Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Spider by Isabelo T. Crisostomo (Short Story) - Quick Analysis

This story by Isabelo T. Crisostomo won the Best Short Story Award of the Arizona Quarterly at the University of Arizona in 1957. It's a simple tale with not much of a plot. It's a story that borders on nostalgia. It revolves around a boy whose daily life revolves around finding and taking care of spiders. If your childhood included playing with spiders and having them fight on a stick, this is a story you can relate to and fall in love with.

The Characters

1. Renato - A boy who finds a huge spider (his biggest yet) which becomes his source of immense pride.
2. Edita - Renato's younger sister.
3. Victorina - Renato and Edita's widowed mother.
4. David - Renato's playmate in school.


Renato had the fortune to find a large rust-colored spider at a dapdap tree near his school. The spider became a great source of happiness and pride for the young boy. He kept the spider in a matchbox and fed it daily with flies he caught. The spider also became a source of envy for a lot of his friends and classmates at his school. One day, one of the boys, David, challenged Renato for a match between their two biggest spiders. Renato's spider easily won the match. Although his spider won the match, Renato realized that he was tricked by David. His spider got completely bloated after eating David's spider.

Renato got worried when his spider's belly failed to shrink even after days of not eating anything. He soon learned why. One morning, he opened the matchbox to check on his spider. The spider's belly shrunk but the matchbox was full of the spider's eggs. Enraged by the sight, Renato threw the spider aginst a beam where it instantly died with a splat. The scene was witnessed by his younger sister and mother.

Here's an excerpt from the story:

They left the tree he had climbed to get the spider and walked home. It was a leafy, squat dapdap tree that stood near the sari-sari store where the rod curved sharply toward the school. He had seen the spider the other day at twilight while walking home from the store and had known then, seeing it silhoutted against the paling afterglow of sunset spin its web to build a house, that is was a giant male spider and his heart had drummed against his breast with joy. The other boys, particularly David who always had the biggest and fiercest spiders in the school, would envy him for it. He knew their mouths would water upon seeing it, like - - like those of dogs at the sight of food - - and he was dizzy with joy. They would no longer tease him for keeping small spiders - - the cowardly and puny gagambang-bahay - - not anymore.

And going home, he decided to keep anyone else from knowing about his having seen it: he must get it first alone. But when he woke up early the next morning to go to the tree he found that Edita was awake and he had to take her along.

Now brother and sister walked up the bamboo stairs as quietly as they had stolen out much earlier. The sun was coming up, peering over the santol tree in front of their house, and they tiptoed into their room. Renato knew their mother was occupied in the kitchen and he whispered to his sister: "Let us pretend we are still asleep and wait for Inay to wake us up."

Photo: Matt Crane, Getty Images