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A Woman’s Fate

(An Analysis of Aida L. Rivera Ford’s Love in the Cornhusks)

I. Introduction

This paper shows the literary analysis of the short story Love in the Cornhusks by

Aida L. Rivera-Ford. Rivera-Ford was educated at Silliman University and later obtained

an M.A. degree in English from the University of Michigan. She now resides in Davao

City and is the President of Ford Academy of Arts. In her written biography, Rivera-Ford

said that “One autumn afternoon, I sat on a bench of the campus park wondering what I

would submit next. A very dead-looking man lay across on the grass. A great wave of

homesickness swept over me. The sights and smells of our farm in Davao enveloped

me and the figure of our maid who did errands at the farm emerged”.

At that moment, the reality of the maid’s emotions possessed her and became

as valid as her own. So she started writing “Love in the Cornhusk” – a story that has

won her international recognition.

Love in the Cornhusks deals with the illusions of love which are ultimately

shattered by the mess of assuming things that we are not yet sure of that would often

lead to regrets. The story illustrates this by depicting a young woman with so much

promise brought low by love. Tinang gets a letter from her first love that says he still

loves her. However, Tinang is already married to a Bagobo. Moreover, this fall from

grace is emphasized by the marked physical difference in Tinang before and after her

marriage.

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Also, the story shows the concepts of the role of women in the society, and the

effects of our decisions.

Research [Literary] Problem

The problem that can be seen in the literary text Love in the Cornhusks is how

lives of women especially in the barrio depend on their future spouse. Their lives seems

to be dependent on whoever they are going to be married to, like how they would look

physically and the struggle or abundance that they would experience in their lives.

Entering marriage is not simple as it seems, especially to women. Being married

entails the responsibility to your spouse as well as to your children. And life will be very

difficult if your spouse cannot provide the things that you really need to live a

comfortable life just like the situation faced by Tinang in the story.

The analysis aims to answer the following questions:

1. How are women’s lives portrayed in the work?

2. Does the work challenge or affirm traditional views of women?

3. What behavioral expectations are imposed on the characters? What

effect do these expectations have?

4. How does the marital status of a character affect her decisions or

happiness?

Background of the Problem

According to Rowlandson (2005), as cited by Brugnoni (2010) in the book

Women and Society, it was noted that women had little legal independence and were

expected to be under the control of their fathers and then their husbands throughout

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their life. This can be reflected in the story on how Tinang’s life has changed when she

got married to Inggo who is a Bagobo and has a baby with him while currently pregnant

on their second child. It can be understood in the story the changes she had physically

and the struggle she has been through after getting married.

Camp (2009) claimed that married women’s first priorities were to their husbands

and they were expected to not only remain faithful to their duties, but obey their

marriage contract. With this, it shows how Tinang’s commitment as a married woman

was evident, fulfilling his duties as a wife and as a mother to her children even if she

struggles in her life.

Scope and Limitation of the Paper

This paper is an analysis of the story Love in the Cornhusks by Aida L. Rivera-

Ford. The basis of the analysis is in the perspective of Feminist Theory considering the

appropriateness of the story in relation to the theory. This paper is limited only to the

used theory to analyze the story comprehensively.

II. Related and Reviewed Literature

Feminist Theory

Feminist criticism focuses on how literature has represented women and

relationships between women and men, drawing attention to how women have been

marginalized and denied a voice of their own in much of canonical literature, and to how

literature reflects society's prevailing ideological assumptions with regard to gender and

power.

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Modern Feminism began with Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of

Women (1792), a work that criticizes stereotypes of women as emotional and instinctive

and argues that women should aspire to the same rationality prized by men. A product

of the Enlightenment, Wollstonecraft believed that women should enjoy social, legal,

and intellectual equality with men and drew for support from the work of progressive

social philosophers (Castle, 2007).

Simone de Beauvoir in her work The Second Sex ( 1949), she claimed that “one

is not born, one becomes a woman,” de Beauvoir challenged the idea that a woman’s

essence was distinct from a man’s, that she was born with certain inherent potentialities

and qualities that defined her personal, social, and legal existence.

Virginia Woolf as cited by Carter (2006) stressed that fender is not predetermined

but is a social construct and, as such, can be changed. She also considered especially

the social situation of women and in the latter, she explored the dominance of the major

professions by men.

