Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-24


Sisa runs home, thinking of her sons, and sees two civil guards leaving her home. Though they’ve taken the hen Sisa had been fattening up, she’s grateful that they haven’t done worse. The guards ask where the money her sons stole is, but Sisa doesn’t have it. To her relief, they reveal that her older son escaped. Since Sisa can’t give them the money (since she doesn’t have it), they force her to come with them, which humiliates her. Sisa manages to escape and return to her house, still unable to find her boys.

Three days pass, which the town spends preparing for the festival. Villagers are happy about the arrival of María Clara, accompanied by Isabel, since they adore her. After speaking with María Clara and Father Salví, Ibarra runs into a stranger who says he’s been waiting for him and states he’s lost both his sons, while his wife has gone crazy.

María Clara and her friends, as well as Ibarra, go on a fishing expedition. They’ve deliberately planned the expedition for the morning so that Father Salví, who María Clara says always stares at her, cannot come because of mass. Father Salví is so disappointed that he decides to meet up with them later in the day, however.

One of the boats has several small holes in it, and the older women panic, so the members of the group move around and Ibarra ends up next to María Clara. Suddenly, the fiance of one of María Clara’s friends realizes that there is a crocodile stuck nearby. The boatman jumps into the water to kill the crocodile, but is nearly killed himself until Ibarra jumps in and the two kill the beast.

The group meets with Father Salví, who asks if anyone knows anything about the criminal who assaulted Father Dámaso on the road yesterday—the first the group has heard of this. Father Salví says the culprit is believed to be Elías, who threw the coadjutor into the lake. Suddenly, Sisa appears briefly, looking for her children, but she runs away when they try to speak to her. The ensign mockingly exclaims that he’s shocked Father Salví hasn’t been looking for the missing sextons given how eagerly he looks for missing pesos. Salví responds that several shots were heard on the night of the boys’ disappearance, implicating the ensign’s men in the situation. Ibarra tries to calm everyone down. As they entertain themselves with games, a group of civil guards arrive, demanding that they hand over Elías, who acted as their boatman (the man who first jumped in the water), but Elías is no longer among them.


The implication that Father Salví has romantic or sexual feelings for María Clara further illustrates the corruption of the clergy, since his attempts to act on those feelings of course go against the demands of his role as a priest. Furthermore, his willingness to act on these feelings suggests he does not truly aspire to piety and is a priest for less-than-commendable reasons, perhaps only wanting authority and power.

Given his circumstances, the man who approaches Ibarra before the trip seems to be Sisa’s husband. His asking Ibarra for help indicates how well-known Ibarra is in the area, since they do not know each other, and also shows that Ibarra has a good reputation.

The ensign’s accusation that Father Salví doesn’t care about the missing sextons is accurate, but as Father Salví points out, he and his men are implicated in the mistreatment of the boys as well. It is thus implied that the ensign is more concerned with making his rival look bad than he is about the safety of the young boys.

The revelation that the boatman, Elías, is a wanted man complicates things for Ibarra: the boatman feels indebted to him for saving his life, giving him a connection to the boatman that he may not want. This connection could be used by others to hurt Ibarra, regardless of how he feels about Elías in return.