Some writers don’t just describe their characters directly, but instead, they allow the readers to find it out from the interactions and behaviors of the characters throughout the story. Francisco Arcellana’s “The Mats” doesn’t contain a clear description of the characters, however, it allows the readers to imagine the characters’ portraits and attitudes, and feel their emotions as they read the dialogues and discover unexpected facts in the story. Arcellana handles the characterization of each of his characters through their dialogues, supported by the symbolism/illustration of the mats and the use of the third person point of view.
“The Mats” contains several dialogues which helps the readers to figure out the behaviors and the emotions of the characters. Similar to this, there were also readings of the letters sent by Mr. Angeles, the main protagonist of the story, to his wife, Nana Emilia, during his homecoming. It read, “I have just met a marvelous matweaver—a real artist—and I shall have a surprise for you… I am sure that the children will be very pleased. I know you will be. I can hardly wait to show them to you” (1). The author doesn’t mention any description about Mr. Angeles’ characteristics in the story, but in this letter readers know that he is a very loving and caring father to his family. The story revolves around Mr. Angeles.
He is the one who opens up the topic about his 3 dead children. He is also the one having the conflict with himself, and he is the center of the climax. The climax of the story is when he demands, “Do you think I’d forgotten? Do you think I had forgotten them? Do you think I could forget them? ” (4), and calls the names of the dead children after hearing his wife saying, “You know, Jaime, you didn’t have to” (4).
In this dialogue, readers know that he was so emotional that the issue must not be talked about. Here, also, readers could find the theme of the story: “No matter how painful it is, we should not forget the people who passed away because they had been a part of our lives, and we should respect them by commemorating them. ” The story reveals a lot of important things through this single dialogue between the two characters. In addition to the dialogues, Arcellana also uses the mats to illustrate further the emotions or the states of the characters.
As we can see in the text, the way the author described the mats was so detailed as if he was describing the owner of a particular mat. In the case of Nana Emilia’s mat, “The letters were large, done in green. Flowers—cadena-de-amor—were woven in and out among the letters. The border was long winding twig of cadena-de-amor” (3). This allows the readers to imagine how beautiful her mat was. It represents her happiness and how special she was to Mr. Angeles. It wasn’t only her mat which was beautiful, but so as the children’s, which had different colors and unique symbols which represented each one of them.
On the other hand, the 3 dead kids’ mats were not beautiful or unique at all. In this way, the mats symbolize their current states. The siblings who are alive received colorful mats which represent their happy existence whereas the dead siblings received not that colorful mats which represents their deaths. In contrary to all of these, Mr. Angeles’ mat was neither unique nor simple. This represents his state of staying somewhere between happy and sad, because he is happy for his alive kids while sad for his dead kids.
Arcellana also employs the third person point of view as a method of revealing the conflict and the sudden change of mood. Everything seems okay and peaceful for the family until the point where Nana notices 3 remaining mats to unfold which the readers already know that these belong to the 3 dead kids. “Only Mr. Angeles seemed to have heard Nana Emilia’s words. He suddenly stopped talking, as if he had been jerked away from a pleasant fantasy and when he spoke his voice was different” (4).
Here, the readers can notice that it is the conflict of the story wherein Mr. Angeles has to decide whether to open up the topic about the 3 kids or not. Readers can also notice a sudden change of mood from happy to being serious. Like this, conflict happens all of a sudden which we can’t notice in our actual lives. That is why the author used the third person point of view to help the readers imagine more clearly the mood, emotion, behavior, and everything that happens to the character/s at that particular moment.
Because of Arcellana’s use of dialogues, the detailed description of mats and the use of the third person point of view, he provides the readers a more thrilling way of knowing the characters one by one throughout the whole story. By not stating the descriptions of the characters ahead, the readers become more curious and pay more attention to the narrations and dialogues. In this way, he offers the readers a more creative and exciting way of discovering the characters together with the theme and plot of the story.