Women in the Philippines

The role of women in the Philippines is explained based on the context of Filipino

culture, standards, and mindsets. Although they generally define themselves in the

milieu of a male-dominated post-colonial society, Filipino women live in a culture that is

focused on the community, with the family as the main unit of society, but not always as

this is a stereotype. It is in this framework of Philippine hierarchical structure, class

differences, religious justifications, and living in a globally developing nation wherein

Filipino women are respected well by men. Compared to other parts of Southeast Asia,

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women in Philippine society have always enjoyed a greater share of equality (Clamonte,

2007).

In rural areas, the Filipino woman belongs in the home. The children approach

her for money and help. She is the family's treasurer. She supports the children’s

educational needs. For non-family members who require support, the wife is the person

to be approached. However, the wife is neither the person who makes the final decision

nor the person who hands out the money.

Juan Flavier (2007), a physician, an authority on community development, and a

former Philippine senator, described in his book, Doctor to the Barrios, that whether

some (Filipino) men are willing to admit it or not, rural women in the Philippines wield

considerable authority, the housewife in particular. This is especially if the housewife,

who is often referred to as the Ilaw ng Tahanan (Light of the Home), is convinced of the

benefits that will be gained from a certain practice such as the concept of family

planning in the barrios. Flavier also mentioned that "In the Philippine barrio, the one

responsible for the home and its management is the wife, she holds the key to

household development."

Traditionally, rural and tribal women do all the household related chores. Heavy

works that require more strength is done by the husband. Now, the chore work is evenly

distributed with the men doing just as much work as the women. The scope of their

functions include cooking, cleaning, teaching the children, washing clothes, repairs,

budgeting, and helping in the farm. The husband is the one who makes sure the farm

would yield quality crops, so he does all the maintenance work. In some cases, where

the husband needs help from other men, the wife would make sure that the men are

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fed, so she cooks food and bring it to the farm. The Filipino women, ensures that

everyone is well fed, including any workers, relatives, or visitors.

In general, Filipino women find pride in their work. They do not find themselves

alienated from their chores because they work with, around, and for their families. This

family-oriented mindset gives them a sense of dignity and responsibility. The family and

the children are the primary priority some Filipino women's life. In addition to doing

housework, the contemporary role of a Filipino wife today is to provide financial support

in the household by seeking employment in higher-earning occupations which then

expands the Filipino female work outside the household (Alcantara, 1994).

Theoretical Framework

Love in the Feminist


Cornhusks Theory
viewed from
(Literary Text) (Lens)

Literary
Analysis

Figure 1. Theoretical Framework

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III. Methodology

Principles of Selecting the Text

There are principles and considerations why I have chosen the story Love in the

Cornhusks as my literary text to be analyzed. First, the author Aida L. Rivera-Ford is a

writer from Mindanao which means that her work would reflect the culture of Mindanao

in context. Second, the text is interesting because there are lots of concepts tapped in

the story including the feminine attributes of the protagonist and her experience. Third

its text language is easy to understand. Lastly, the text is very applicable to the Feminist

Theory which will be used to analyze the story.

Summary of the Story

One day, Constantina Tirol, also called as Tinang, visits her former master,

Señora, whom she was working for before she got married. While carrying her baby

boy, she walksthrough the entrance of the house of her former Señora and meet his

former young master, Tito, and the Señora. Upon getting inside the house, Señora asks

her some questions how her married life is together with his Bagobo husband and also

how is it to be a mother of a baby boy. Their conversation continues and they reach to

the point of talking about the tractor drivers of Señora, especially the one who was

good, Amado. After that, Tinang finally tells her former Señora about her intention of

being there. The baptism of her baby is about to come and she wants Señora to be a

Madrina or a Ninang to her child. The relationship between Tinang and her former

Señora with her family remains good. And so, Señora hastily agreed to be so and yet

wants to provide baptismal clothes for the baby and the fee for the Priest. Before she

left from Señora’s house, she was told by her that there is a letter for her in the

