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Dogeaters is a political satire novel written to address the history of the Philippines. The author, Jessica Hagedorn, uses a platform of a postmodern society and themes like dictatorship, sexuality, religion, colonization, and the search for identity to explore accomplish her objectives. The novel adopts a disjointed and unstable timeline with narrations that involve both flashbacks and flash-forwards. The location is Manila Philippines although America and Spain are continuously mentioned in relation to colonization. Three main characters and two minor ones who each narrate their own versions of the truth narrate the novel. The characters used are mainly human but are used to represent the real political class in the history of Philippines hence the themes of the novel.
Main Characters Analysis
Rio Gonzaga acts as the first narrator and she is responsible for setting the pace for the whole novel. Rio is an adult and she tells her stories mainly through flashbacks and memories of her childhood in Manila. Consequently, her narration is filtered through the more analytic approach of an adult instead from the innocence of a ten-year-old girl. She is a dreamer and fantasizes a lot in her narration. Rio is shy and does not like interacting with boys although like her cousin Pucha, she enjoys American movies (Hagedorn 3). Although she is from an upper class or higher middle class society, she is sympathetic to the less fortunate in society, which is clearly visible when she listens to famous Filipino radio drama, Love Letters, with her grandmother and servants. She is humble thus does not find any problem mixing with such people.
Pucha Gonzaga, Rio’s cousin, enjoys American movies too. She is fond of boys and flirts with them after watching movies. She likes visiting cafés and drink truCola mostly with Boomboom Alacran, a wealthy and influential man. Pucha has a more glamorous lifestyle and adores wealth. She likes to be the center of attention always: thus, she is a character full of pride. Although she goes ahead to marry the well connected Boomboom, the marriage does not last for long (Hagedorn 102). Rio and Pucha’s fathers, who are brothers, work for the Alacran family. The two families are good friends and interact on various social platforms despite the fact that the Gonzagas are Alacran’s employees.
The Alacran family is a wealthy and influential family in Manila. Severo Alacran has interests in many areas of the economy including soft drink manufacturing and movie studios. He lives a lavish life and although he is married to a former beauty queen, Isabel, he is unfaithful to her. The two are engaged in continuous fights presenting Severo as a wife beater. Isabel is presented as a wife of convenience whose main task is to fulfill the political class duty of elegance and beauty. Severo has many illegitimate children but together with Isabel, they have a daughter, Baby Alacran. Unlike her mother, Baby Alacran is shy, soft, and plump. She is less concerned with beauty or class and ends up pregnant and eloping with a soldier, Pepe Carreon, to the joy of her parents.
Daisy Avila is the daughter of a leftist politician, Senator Domingo Avila, who is a human rights activist and leads opposition of the ruling dictatorial government. Daisy wins the Miss Philippines beauty pageant but later denounces it when she learns that her father has been assassinated (Hagedorn 182). She is also immoral and her involvement with leftist politics leads to her arrest. Daisy has a closed up personality because she keeps things to herself which pushes her down into depression. A character, Joey Sands, a gay prostitute and a DJ, witnesses the assassination of her dad.
The novel covers a wide range of themes all presented through the personality of the characters. The characters do not have any specific flow but all work together to bring out the issues plaguing the society. They fit perfectly well to address the issues the author desires to expose.
Hagedorn, Jessica. Dogeaters. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.