What Is the Plot of the Story “Dead Stars” by Paz Marquez Benitez?

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“Dead Stars” is a short story written by the Filippino author Paz Márquez Benítez. The story was the first story by a Filippino writer to be written in English. It was published in 1925 in the “Philippine Herald.” The story focuses on a man, Alfredo, who is engaged to one woman but falls in love with another.

The short story has been called an allegory of imperialism in the Philippines. It’s a commentary on the decline of Filippino culture as a result of the influence of the U.S. and other colonists.

The Characters

There are three main characters in “Dead Stars.” The protagonist is Alfredo, a bachelor in his 30s. When the story begins, Alfredo is engaged to a woman named Esperanza. The couple have been engaged for four years. The third main character in the short story is Julia, a young woman Alfredo meets at a dinner party early in the plot. 

Besides the three characters who make the story’s love triangle, there are supporting characters in the short story. They include:

  • Carmen, Alfredo’s sister
  • Don Julian, Alfredo’s father
  • Vicente, Carmen’s husband
  • Donna Adella, Julia’s sister
  • Dionisio, Donna Adella’s husband
  • Judge del Valle

The Action of Dead Stars

At the beginning of the story, Alfredo and Esperanza are engaged to be married. Their partnership is considered ideal by many. One night, Alfredo goes to visit a neighboring judge with his father, Don Julian. There, he meets Julia, a young woman. Alfredo continues to visit the judge, quickly developing feelings for Julia.

Despite his feelings for Julia, Alfredo marries Esperanza. Eight years later, he meets Julia once again. At that point, he realizes that he is no longer in love with Julia and that what he once felt for her has become like a “dead star.” 

The Setting of Dead Stars

The action in “Dead Stars” takes place in several homes as well as in churches. Alfredo first meets Julia at the home of Judge del Valle. Some of the story takes place at the home of Don Julian, Alfredo’s father. 

The Symbols in Dead Stars

As an allegory, “Dead Stars” is full of symbols and symbolism. Julia can be seen as a symbol for the presence of the U.S. in the Philippines. When Alfredo first meets her, he falls in love and believes she would be good for him. Eight years later, when they meet again, he finds that his love and affection for her has faded.

Meanwhile, Esperanza, the woman he marries, remains steadfast. The name “Esperanza” means hope. The character symbolizes the hope for the future and the persistence of Filippino culture. 

Who Was Paz Marquez Benitez?

Paz Márquez-Benítez was a writer, teacher and editor who lived from 1894 until 1983. In addition to “Dead Stars,” she wrote one other short story, “A Night in the Hills.” Despite her small body of work, she is considered an important writer, as she was the first to write in English in the Philippines.

Márquez-Benítez also founded the first women’s magazine in the Philippines, “Woman’s Home Journal.” She was married to Francisco Benítez, the Dean of the UP College of Education. The couple had four children together. After Francisco died in the early 1950s, Márquez-Benítez took over the role of editor of the “Philippine Journal of Education.” She remained editor of the journal for more than 20 years.