Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez (An Analysis)

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Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez (An Analysis)

Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:16 pm


“So all these years–since when?–he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.”-- Alfredo Salazar

Dead stars is a short story by Paz Marquez Benitez, written in 1925. The story is basically a compilation of the complicated circumstances that every man has to go through in life. Alfredo was torn between doing what is right and what is in his heart. Alfredo Salazar is a lawyer and the main character in the story. He is the love of the life of Esperanza. They have been together for four years and meant to get married in May. Their relationship in the beginning was full of enthusiasm, full of love and happiness. But like other long term relationships, their feelings for each other changes as time goes by. Esperanza was beautiful, elegant, reserved, and distinctly not average type of a woman. She loves her Alfredo so much and trusted him with her whole heart. After their four years of engagement, Alfredo thought of finding his real wants. When Alfredo tried to do some neighboring with his dad Don Julian, he met Julia Salas, their neighbor's sister-in-law. She was just a visitor in town and been there for only six weeks. They found good company between themselves and as they knew it, it became a weekly habit for Alfredo to visit her after every Sundays mass. Julia is the average type, not so beautiful but still it interests Alfredo so much. As they grew their new friendship, Alfredo found new happiness and starts to fall for her.

One day, his family invited Julia's family in their coconut plantation near their beach. It's a chance for them to have some quality time together, but this is also the time to say goodbye. Julia is planning to leave the town and go back home. It breaks the heart of Alfredo and made him more confused than ever. He is thinking of choosing Julia over his fiancée Esperanza, but what people will say is what he thinks matter most. He married Esperanza after Julia left the town, he was not unhappy and realizes that everything have fallen back into place. After eight years of marriage, Alfredo still can't get over Julia's memories. His thought of Julia is hunting him, and those what-ifs dilemma. Alfredo goes for a business trip to the town where Julia lived. While he is there, Alfredo runs across Julia. He has never forgotten about his feelings for her, but over time, he has come to accept his marriage to Esperanza. Alfredo finds that the feelings he had for Julia are gone. He is content with his life, and the perceived love he had felt for Julia all those years was like the "light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens."

Literary Criticisms:

Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture.

“Dead Stars” is the 1925 short story that gave birth to modern Philippine writing in English. English was still a young language in the Philippines, and many of the writers using the language were still struggling with it.

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.

New Criticism, emphasizes explication, or "close reading," of "the work itself."

“Dead stars” was a narrative story and it was written in third person point of view. The author tells the story in third person (using pronouns they, she, he, it, etc.).


Alfredo Salazar - son of Don Julian, a more than 30 year’s old man and a bachelor. He is engaged to Esperanza but he is in love with Julia Salas.

Esperanza - wife of Alfredo Salazar. She is a homely woman, literal minded and intensely acquisitive. She is one of those fortunate women who have the gift of uniformly beauty.

Julia Salas - sister-in-law of Judge Del Valle. She is the other girl of Alfredo Salazar thatremains single in her entire life.

Don Julian - an old man, a father of Alfredo Salazar and Carmen.Carmen - sister of Alfredo Salas.

Judge Del Valle - brother-in-law of Julia Salas.

Donna Adella -- sister of Julia Salas. She is small and plump, a pretty woman with acomplexion of a baby with an expression of a likeable cow.

Calixta - note-carrier of Alfredo Salazar and Esperanza.

Dionisio - husband of Donna Adella.

Vicente - husband of Carmen.

Brigida Samuy - She is the illusive woman whose Alfredo is looking for.


Don Julian’s house
Judge Del Valle’s house
Don Julian’s house in Tanda
Calle Real
Sta. Cruz


Exposition: At Don Julian’s house Carmen was asking Don Julian about Alfredo and Esperanza. Alfredo reminiscence how he met Julia Salas.

Rising action: He had gone neighboring with Don Julian to Judge Del Valle’s house. He met Julia Salas. All the time he was calling her Mrs. Del Valle which led him to embarrassment. Coming to the judge’s house became often. Then he realized he was in love with Julia in spite his engagement with Esperanza.

Climax: After the procession for The Lady of Sorrows Alfredo caught up with Julia. It was when Julia found out about Alfredo’s wedding so he congratulated him. Alfredo needs to make a very difficult situation. Would he choose what he WANTS to? Or would he choose what he HAS to?

Falling Action: Julia didn’t want Alfredo not to honor his understanding with Esperanza. She said goodbye. He went home to Esperanza. And there, the last word has been said.

Denouement: Alfredo and Esperanza got married. After eight years, he was searching for a lady named Brigida Samuy-a lady important for his defense in the court-in Sta. Cruz, Julia’s hometown. He went to Julia’s house and he found her there. Still unmarried. And he realized that his love for Julia was like a Dead Star. It was nonexistent.

Conflicts: Man vs. Circumstances, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Himself.

Man vs. Circumstances

In the story, Alfredo struggles against his fate and the circumstances of life and love facing him. He needs to face problems in choosing between difficult choices of his life. The story is basically a compilation of the complicated circumstances that every man has to go through in life.

Man vs. Society

In the story, Alfredo struggles against the society because he was afraid to the reaction of the people around him especially during the time of the story. 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.

Man vs. Himself

In the story, Alfredo was uncertain and confused by his decisions. He was torn between doing what is right and what is in his heart.


Dead stars symbolize things that are present but are left unspoken of. The love between Alfredo and Julia seemed to be real but, as time goes by the love they had lost and fades like a dead star so disillusionment, reminiscent of the past that doesn't exist anymore. No, not because of lost youth, he finds her to be different from that person he perceived her to be all these years. And he is disenchanted. The illusion he harbored all these years are nothing but dead stars, long dead but emits light that seems real for the distance it has to travel, light being seen even if the source has lost its own brightness or died.
Esperanza's devotion to Alfredo also resembles love, but since she believes in the "regenerative virtue of institution" more than true love, it is safe to say that she is in the relationship, because of moral obligation.


The short story "Dead Stars" by Paz Marquez Benitez is conveying the theme that pertains to forbidden love. It says that forbidden love is only apparent, and its banes haunt the person until such time that he realizes his faults. The underlying theme is responsibility, as shown by the story that Alfredo is engaged to be married to Esperanza and the people expect him to get married with her.

Feminist literary criticism, arising in conjunction with sociopolitical feminism, critiques patriarchal language and literature by exposing how these reflect masculine ideology. It examines gender politics in works and traces the subtle construction of masculinity and femininity, and their relative status, positioning’s, and marginalization’s within works.

In this story Women represents as meek and considers men to be superior. They are faithful and easy to fall in love while men are rational and uncertain. The story broke the notion of patriarchal system as the society sees men as rational type or in line with logic while women are the emotional kind.

Reader-response criticism is a school of literary theory that focuses on the reader (or "audience") and their experience of a literary work, in contrast to other schools and theories that focus attention primarily on the author or the content and form of the work.

In the story dead stars, men are easy to fell out love and easy to fall in love. The protagonist, Alfredo is uncertain by his decisions in his life. He was engaged to Esperanza, his fiancée of four years. But for some reasons, apparently on Alfredo’s 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. His confusion, weakness and unreasonableness are innate flaws of humans. Alfredo sees something different to Julia Salas that Esperanza don’t have and I find it very egotistical for him that he differentiate the two women. He sees women as second choice of his dreams when it is fade.

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