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drugstore, which also serves as the post office of the barrio. By that moment, she

thought that someone might be dead or maybe that letter comes from her sister. So she

hurriedly takes her way home and passes by that drugstore to get the letter. As she

continues walking in a muddy road to her way home, she tries to look for a place where

she could lay down her baby, hoping that she could read the letter before she arrives

home. Finally, she finds a good place where she can stop for a while. There is a

Kamansi tree and under of it are scattered cornhusks. So, she prepares a heap of it

using her foot and laid her baby upon it. Then, she starts reading the letter. After doing

so, she finds out that the letter is a love letter, her first love letter, which comes from

Amado, her boyfriend, saying that he does not want to break up with her when he left

from the field of Señora without telling the reason why he did so. Time cannot be back

anymore. It is already too late that she discovers that Amado still loves her. However,

she was not informed that his mother’s worst illness made him gone for some time.

Instead, Tinang marry a Bagobo man, whom owns 2 hectares of land. After all, what

she does is only to remember her past with Amado until the time comes when she has

to leave upon noticing that a snake is sneaking towards her baby boy. In the end, she

leaves the place without noticing that her first love letter fell down among the cornhusks.

Analytic Approach

The following approaches were done in order to come up with this literary paper:

1. Analyze concepts and arguments – this was done by reading the text

thoroughly and by doing close-reading on what is the story all about. This also

includes those arguments that can be extracted from the story that will be

discussed.

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2. Synthesize ideas and evidence drawn from different sources – this was

done by getting the main points from the story where you can relate to a concept

in the chosen theory used. Notions about the theory would come from various

sources.

3. Construct consistent and well-supported arguments – based on the

concepts related to the theory, these arguments should be supported by lines

from the story to prove the point. Citation should also be done to recognize the

names of the proponents who mentioned some concepts about the theory.

4. Discuss an issue in a balanced way – this was done by giving your

supporting discussion about your arguments. But, discussions should not be

subjective. It should always reflect what the text has said about your argument.

5. Make judgements and express informed opinion – this was done by stating

your conclusion about your arguments.

IV. Analysis and Discussion

Decisions are essential things we do in our lives. Wrong decisions might lead us

to misery and regret. In situations like marriage, we should also be rational if we are

ready for the responsibilities emotionally and financially. In the story Love in the

Cornhusks, the protagonist experienced difficulty in her married life. And this difficulty

would reflect her decisions of marrying a man who cannot provide her a comfortable life.

This only shows that lives of women especially in the barrio depend on their future

spouse. Their lives seems to be dependent on whoever they are going to be married to,

like how they would look physically and the struggle or abundance that they would

experience in their lives.

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Tinang was a former maid of a Señora in certain barrio. She visited her former

master to make her the godmother of her child. It was shown in the story how Tinang

struggled to go to the Senora’s house …”she sighed thinking of the long walk home

through the mud, the baby’s legs straddled to her waist, and Inggo, her husband,

waiting for her, his body stinking of tuba and sweat, squatting on the floor, clad only in

his foul undergarments.” This line indicates that Tinang is living a difficult life with her

husband. Based on how his husband was described, he is not well-off and showed that

he can’t properly present himself by wearing descent clothes. It would also mean that

her husband is a typical man living in a barrio who is not really particular in making

himself presentable.

The way the Señora perceived the looks of Tinang was different compared to

what she was when she was not yet married. According to Simone de Beauvoir in her

work The Second Sex (1949), “There are differences between the interests of men and

women which results to male dominance over women.” In the story, the Senora said,

““Ano, Tinang, is it not a good thing to be married?” pitying Tinang because her dress

gave way at the placket and pressed at her swollen breasts. It was, as a matter of fact,

a dress she had given Tinang a long time ago. And Tinang responded, “It is hard,

Señora, very hard. Better that I were working here again.” From this dialogue, we can

infer that Tinang missed her old life when she is still working with the Senora thinking

about the essence of a comfortable world. But now, since she is married, her life

changed because she does not have only a responsibility to her husband but a

responsibility to her children. Being a woman, it is a traditional view that they will be the

one to take care of the children and to stay at home to do all the household chores. And

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this view was also experienced by Tinang. That is, being a full time mother to her child

and to take good care of them at home. It reveals the true feelings of Tinang through

her situation right now. I think if she can choose again, she refuse to marry and have a

family especially when she knew that Amado really love her and she’s not being

forgotten.

