Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere Summary and Analysis of Chapters 49-52


Elías takes Ibarra out on his boat and explains the situation of Captain Pablo and his associates. Elías tells Ibarra that they want “radical” reforms in the church, government, and military, but Ibarra is reluctant to agree that such radicalism is necessary. Instead, he sees the faults in these systems as “a necessary evil,” and worries that change will only make things worse. For example, he thinks that giving the Civil Guard less power would only lead to more crime, despite its corruption. Elías, on the other hand, sees the Civil Guard as essentially a terrorizing force and argues that the government pushes honest people into becoming criminals. In particular, he feels that the harshness of the Civil Guard prevents people from repenting for former crimes, giving them no other choice than to continue a life of crime. Ibarra is partially persuaded and says he has to think over the matter more, but also argues that Filipinos should be grateful to Spain and the colonial government for exposing them to Christianity and civilization. Elías sharply disagrees, arguing that they should not let the virtuous actions of the past excuses the crimes of the current government. He argues that Ibarra has never truly experienced the persecution of the colonial government, and also alludes to the bias Ibarra may hold against him. “Although I’ve had some education, I am an indio,” he says.

Elías begins to recount his personal story so that Ibarra will have a greater understanding of the basis of his views. He explains that his grandfather worked for a Spanish merchant in Manila and was accused of setting a warehouse on fire, then dragged by a horse as a punishment. Only his pregnant wife stays loyal to him, and she is forced to become a prostitute to support the family. The couple moves to the mountains with their young son, where the grandfather’s wife gives birth to a baby who dies, and the grandfather hangs himself in front of his living son, who must watch his father’s body decay. Soon after, the authorities smell the decaying body and arrest the wife for not reporting her husband’s death. Since she is pregnant again, they wait until she gives birth to whip her as a punishment. She then flees to a neighboring province with her young children, where they live in the woods. The older son becomes an infamous bandit, while the younger boy is good-natured. One day, the younger son finds his mother dead under a tree, with his older brother’s severed head hanging in a basket from the tree above. He runs away until he reaches a town where no one knows of his past, and eventually tries to marry, but his past comes to light and he is sent to prison. Meanwhile, his would-be fiancée gives birth to twins, Elías and his brother, who are raised by her father and told their own father is dead. One day, the truth emerges after Elías insults a distant relative—Elías’s father has been working as a servant for the grandfather who raised the twins. The grandfather dies of shame, and Elías’s twin sister is killed. Since then, he has been wandering the Philippines.

In response, Ibarra tells Elías that he understands his viewpoint, but finds some of his ideas too idealistic and unrealistic. He doesn’t want to force the government to change through rebellion, but instead to effect change through education. Elías argues that “without struggle, there is no freedom.” Ibarra gets off the boat and Elías meets with one of Captain Pablo’s followers and tells him that he will make good on his word, suggesting he believes Ibarra will change his mind.

Linares worries about his aunt’s demand that he fight the ensign in a duel. Father Salví tells Captain Tiago that Ibarra’s excommunication has been rescinded, and says he even thinks Father Dámaso will allow him to marry María Clara if Ibarra asks for Father Dámaso’s forgiveness. Ibarra speaks with Sinang, María Clara’s friend, who tells him that María Clara said it is best for him to forget about her. She also tells him that Captain Tiago and Father Dámaso want María Clara to marry Linares, but agrees to arrange a meeting between Ibarra and María Clara.

Tarsilo and Bruno meet with a third person in the moonlight, and the third person assures them that Ibarra has organized twenty people to participate in the raid. A fourth person arrives and tells them that is being followed, so the first three people disperse while the fourth remains. The man who is following this person finds him, but they both make up excuses, saying they’re each planning to play a card game against the dead. The narrator identifies the figures as Lucas and Elías, but they do not recognize each other. Meanwhile, two civil guards patrol the area, discussing the news that Elías is in the area. They find Lucas and question him, noting his scar, and one wonders if Elías has a similar marking. They let Lucas go and find Elías soon after, but do not recognize him, and Elías claims that a man with a scar named Elías beat up his brother, framing Lucas.


Elías’s argument that the government’s harsh laws and regulations turn good people into criminals recalls young Crispín’s statement that the church made him wish that he had in fact stolen from them by falsely accusing him. The older brother’s decision to become a bandit in Elías’s story further illustrates this point. Ever the optimist and idealist, however, Ibarra finds it difficult to understand this argument. Ibarra also demonstrates the extent to which he has internalized the idea that Spanish culture is superior to Filipino culture, despite being descended from both groups. Elías, too, does not question the benevolence of the Spanish government in their initial colonization of the Philippines, and is grateful to Spain for bringing Christianity to his country, rather than resenting Spain for marginalizing indigenous culture. Rizal leaves it ambiguous whether Elías truly believes the Spanish were benevolent or whether he’s simply trying to reason with Ibarra using his friend’s ideals.

Perhaps Ibarra’s best quality is his ability to remain open-minded. As Elías and others point out, Ibarra has lived a privileged life, and he doesn’t understand the extent of the oppression others have faced. Yet his willingness to listen to Elías and change his mind makes him a sympathetic character despite his advantages in life.

Elías’s wealthy upbringing shows that he hasn’t always been isolated from Philippine society. Like Ibarra, he grew up with many advantages, which may be why he’s so patient as Ibarra’s ideals evolve. His fall from power and grace underlines how much importance Philippine society places on reputation and lineage—his father was a good person, but since he was poor, the revelation of his identity destroys Elías’s privileged life.