Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dogeaters is a wild ride into the underbelly of Manila society. It is also a clever tour de force that illustrates American and Spanish influence with energetic detail. One of the central themes of the novel is reality versus fantasy, and the novel poses the question of what will be revealed if pretense and deception are stripped away.

Hagedorn explodes pretense in the ruling class, bitterly satirizing the profligacy and waste of a corrupt regime. She also exposes the depravity and desperation in slum towns such as Tondo, home of Joey and Uncle. Morality on both these levels has been sacrificed, to greed in the first instance and to survival in the second. If any scenario among the many varied episodes displays human warmth and caring, it is the guerrilla contingent of Daisy and her cousin Clarita, with whom Joey finds refuge in the mountains. Removed from Manila, this community of supporters is also a long way from the aggression, deception, and depravity that are common features of city life, high and low. Joey’s wasted life thus shows the possibility of transformation and resilience in exile. Rio is also hopeful in her pragmatic exile. That she and her artist mother will succeed away from Manila is assumed.

Dreams are a central feature of the novel; together with radio serials and film plots, dreams are manifestations of the fantasies in which all the characters indulge. Joey’s dreams while he is transported to the mountains...

(The entire section is 487 words.)