Because of Tinang’s reponse, the Senora said ““There!”. “Didn’t I tell you what it

would be like, huh? . . . that you would be a slave to your husband and that you would

work a baby eternally strapped to you. Are you not pregnant again?” This only shows

that there behavioral expectations are imposed on the character of Tinang. She was

thought to be above among other girls in the barrio for she was always neat and clean

in her hometown, before she went away to work, she had gone to school and had

reached sixth grade. Her skin, too, was not as dark as those of the girls who worked in

the fields weeding around the clumps of abaca. Because of her physical beauty and

potential, the Senora did not hesitate to make Tinang realize that she has been

reminded what is the right thing to do before but she did not follow what the Senora had

advised. The term “slave to your husband” would mean that once a woman is married,

she should follow what her husband wants since she already committed to the marriage

and a woman can’t say no because patriarchy is all-pervasive and treats females

universally as inferior (Millett, 1969).

The story shows the lifestyle of a woman in every era. We can still observe now that if a

woman is belonging to unfortunate family she carries out all kinds of work to have a

better life. Millett in her work Sexual Politics (1969) states that, “The main cause of the

oppression of women is ideology.” Women at that time are not really educated because

they are perceived to be a woman who will just stay at home, take care of their children

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and serve their husbands. Like happened of Tinang, she is a helper in some way but

somehow she gains an education to boost her position in life. But like in reality we made

a choice through in that time you think that is the right thing to do. Then when we realize

it’s too late to turn back the things you wanted in life. So better to move on and face the

consequences because we can’t live in past better in future.

Upon knowing that the letter she received was actually a love letter from Amado,“

a flush spread over her face and crept into her body.” This only shows that she still feels

something for Amado which she remembered all the times she had with Amado. Yet,

Amado was not able to communicate to her after he left since his mother was ill. At that

time, Tinang was not able to wait thinking that Amado really left her that is why she

decided to marry the Bagobo that was courting her. She then realized that things may

have been different if she waited for Amado to return but now it’s too late. The marital

status of Tinang being married affected her happiness because it was not Inggo whom

she really loves but is actually Amado. And being married to his Bagobo husband

changed her life forever, experiencing the difficult life with her children. We can infer

that Tinang is really having the regrets from her decisions before. But since she is

already married with kids, her decisions or way of thinking has also changed. Tinang felt

disappointment with her failed love story with but she come back to reality when she

saw the snake slide close to her baby. Tinang demonstrate the vulnerable side of a

woman character in her choosing the path of her life. This only shows that as a married

woman, you are not anymore thinking about yourself or your own happiness but you

need to prioritize the welfare of your children before anything else even if it would take

your own happiness. Being a mother, Tinang was already matured to face the effect of

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the decision she made. And when she already saved her child from the snake, she

prayed, searching the baby’s skin for marks. Among the cornhusks, the letter fell

unnoticed. The last line of the story would indicate that Tinang will move on with her life

together with her family forgetting the past that she had where she did wrong decisions

in her life and she will be focusing on being a mother to her children and a wife to his

husband.

Theory Concepts Lines from the Text

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) In the story, the Senora said, ““Ano,


The Second Sex (1949) Tinang, is it not a good thing to be
“There are differences between the married?” pitying Tinang because her
interests of men and women which results dress gave way at the placket and
to male dominance over women.” pressed at her swollen breasts. It was, as
a matter of fact, a dress she had given
Tinang a long time ago. And Tinang
responded, “It is hard, Señora, very hard.
Better that I were working here again.”

From this, we can infer that Tinang missed her old life when she is still working

with the Senora thinking about the essence of a comfortable world. But now, since she

is married, her life changed because she does not have only a responsibility to her

husband but a responsibility to her children. Her husband seems to be dominant over

her because she cannot do things without the presence of her husband.

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Theory Concepts Lines from the Text

Kate Millett (1934- ) The Senora said ““There!”. “Didn’t I tell


you what it would be like, huh? . . . that
Patriarchy is all-pervasive and treats you would be a slave to your husband
females universally as inferior (Millett, and that you would work a baby eternally
1969). strapped to you. Are you not pregnant
again?”

