“Footnote to Youth” Summary
“Footnote to Youth” is a 1932 short story set in the Philippines and centered on Dodong, a farmer’s son who marries young.
- When seventeen-year-old Dodong decides to marry his sweetheart, Teang, his father feels that Dodong is too young to marry but is unable to stop him.
- Dodong becomes a father nine months after marrying Teang. The two go on to have many more children together, and both are often unhappy.
- At age eighteen, their eldest son, Blas, announces his own decision to marry, and Dodong knows he can do nothing to change Blas’s mind.
Last Updated September 6, 2023.
Dodong, a farmer’s son, heads home after a hard day’s work in the fields, working up the courage to tell his father about his plans to marry Teang, his sweetheart. After eating dinner, he watches with pity as his mother does the housework alone, while he himself is too tired to help. Dodong then searches for his father and finds him continuously sucking on a diseased tooth. Briefly, he considers once again urging his father to visit the dentist but sympathizes when he realizes that he, too, would avoid the dentist if he were in the same situation. After his mother goes out, Dodong tells his father plainly that he plans to marry Teang. This announcement is met with silence, and Dodong presses the matter impatiently. His father asks him if he must really marry and reminds him of how young he still is. However, Dodong feels that at seventeen, he is already sufficiently mature. His father capitulates but asks Dodong to tell his mother the news. Dodong refuses to do it himself, and even in this respect his father helplessly lets him have his way.
The story jumps forward several years, to the moment when Teang, now Dodong’s wife, is giving birth. Dodong leaves the house out of fear— fear of what the house has become to him and fear of Teang, whose agonized cries have begun to sound like a sort of personal criticism of him. He begins to realize that he is perhaps too young to be a father. Shortly after, his mother calls out to him to come back, announcing that the ordeal is over. Looking at her, Dodong is overcome with embarrassment, as if he had taken something that was not properly his. His father comes out and informs him that the child is a boy. They call out repeatedly to Dodong, who stands still in the sun until he has no choice but to come back. Avoiding his parents’ eyes, Dodong walks ahead of them gloomily, wishing for some kind of punishment. With kind voices, Dodong’s mother and father greet him, the latter gripping Dodong’s hand gently. They lead him into the room where Teang and the baby are. Dodong observes Teang with pity and a repeating sense of embarrassment. When he hears his newborn son cry out, however, Dodong feels a swell of happiness and asks to hold him. His first child is named Blas.
Dodong has many more children over the years, a fact which angers him, as he did not want any more. However, it did not seem like something he could stop. These events take a heavier toll on Teang, who loses her youthful figure. The work she has to do around the house is endless, and she cries sometimes, wishing that she had not married. However, she keeps this to herself so as not to upset Dodong. Nonetheless, she wonders what would have happened if she had married another suitor from her youth—a man whom she knows remains childless to this day, despite having also married. Despite all of this, Teang knows that she loves Dodong. Meanwhile, Dodong wonders bitterly why so many of his dreams have gone unfulfilled and why he feels forsaken despite chasing after love. Turning inward, he searches for the answer but finds none. He thinks that perhaps the absence of an answer is necessary for making youth “dreamfully sweet.”
One night, the eighteen-year-old Blas comes home, troubled and restless. He is unable to sleep, and so Dodong asks him what’s wrong. Blas calls out softly to his father and announces his plan to marry...
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a girl named Tona. At this news, Dodong lies silent and unmoving. When Blas asks his father to think about it, Dodong rises from his mat and tells Blas to follow him outside. In the moonlight, Dodong asks Blas again if he is sure of marrying and if he must. Blas replies resentfully that he is sure and asks if Dodong has objections. Even though Dodong replies that he has none, deep down he wishes to spare his son from the same fate that has befallen him. He looks at his son helplessly, with a mixture of regret, sadness, and pity.