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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Short Story Analysis: PROGRESS by F. Sionil Jose

 By F. Sionil Jose                                                                            
         From her provincial hometown, Marina Salcedo, a 45-year-old Senior Clerk who has served twenty years in that Ministry, has to go to the big city Manila to follow up her promotion that is five years overdue. She badly needs such promotion because of her family’s rising financial needs.  

         Taking the Pantranco bus, she arrives Manila at dusk. She stays in a second cousin and her husband’s house. The following day, she goes to the Ministry. A woman clerk tells her that her name is not in the official list, much to Marina’s disgust, because she has the official letter. But the clerk insists, then opens a drawer for Marina to drop a twenty-peso bill, one of the two “red tape” incidents she encounters in that office. The other incident involves that of a supposedly missing form that is vital to her promotion; she drops a five-peso bill to the open drawer of the person-in-charge.

         Chief Lobo wants to meet her that Sunday afternoon for her to treat him to dinner before he hands her signed papers that also state “back pay” for the past five years. Hence, Marina goes to the agreed meeting place, a Japanese restaurant, where she waits for him until he arrives. She is shocked when Chief Lobo invites her to a motel. Despite her pleas, he gets what he wants.

          The promotion papers in her bag, she finally gets back to her hometown at past six in the evening. She decides to walk to her house to save on tricycle fare. All of a sudden, a man comes out from the dark and grabs her bag that has her papers which she is going to show to the paymaster for the raise to become hers. She knows that not letters or telegrams to Manila will get duplicates of such papers; she has to go back to Manila, and the thought of the bad experience she underwent frightens her.



1.  Marina Salcedo, a 45-year-old Senior Clerk, Protagonist, Developing
2.  Chief Lobo of the Finance Department of the Ministry office in Manila,  
                           Antagonist, Static

B. PLOT - Linear

a)  Introduction

        The main character, Marina Salcedo, is described in the first sentence of the story.

b)  Rising Action

       So as to have her promotion –and pay raise- Marina has to go to the Ministry in Manila to have her official papers signed

c)  Climax

      When the signatory of her promotion’s and pay raise’s implementation, Chief Lobo, wants her to go to the motel with him, she feels great tension.

d) Falling action

      Marina has no choice but to agree to Chief Lobo’s lustful motive, for her promotion, which, in turn, is for her family.

e)     Denouement

     Things resolve, although negatively, when Marina can do nothing but cry of anger, grief, and bitterness in her home, in front of her entire family, when her bag that contains her promotion papers has just been snatched.


a)  place – somewhere in Nueva Ecija, then Manila, Philippines

b)  time- during the New Society era; in the span of a week

c)  weather conditions - fine

d)  social conditions- good

e)  mood or atmosphere – After Marina got her promotion papers signed, she is so happy. However, when these get snatched by a thief, she cries with anger, grief, and bitterness


The Point of View used in this short story is the Omniscient.


        In my opinion, the literary devices used in this story are Symbolism and Foreshadowing.

        Symbolism: For me, the new roads and bridges, as well as Makati’s soaring glass-cased buildings and wide streets and the elegant Manila Hotel all symbolize the progress that the New Society brings. On the other hand, the incidents of “red tape” symbolize the opposite of what the New Society stands for.

         Foreshadowing: When I read the part where Marina remembered being warned about snatchers in Manila, I somehow expected there would be a snatching incident in the story.


         For me, the theme Life is indeed full of surprises is applicable to this story.


The conflicts here are Internal:

Man vs. Circumstances (classical) - The leading character struggles against fate, or the circumstances of life facing him/her.
       Marina struggles against the financial difficulties she and her family are experiencing.

Man vs. Society (social) - The leading character struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of other people.

        Marina is disgusted over "red tape."                --ARV

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