The Baby In The Bottle by Benjamin Bautista: A Story of Loneliness, Despair, and Delusion
The Baby In The Bottle: A Short Story Analysis
The Baby In The Bottle is a short story written by Benjamin Bautista, a Filipino writer who was born in 1935. The story was first published in 1957 in the Philippines Free Press, a weekly magazine that featured literary works and social commentaries. The story revolves around a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Libre, who live in a cramped room in a city slum. They have no children except for a four-inch fetus that was prematurely born and preserved in a bottle of alcohol. The story explores the themes of loneliness, despair, and delusion as the couple cope with their childless and hopeless situation.
The Baby In The Bottle Benjamin Bautista
Summary of the story
The story begins with Mr. Libre feeling sorry for his wife, who spends her days watching the baby in the bottle. He tries to talk to her but they have nothing to say to each other. He recalls how they got married when he was twenty-two and she was twenty-one, and how they hoped to have many children. But after five years of trying, they only had one child who was born prematurely and died after a few minutes. Mrs. Libre insisted on keeping the baby and taking it home with her. She named it Angelito and treated it as if it were alive. She even celebrated its birthdays and bought it clothes and toys.
Mr. Libre works as a clerk in a government office, where he earns a meager salary. He is unhappy with his job but he has no choice but to stay there. He dreams of going back to his hometown in the province, where he has a piece of land that he inherited from his father. He also dreams of having another child with his wife, but he knows that it is impossible. He feels trapped in his life and sees no way out.
One day, he comes home from work and finds his wife lying on the floor, clutching the bottle to her chest. She is dead. He realizes that she has been sick for a long time but he did not notice it. He feels guilty and angry at himself for not taking care of her. He also feels angry at the baby in the bottle, which he blames for his wife's death. He throws the bottle against the wall, smashing it into pieces. He sees the baby's body lying on the floor, shriveled and blackened by the alcohol. He feels a surge of pity and remorse for the baby, who never had a chance to live. He picks up the baby's body and holds it in his hands, crying.
Main characters and their roles
The main characters in the story are Mr. and Mrs. Libre, who are both protagonists and antagonists at the same time. They are protagonists because they are the central figures of the story, whose actions and emotions drive the plot forward. They are also antagonists because they are their own worst enemies, who prevent themselves from achieving happiness and fulfillment.
Mr. Libre is a sympathetic character who suffers from frustration, regret, and guilt. He is frustrated by his lack of success and progress in life, as he is stuck in a low-paying job that he hates. He regrets not pursuing his education and his dreams of becoming a farmer or a teacher. He feels guilty for neglecting his wife's health and happiness, and for resenting their baby in the bottle. He is also a passive character who does not take action to change his situation, but rather accepts it as his fate. He is a victim of his own circumstances and choices.
Mrs. Libre is a tragic character who suffers from loneliness, despair, and delusion. She is lonely because she has no friends or relatives to talk to, and no children to love and care for. She is desperate because she has no hope or purpose in life, except for the baby in the bottle. She is delusional because she believes that the baby in the bottle is alive and can hear and see her. She treats it as a real child, giving it a name, a birthday, and gifts. She is also a passive character who does not seek help or treatment for her mental and physical condition, but rather indulges in her fantasy world. She is a victim of her own imagination and emotions.
Theme and message of the story
The theme of the story is the negative effects of isolation and poverty on human relationships and mental health. The story shows how isolation and poverty can cause people to lose their sense of reality, their connection with others, and their will to live. The story also shows how isolation and poverty can create a cycle of misery and suffering that is hard to break.
The message of the story is that people need love, communication, and support to survive and thrive in life. The story suggests that if Mr. and Mrs. Libre had more love, communication, and support from each other and from others, they might have been able to overcome their problems and find happiness and meaning in life. The story also suggests that people should not give up on their dreams and goals, but rather strive to achieve them despite the challenges and obstacles they face.
Literary devices used by the author
The author uses various literary devices to enhance the impact and meaning of the story. Some of these devices are:
The baby in the bottle is a symbol of Mr. and Mrs. Libre's unfulfilled dreams and desires. It represents their lost child, their lost hope, and their lost happiness. It also represents their denial of reality, their attachment to the past, and their refusal to move on.
The bottle itself is a symbol of Mr. and Mrs. Libre's isolation and imprisonment. It separates them from the outside world, from other people, and from each other. It also traps them in their own misery, preventing them from escaping or changing their situation.
The author uses vivid imagery to create a contrast between the baby in the bottle and the real world. He describes the baby in the bottle as "shriveled", "half-black", "stiff", "skinless", "cold", "raw", "peeled", "dead", etc. He describes the real world as "bright", "warm", "alive", "colorful", "noisy", etc. He also uses imagery to create a contrast between Mr. Libre's hometown in the province and his current home in the city slum. He describes his hometown as "green", "fresh", "peaceful", "spacious", etc. He describes his current home as "gray", "dirty", "crowded", "noisy", etc.
The author uses irony to create a sense of tragedy and irony in the story. He uses situational irony, which occurs when something happens that is opposite or different from what is expected or intended. For example, Mr. Libre wants to have children but he ends up with a baby in a bottle; he wants to go back to his hometown but he ends up staying in the city; he wants to take care of his wife but he ends up killing her; he hates the baby in the bottle but he ends up loving it.
He also uses verbal irony, which occurs when someone says something that is opposite or different from what they mean or feel. For example, Mrs. Libre calls the baby in the bottle Angelito, which means little angel, but it is actually a dead fetus; she says that she loves Mr. Libre but she actually loves the baby in the bottle more; she says that she is happy but she actually suffers from depression.
Social and historical context of the story
The story reflects the social and historical context of the Philippines in the 1950s, when the country was undergoing rapid urbanization, industrialization, and modernization after gaining independence from the United States in 1946. The story depicts some of the issues and challenges that faced many Filipinos during this period, such as:
The Filipino culture and family values
and poverty can cause people to lose their sense of reality, their connection with others, and their will to live. The story also shows how love, communication, and support can help people overcome their problems and find happiness and meaning in life.
What is the significance of the title The Baby In The Bottle?
The title The Baby In The Bottle is significant because it represents the main conflict and symbol of the story. The baby in the bottle is the source of Mr. and Mrs. Libre's unfulfilled dreams and desires, as well as their denial of reality and their attachment to the past. The baby in the bottle is also the cause of Mr. and Mrs. Libre's isolation and imprisonment, as well as their misery and suffering.
How does the setting of the story affect the characters and the plot?