Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere Imagery

Christmas Eve

At the end of the novel, Rizal richly describes a typical Christmas Eve night for children, discussing the joy of celebrating alongside one's family and appreciating the love and sacrifice of Jesus. He conjures detailed images of the lights and decorations that accompany such a night. This description only makes Basilio's fate harsher, as he must commemorate his dead mother on a night when the rest of the country is celebrating, and when he should be able to enjoy the innocence of childhood. In contrast, as Rizal writes, "that night offered Basilio nothing more than orphanhood."

Captain Tiago's house

At the beginning of the novel, Rizal describes Captain Tiago's house in detail, telling the reader about the intricate paintings, decorative furniture, lamps, birdcages, and more that fill his large house. Rizal himself underscores the importance of paying attention to this description as his narrator states that "if it were up to me, I would spare you a description of the house, but it is too important." Indeed, Captain Tiago's house reveals his immense wealth, as well as his preoccupation with appearances.

María Clara

When he reunites with his childhood sweetheart María Clara, Ibarra describes her in exaggerated, almost humorously vivid language, likening her to a fairy or spirit and calling her "the poetic embodiment of my homeland." In this manner, Ibarra links his love for María Clara to his love for his homeland, which also foreshadows how his relationship with María Clara will be compromised as he fights for his homeland. As the narrator notes, Ibarra is "a bit of a liar," so his exaggerated, elaborate language makes sense—he's trying to impress María Clara with his love for her.

Religion and the poor

In chapter 16, "Sisa," Rizal describes the gap between Christianity and the lives of the poor in heartbreaking detail, demonstrating the emotion that the poor bring to their prayers despite often not knowing the proper forms of prayers that are uttered in fancy churches. As the narrator states, "they pray in the language of their misery." The passage highlights the disconnect between the reality of the church in Rizal's time and the ideal of it. Though it is meant to stand for the downtrodden, the church has become corrupted—the religion "created for a suffering multitude" may have indeed "forgotten [its] mission of consoling the oppressed in their misery, and humbling the hubris of power, and now render promises only to the rich."