The term “slave to your husband” would mean that once a woman is married, she

should follow what her husband wants since she already committed to the marriage and

a woman can’t say no. In the perspective of the Senora, she understands the difficult

situation of Tinang and that Tinang’s husband has something to do with this situation.

Theory Concepts Interpretation from the Text

Kate Millett (1934- ) Women at that time are not really


Sexual Politics (1969) educated because they are perceived to
“The main cause of the oppression of be a woman who will just stay at home,
women is ideology.” take care of their children and serve their
husbands. Like happened of Tinang, she
is a helper in some way but somehow she
gains an education to boost her position
in life. Yet, she did a wrong decision and
followed that ideology where she is now
living a difficult married life.

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V. Conclusion

1. How are women’s lives portrayed in the work?

Tinang, being the female protagonist in the story was portrayed as a woman who

is experiencing difficulty in her married life. She married a Bagobo named Inggo and

had a child with him and she is now pregnant again with their second child. Their life

was not that comfortable because she even struggles in going to the Senora’s house

because of the muddy road.

2. Does the work challenge or affirm traditional views of women?

Yes, the work or the text affirms the traditional views of women. In the story,

being a woman, it is a traditional view that they will be the one to take care of their

children and to stay at home to do all the household chores. And this view was also

experienced by Tinang. That is, being a full time mother to her child and to take good

care of them.

We can still observe now that if a woman is belonging to unfortunate family she

carries out all kinds of work to have a better life. Like happened of Tinang, she worked

as a helper to a rich family in the barrio to sustain her needs and also to go to school.

3. What behavioral expectations are imposed on the characters? What effect do these

expectations have?

Tinang was thought to be above among other girls in the barrio for she was

always neat and clean in her hometown, before she went away to work, she had gone

to school and had reached sixth grade. Her skin, too, was not as dark as those of the

girls who worked in the fields weeding around the clumps of abaca. Because of her

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physical beauty and potential, the Senora did not hesitate to make Tinang realize that

she has been reminded what is the right thing to do before but she did not follow what

the Senora had advised.

4. How does the marital status of a character affect her decisions or happiness?

The marital status of Tinang being married affected her happiness because it

was not Inggo whom she really loves but is actually Amado. And being married to his

Bagobo husband changed her life forever, experiencing the difficult life with her

children. But since she is already married with kids, her decisions or way of thinking has

also changed. Tinang felt disappointment with her failed love story with but she come

back to reality when she saw the snake slide close to her baby. Tinang demonstrate the

vulnerable side of a woman character in her choosing the path of her life. This only

shows that as a married woman, you are not anymore thinking about yourself or your

own happiness but you need to prioritize the welfare of your children before anything

else even if it would take your own happiness. Being a mother, Tinang was already

matured to face the effect of the decision she made. And when she already saved her

child from the snake, she prayed, searching the baby’s skin for marks. Among the

cornhusks, the letter fell unnoticed. The last line of the story would indicate that Tinang

will move on with her life together with her family forgetting the past that she had where

she did wrong decisions in her life and she will be focusing on being a mother to her

children and a wife to his husband.

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A LITERARY ANALYSIS OF LOVE IN THE
CORNHUSKS BY AIDA L. RIVERA-FORD USING
FEMINIST THEORY

In Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements


in Ed Ling 206 – Literary Theory and Criticism

Submitted by:

SHEENA C. OCUTARE

Submitted to:

ERSWEETCEL C. SERVANO, MAEd

October 2017

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References:

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women. Philippine Sociological Review . Retrieved from
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Brugnoni, S. (2010). Women’s role. Retrieved from


http://classes.maxwell.syr.edu/his301-001/brilliant_scholarly.htm

Camp, C. (2009). Women in the society. Retrieved from


http://classes.maxwell.syr.edu/his301-001/sara.htm

Carter, D. (2006). Literary theory. Harpenden, Herts: Pocket Essentials.

Castle, G. (2007). A Blackwell guide to literary theory. USA/UK/Australia: Blackwell


Publishing Ltd.

Clamonte, N. (2007). The role and status of women. Retrieved from


http://countrystudies.us/philippines/44.htm

Flavier, J. (2007). Doctor to the Barrios. Retrieved from


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1789345.Doctor_to_the_Barrios

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