The Bolo by Loreto Paras Sulit (Short Story) - Literary Analysis, Plot, Summary, Themes

The Bolo is a short story written by Loreto Paras Sulit and published in 1927. Together with Harvest, it's Sulit's most well-known short story. It's widely taught and analyzed in literature and English classes in the country. It also has the distinction of being among the first short stories in the English language written by a Filipino writer.

The Main Characters

1. Clara - a widow
2. Sita - Clara's younger sister
3. Ramon -Clara's dead husband
4. Oscar - a customer at Old Hison's Store
5. The storekeeper at the Old Hison Store

Plot and Summary

Clara and her younger sister Sita are in the middle of a serious predicament. They are poor and starving. Not only that, Clara is weak and sick. She has also previously not only her husband Ramon but their unborn child as well. If Clara and Sita are not going to get much-needed sustenance, there's a possibility that they might starve to death. At this moment, they realize that the most viable solution to their problem is to sell one of their most prized possessions - a bolo with a handle made of ivory, jade, and gold. The bolo is a family heirloom that has been passed from generation to generation.

When the idea to sell the bolo came up, Clara was very hesitant and didn't want to sell it. She was also holding on to the hope that her late husband's family will send them money to help them. But time is running out and she is gravely sick and weak. Still, she didn't want to let go of the prized bolo.

Due to desperation, Sita snatched the bolo from her sister's weak and helpless hands and promptly headed to Old Hison's Store to sell it. The storekeeper took advantage of Sita's desperation and bought the bolo at a price which was way lower than what it's actually worth. Sita is aware she's being taken advantage of but she had no choice. She sold the bolo for a meager 50 pesos.

Before she can leave Old Hison's Store, another customer named Oscar bought the bolo from the storekeeper for a much higher price. Oscar then gave the bolo back to Sita, reminding her of the value of such possessions. And that such possessions should be appreciated and not easily given away. Sita accepted the bolo and returned the 50 pesos to the storekeeper telling him, "Here is yourmoney and I shall keep the bolo".

Questions for Discussion

1. What are the themes of the story?
- The story covers a few themes - poverty, unbridled capitalism, cultural values, and ingrained Filipino traditions. Poverty affects everyone. There are people out there who wouldn't bat an eye while taking advantage of poor folks. The story is also a subtle commentary on Filipino cultural and traditional values like keeping family heirlooms and expecting charity from relatives.

2. What's the moral lesson in the story?
- There are several moral lessons that can be learned from the story. However, there are two important ones. One, no matter how dark the tunnel is, there's always light at the end of it. The light in the tunnel was personified by Oscar, the man who bought back the bolo from the storekeeper and gave it back to Sita. The second lesson is that there may be bad people out there who would take advantage of you in a heartbeat but there are also good-hearted people out there. The storekeeper scammed Sita but she was saved from further harm by Oscar.

3. What are the symbolisms in the story?
- The storekeeper symbolized greed and unbridled capitalism. Oscar symbolized hope and proper charity.