in her masterpiece Dead Stars,did not only write about a love story.

Most importantly, her


writing reflects the time in which the literary work was written along with the language, the norms and the way
people think. It serves as a literary time machine for readers as it enables them to understand how courtship,
marriage and fidelity were viewed through the early 1900 standards. It renders a sound comparison between the
past and the present, the existing modern culture and the fading, almost obsolete tradition. Although the
comparison and contrast provides a good critical foundation, another highly significant aspect of this short story
involves the main character, Alfredo Salazar, which, always applies to whatever era, hence the focus of this paper.
His confusion, weakness and unreasonableness are innate flaws of humans. Perhaps one of the many reasons why
this work is timeless is that readers never fail to see a part of them in Alfredo Salazars character, making the short
story a rich source of serious ruminations on society, love and humanity.

People oftentimes give high regard to the society in which they belong. They try to adhere to the norms, traditions
and culture of their society, though sometimes the conformity would require them to sacrifice a part of themselves
an opinion, an emotion or a decision. However, there are cases wherein the established norms and rules of society
are the ones which should prevail. InDead Stars, the main character, Alfredo Salazar, was torn between making two
important decisions to marry or not to marry. But just like other dilemmas, the crossroad in which he found
himself in was not to be solved without harming anyone. He was engaged to Esperanza, his fiance of four years.
Theirs was undoubtedly a love that was true. But for some reasons, apparently on Alfredos part, a change of heart
has taken place. He has fallen for Julia Salas, the sister-in-law of the judge whom his father had a meeting with. After
spending several afternoons and conversations, he found himself slowly getting attached to her that he started
losing concern for Esperanza. In the end, however, he married his fiance and though their marriage was not an
unhappy one, he still could not take the possibilities of a future with Julia off his mind. Until one day, their paths
crossed again and he realized one painful truth that led him to liberation at last.

Human emotions are very intricate and delicate both at its lowest and highest. And so is love. When Alfredo was still
passionately attached to Esperanza, he was overwhelmed. Taking the conversation of Alfredos sister, Carmen, and
his father, Don Julian into consideration, readers can deliberately conclude that he was indeed in love.

. . . Papa, do you remember how much in love he was?

In love? With whom?

With Esperanza of course. He has not had another love affair that I know of, she said with good-natured contempt.
What I mean is that in the beginning he was enthusiastic flowers, serenades, notes and things like that.

The excerpt was a good manifestation of how change in men occurs. But since change is mens wine and bread
according to Angela Manalang-Gloria, it is as essential as living itself, and therefore the most important things to be
considered after the transition are the causes, the way one deals with change and the consequences. Alfredo was
aware of the cause of his change as what is shown in the following paragraph:

Why would men so mismanage their lives? Greed, he thought, was what ruined so many. Greed the desire to
crowd into a moment all the enjoyment it will hold, to squeeze from the hour all the emotions it will yield. Men
commit themselves when but half-meaning to do so, sacrificing possible future fullness of ecstasy to the craving for
immediate excitement. . .

Another significant reason as to his emotional wanderings could be the length of time n which he was engaged o
Esperanza. As what Don Julian had philosophize, couples who were engaged for so long become too comfortable
and familiar with each other that the spark of love that was felt at the time the romance was just starting to blossom
would expectantly cool down that it argues a certain placidity of temperament or of affection on the part of
either, or both.

Another factor to be considered was the contrast of Alfredo and Julias personalities. Alfredo was calm and placid
while Julia was lively and full of vitality. The difference between them must have excited him as he saw in her the
things he lacked.

However, though aware he was of the possible reasons why he, as well as men, or even humans in general, succumb
to acts or thoughts of subtle infidelity, his attitude towards what is moral and not becomes shadowed in the
attempts to justify his own behavior. Stances about the argument he had with Esperanza regarding the latters anger
toward Calixtas cohabitation with the man shes not married to, may vary. But again, ones act was expected to
adhere with what is the established morality in a certain society. Because of what seemed as a liberal notion, Alfredo
was trapped in a situation where he has to defend himself and in the process, what was manifested was his greed.

One tries to be fair according to his lights but it is hard. One would like to be fair to ones self first.

But the wedding materialized; He chose not to break his word probably in order to save himself, Esperanza and Julia
from social ridicule. He felt that his moral and social obligations were already fulfilled upon choosing not to cause
humiliation to them all. The way in which he chose to deal with his internal change was to consider the way in which
the society will view the people involved. But perhaps he felt that in doing so he has deprived himself of fairness. So
he became distant and unreachable to Esperanza although he stayed with her and treated her gently. He has
developed the skill in being unaffected and somehow mastered the art of being detached.

After several years, he was sent by his profession in search for the elusive Brigida Samuy and into the hometown of
Julia Salas. Upon seeing her and finding out that she never married, he started to notice that she lost something,
even doubted if the loss was his. As he tried to find the answer, a great realization dawned on him.

Gently was it experimentally? he pressed her hand at parting; but his remained undisturbed and emotionless. Did
she still care? The answer to the question hardly interested him.

. . . So all these years since when? he had seen the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in
their appointed places in the heavens.

Therefore, the love he thought he felt for her during the short summer they shared was not the love that was
enough to break an engagement. Nor was it love in its strictest definition. Instead, it was desire that sprung from the
coldness that slowly crept in his relationship with Esperanza due to their long-time familiarity with each other. It was
excitement that was ignited by boredom and the last spurt of hot blood.
Alfredo symbolizes the greed and indecisiveness of men when it comes to dealing with the matters of the emotion.
He had entertained the pull of an anonymous feeling. Anonymous since he never really ventured to understand it
but he clung to it anyway. And in the process he lost a part of himself and deprived that part to Esperanza as well.

Had it not been for chasing the lights of an illusive love that was long dead, or worse, never was, would Alfredo be
happier in his marriage? Is it fair to say that he has wasted the milestones of a blissful marriage with a woman he
loved first all for the sake of an impossible whim? Considering the disappointment he manifested upon realizing
what he lost, the answer, is yes.