Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere Summary and Analysis of Chapters 37-40


The Captain General arrives and wants to speak with Ibarra, but must first meet with the friars, who want to pay their respects to him. He makes them wait before he sees them, which is considered very disrespectful, and he is rude when he finally meets with them, immediately asking which one is Father Dámaso rather than beginning with typical pleasantries. Father Dámaso, however, isn’t present, and Father Salví says that it’s because he isn’t feeling well. Ibarra arrives to see the Captain General, and the friars try to explain that he has been excommunicated, but he interrupts and dismisses them. As Ibarra waits to see the Captain General, the friars run into him, but they ignore him. In contrast, the Captain General greets him warmly and praises his efforts to build a school, adding that he will speak with the archbishop regarding the excommunication. Nonetheless, he warns Ibarra to be more careful in the future, drawing a contrast between the Philippines and the more secular, “more sophisticated Europe.” He says that he will protect Ibarra since he appreciates his instinct to protect the memory of his parents, and declares that Ibarra is “the first real man with whom I have spoken in this country,” but cautions him that “your education and mode of thought are not for this country,” but Ibarra counters that he must live where his parents lived. When Ibarra leaves, the Captain General speaks with the mayor and tells him to help Ibarra. Ibarra tries to visit María Clara, but she doesn’t open the door. Her friend Sinang tells him to meet them at the theater tonight, however.

Ibarra watches a procession in the street and sees the police beat onlookers, which disgusts him. The Captain General agrees with his disapproval of the custom. Meanwhile, the ensign’s wife, Doña Consolación, lies inside, angry because her abusive husband forbade her from attending mass since he thought she looked ridiculous earlier that day. Sisa sings nearby, and Doña Consolación hears her and orders her to be brought to her. She orders Sisa to sing in intentionally poor Tagalog, and Rizal explains that though she can’t speak Spanish well either, Doña Consolación believes that pretending she can’t speak Tagalog, her native language, will make her look more sophisticated. She ends up telling a servant to order Sisa to sing, saying that Sisa can’t understand Spanish. Yet as Sisa sings, Doña Consolación is disturbed by the lyrics of her song, which are about vanity, and shrieks at her to stop, inadvertently revealing that she understands Tagalog, the language Sisa is singing in. Embarrassed, she orders Sisa to dance, whipping her and calling her an “indio whore.” Finally, the ensign arrives and stops the spectacle. He tells the servants to take care of Sisa, and the couple argue bitterly.

That night, the characters attend the theater. Ibarra arrives late and sits next to María Clara. Father Salví asks Don Filipo, the deputy mayor, to force Ibarra to leave, but Don Filipo says he isn’t disturbing the public order and states that he isn’t entitled to interfere with religious matters. As a result, the priests leave. Suddenly, two civil guards arrive and ask Don Filipo to stop the performance, but he refuses. In response, the guards attack the musicians to attempt to stop the performance, startling the audience. Members of the audience shout complaints about the civil guards, and Don Filipo asks Ibarra to calm everyone down. Ibarra, in turn, asks Elías, who suddenly appears, to help.

Father Salví thinks he sees Ibarra carry María Clara away from the chaos, and fears that they will have sex in the aftermath, so he rushes towards the crowd. It turns out, however, that María Clara has fallen ill and is with Isabel. He fantasizes about María Clara for a moment, but in contrast to his salacious thoughts and questionable motivations, others view his rush towards the dangerous scene as heroic. Rizal includes a description of the festival from a newspaper correspondent who declares that the villagers “will doubtless never forget the sublime act of this heroic pastor.”


The conflict between church and state appears again as the Captain General neglects to respect the priests. His actions underscore his power: though the church often seems dominant, the Captain General is in fact the highest-ranking Spanish official in the area, and has more power than any other single person. Interestingly, he says that disputes such as Ibarra’s conflict with the church can usually be quickly resolved in Spain, suggesting that the church is more powerful—or the Spanish government weaker—in the Philippines than in the mainland. The Captain General also shows his tendency to be critical of the role of the church in San Diego when he criticizes the procession to Ibarra.

Doña Consolación’s situation is complex and in some ways tragic—she is a native Filipina married to a Spanish man who is ashamed of her, and she is similarly ashamed of herself as well. By trying to appear Spanish, she estranges herself from her native culture, but she cannot fully adopt Spanish culture either since she isn’t fluent in the language. Both she and Sisa are Filipina women isolated from their communities for opposing reasons— Sisa because of her poverty and madness and Doña Consolación because of her comparatively high social status. Rather than connecting with Sisa, Doña Consolación resents their similarities and attacks her for her Filipina culture, growing even more vicious when she inadvertently exposes their shared understanding of Tagalog. In this manner, Rizal illustrates the consequences of the shame that many native Filipinos, especially Filipina women, feel for their culture in a colonized environment.

Don Filipo emerges as perhaps the only truly principled official in San Diego when he refuses to call off the performance or force Ibarra to leave, showing his refusal to yield to the demands of either the church or the state. Instead, he seems truly to care about the townspeople and to want to do what’s best for them, which is refreshing.

The newspaper excerpt praising Father Salví is deeply ironic. By now, he has established himself to be a wholly unsavory figure, and his motivation for interfering in the chaos is similarly impure. However, people are so attached to the church that the sight of him rushing into the riot gives them hope and relief. In this manner, Rizal illustrates the difference between how the church is perceived and how it actually operates.