The Centipede by Rony V. Diaz (Short Story) - Plot, Summary, Critique, Analysis

The Centipede is a short story in English by Filipino author Rony V. Diaz, a writer who hails from Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. The story was first published in 1953 (some say 1952) and it won the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Short Story.

The Characters:

1. Eddie - A teenaged boy who is confused as to why his older sister is always mean and hateful towards him.
2. Delia - Eddie's older sister. Delia was 8 years old when Eddie was born. The events in the story occurs around when Eddie was 13 years old. This means Delia is around 21 or 22 in the story.
3. Berto - A member of the family.
4. Eddie and Delia's father - A loving father who only wanted what's best for his son and daughter.

Plot and Summary:

EDDIE sees his sister Delia beat up his dog Biryuk with a stick. This makes Eddie very angry and he wants to run over and help Biryuk. But he can't for the simple reason that Delia has some kind of a heart illness. Suddenly confronting her will surprise her and cause her weak heart to react. If this happens, Delia will be in a lot of physical pain.

In a flashback, Eddie tells the story of how he got his dog Biryuk. He was thirteen years old when his father took him to go hunting for brown pigeons. While scouting for pigeons with his hunting rifle in the ready, a small dog appeared out of the woods and dispered a flock of feeding pigeons. This afforded Eddie full sight of the fleeing pigeons. Eddie fired and three of the pigeons fell to the ground.

Eddie asked his father if he can keep the dog. His father said yes but told him that if someone goes around looking for the dog, Eddie should give the dog back. He didn't want his son to be accused of being a dog thief. Eddie and Biryuk became the best of friends. Every afternoon after school, Eddie and the dog would run around the fields chasing after quails or flushing birds at the nearby riverbank.

BEATEN up, the dog scampers away as Delia throws a stick after it. Delia calls Eddie over and twists his ear. She tells Eddie that she doesn't want to see the dog near the house ever again. She tells him that the dog has destroyed his slippers, again. She also threatens to have the dog killed by Berto (a household member) if she sees it near the house again. Delia pushes Eddie and he tumbles to the ground. Angry and filled with hate, Eddie remains calm and doesn't do anything.

In another flashback, Eddie recalls something that happened between him and his sister back when they were a bit younger. Eddie accidentally broke the leg of his siter's playdoll as well as destroy her playhouse. This made Delia very angry. She started beating Eddie with a tree sapling. But then suddenly, she stiffened and collapsed to the floor with forth forming around her mouth. She was taken to a nearby hospital. When she returned home, she more meaner than ever towards her younger brother. She did everything to destroy things that Eddie liked. She had Eddie's pet monkey killed by Berto because the monkey snickered at her. She told their father that Eddie's pet pigeons stink so Eddie had to give them away. Eddie didn't complain because he knew that everything had to be done to keep his sister calm and quiet. Making her unhappy might make her heart illness rear its ugly head.

But when Delia desroyed Eddie's pet butterflies, he came to realize that Delia was only doing the things to spite him. The butterflies didn't stink nor did they snicker at her. When confronted by their father, Delia reasoned that the butterflies were attracting ants. Which was not true at all.

EDDIE follows after Biryuk which has fled to the bushes. He finds the dog whimpering with one of its eyes bleeding. The eye got hit with the stick when Delia was beating it moments before. Eddie screamed in anger and frustration. Frightened by Eddie's outburst, the dog scampes and fleds. Eddie doesn't bother running after it.

On his way back home, Eddie finds Berto splitting wood. Berto shows him a centipede that he pinned to the ground with a small stick. The centipede is still alive. Eddie picks up another stick and sticks in into the body of the centipede until he thinks it's dead. He picks up the centipede and wraps it inside a handkerchief. Back home, Eddie finds Delia sitting on a chair and working on an embroidery project. Delia has her back towards Eddie. Eddie approaches her, unwraps the centipede, and throws it on her lap. Delia shrieks in horror, stands up, turns around, and sees Eddie. But she collapses again to the chair clutching her chest and writhing in pain. Delia accuses Eddie of trying to kill her.

Feelings of pity and guilt engulfs Eddie. He tries to explain to Delia that the centipede is dead. He picks up the creature and pinches the head between his fingers. Delia doesn't respond nor move.


The main theme of the story revolves around sibling relationship. However, in this particular story, this relationship is made complicated by a few moving parts - the death of the mother, the huge gap in years between the brother and sister, and a seemingly neutral single father.

Points for Discussion:

1. Eddie's mother died while giving birth to him. Delia was only 8 years old when this happened. Is it possible that this is the reason why Delia is always very antagonistic towards Eddie? Is it possible that Delia partly or fully blames Eddie for the passing of their mother? In the story, Delia seems to be always looking for reasons to hate on and be mean towards his younger brother. Is this her way of masking her feeling that Eddie is to be blamed for their mother's death? Is it possible that she can't directly blame Eddie so he as to find ways around it?

2. Did the author make a mistake in referring to a centipede as a reptile? In the story, the author referred to the centipede as a reptile. Centipedes are not reptiles.

3. Did Delia die at the end of the story? It's difficult to know whether she died or not. She was merely described as unmoving. We all know that she is suffering from some sort of heart-related illness. The ending is very open to reader interpretation.

4. Why did Eddie not follow after the injured dog when it scampered away from him? Was he trying to protect it by not getting it back? Because getting the dog back means it will further suffer beatings from his sister? Or it because he simply doesn't care anymore?

5. What's the setting of the story? Based on the descriptions of places in the story (i.e. fields, huts, river banks), it can be confidently inferred that the story is set in a typical Filipino rural setting.

6. If you are Eddie, would you have been more or less patient with your sister Delia? If you are Delia, would you have blamed Eddie for the death of your mother?