"The Scent of Apples" tells of the trials and struggles of the Filipino Americans and the rough times they faced when trying to make a living in America. The jobs they had to take were low paying jobs that were often times demeaning and dirty. One of the jobs was working in an orchard picking apples. That's where the title came from. The first group of immigrants brought to the United States was from the early 1900's up until about the mid 1930's. They were brought her to work agriculturally.
As a reaction, this seems a lot like slavery. However, they were paid and not "owned." But to work for lower pay and to do such hard labor is dehumanizing. These stories are frustrating to read and can be heartbreaking. That era led up to the long period of discrimination that was to follow for many years.
While the author did not directly speak it, the words with which he wrote this sad story tells us how much he missed his country, the land that he had to leave. It also showed us his great understanding for a friend who he had realized, or maybe even wished, feels the same way he does.
The scent of apples, which we do not find here in the Philippines, for him symbolizes the miles that stretch between him and his country. This scent, which was very common in the place where he was then, constantly brings heartbreak. It was a wave of tears that sweeps over him as he smells it, and his heart wants to shout, ‘this land is not mine. I do not belong here.’ He had known how much the Americans, who had set out for war, missed this scent.
Looking around what used to be a dream to him, as we would have were we given the chance, he realizes instantly that this place, after all, does not belong to him.
I have realized how painful it is to part with your country. The land of your birth. I have realized that a thing so simple, such as a platter of apples, or a photograph of a person only Heaven knows whose, can bring us back to where we really are. There is only one home where in our heart dwells, there is only one place where we long to stay most, there is only one land where you can look around and smile a real smile and say what your heart would have you say. That is home.
How lonely could he have been, the writer of this sad story? How often had he woken up to smell the scent of apples and break drown to tears of longing to smell the scent of his country instead? “…How often does the lonely mind take such unpleasant detours, away from the familiar winding lanes toward home for fear of this, the long lost youth, the remembered hurt?” The author said, only the exile knows. The exile…deprived to seek the recess of his heart and soul, deprived of the comfort the loving arms of the land of his people. The exile…whose every single breath forces him to smell the scent of apples, whose every single step in a familiar yet foreign land forces him to feel pain. The exile…the exile who had known better days, who had gripped his heart so many times to make himself accept the fact that he is destined to smell that scent forever.
Yes, truly, only the exile knows.