Noli Me Tangere Summary
Noli Me Tangere Summary
Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal
The novel is set in Manila, Philippines.
Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin (Ibarra)- is A wealthy young man of mixed Spanish and Filipino ancestry who has recently returned to the Philippines from Europe after spending seven years studying abroad.
María Clara- she is a well-regarded woman in San Diego for her high social station.
Father Dámaso- is a Spanish friar living in the Philippines who is an arrogant priest.
Elías- he is an outlaw and vagabond revolutionary who resents the power that the Catholic Church and Spanish government have over the Philippines.
Father Salví- he is a serious and committed Spanish friar who takes over Father Dámaso’s post in San Diego as the town’s priest.
Captain Tiago (Don Santiago de Los Santos) – she is a Filipino socialite and well-respected member of the country’s wealthy elite
The Ensign- he is a Spaniard in charge of the Civil Guard in San Diego.
Old Tasio (Don Anastasio) – he is an old man who used to study philosophy and who prefers secular knowledge to Catholicism.
Crispín- he is a very young boy studying to be a sexton.
Basilio- he is Crispín’s older brother, who is also training to be a sexton.
Doctor Tiburcio de Espadaña- he is a Spaniard who speaks with a stutter and looks significantly older than his thirty-five years.
La Doctora Victorina de los Reyes de Espadaña- she is a Filipina woman married to Don Tiburcio.
Doña Consolación- she is an older Filipina woman married to the ensign.
Señor Guevara- he is an elderly lieutenant of the Civil Guard who deeply respects both Ibarra and the late Don Rafael.
The Captain-General- she is an unnamed representative of Spain and the highest government official in the Philippines.
Linares- he is Doctor de Espadaña’s nephew from Spain.
The Schoolmaster- he is a teacher whom Don Rafael supported, helping him find a house and enabling him to properly do his job.
Don Filipo (Filipo Lino) – is the deputy mayor of San Diego.
The Mayor- he is the mayor of San Diego who is conservative and devoted to religion.
The Yellow Man- he is a man hired to kill Ibarra.
Társilo- he is a man whose father died at the hands of the Civil Guard.
Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, commonly referred to as Ibarra, has been studying in Europe for the past seven years. As he arrives back in the Philippines, his friend, Captain Tiago, hosts a reunion dinner. During dinner, Father Dámaso, who Ibarra thought was friends with his father, treats him badly, which surprises Ibarra. As Ibarra is walking home from the dinner, another family friend, Señor Guevara, follows him and tells him that his father died in prison after a campaign of slander against him and that Father Dámaso had a hand in his death. Ibarra is shocked, but unsure of what to do. He goes to visit his old lover, Maria Clara, but as Maria mentions Ibarra’s family, Ibarra is put off.
Instead of seeking revenge, Ibarra tries to follow his father’s footsteps of peace. After meeting with a schoolmaster who knew his father, he plans on establishing a public school to help his hometown. The schoolmaster warns him that Father Dámaso meddles in the school system, preventing students from learning Spanish and demanding that he beat the students. Ibarra pitches the idea of the school to town officials, pretending that he wants to work with them on it, and they agree.
Meanwhile, two young boys, Crispín and Basilio, work as sextons to support their poor mother, Sisa, who is abused by their father. When Crispín is falsely accused of theft, the brothers must work even more. Crispín protests and is severely beaten, while Basilio escapes. He returns the next day to look for his brother, but can’t find him. Sisa looks for both her sons, losing her mind as she wanders the area in search of them. Ibarra goes to his father’s grave, seeking peace. He is shocked to discover that his father’s corpse was removed and supposedly put into a Chinese cemetery at the order of the town’s curate, Father Dámaso.
During the town’s festivities, Ibarra and the officials plan to celebrate the new school, hoping to bless it after a sermon by Father Dámaso. During the sermon, a mysterious man named Elías approaches Ibarra, warning him of a plot to kill him. That night, Father Dámaso invites himself to a dinner Ibarra is hosting. He insults both indigenous Filipinos and Ibarra’s father specifically. Ibarra punches Father Dámaso, but before he can kill him, he is stopped by María Clara.
Ibarra is excommunicated, and María Clara falls ill, she is then re-engaged with a new man after her spineless father calls off her wedding to Ibarra. Meanwhile, the Captain-General manages to lift Ibarra’s ex-communication, angering the clergy. Ibarra continues working on the school, and Father Salvi, who is in love with María Clara, plots with Lucas, to frame Ibarra for a rebellion by organizing people with grievances against the colonial government and telling them that Ibarra is leading the revolt. Right before the attack happens, Father Salvi warns everyone, claiming someone told him about it in confession.
Ibarra is thrown into prison, having been found guilty based on a letter he wrote to María Clara before leaving for Europe years ago. Again, Elías rescues him, breaking him out of prison and taking him to María Clara. She apologizes to Ibarra and explains that she gave Father Salvi the letter that led to Ibarra being found guilty because he blackmailed her. Elías and Ibarra row away, but they quickly realize they’re being followed by another boat, which will soon catch up. Elías jumps off the boat to confuse their pursuers, who think he is Ibarra, and try to shoot him while the real Ibarra escapes. They appear to kill him, but they never see his body.
María Clara tells Father Dámaso that she can’t marry Linares, the man she is now engaged to and threatens to commit suicide if she is not allowed to enter a convent. On Christmas Eve, Basilio wanders away from the cabin where he has been staying with an adoptive family and looks for Sisa, his mother. He finds her, but she doesn’t recognize him and runs away. Finally, he catches her and she faints, she dies of shock, having finally recognized him. Elías appears, telling Basilio that he is about to die, and asks Basilio to put his body with Sisa’s on a funeral pyre.
- Colonialism, Religion, and Power. The novel examines how Spain’s colonization of the Philippines allowed the Catholic Church to dominate and rule the region. Colonialism produced tensions that would, lead Filipino natives to revolt against Spain’s oppressive religious and governmental bodies in the Philippine Revolution.
- Education. Ibarra, who is a respected figure because of the fact that he studied in Europe, advocates for the importance of intellect and education by building a school in San Diego. In doing so, he seeks to give the townspeople a means of empowerment outside the context of the church.
- Isolation. One of the ways characters in Noli Me Tangere are disempowered is through political isolation, religious isolation, or intellectual isolation. Politically, all of the characters are isolated from Spain, the governing body that controls the Philippines. While the friars take advantage of this remoteness, the townspeople suffer. Religiously, any character who disagrees with Catholic doctrine is isolated and labeled a heretic.