Aug 15, 2018
Annotations/Journal – Beauty Salon- Mario Bellatin
•?Setting and Background Information:
o?The novel is set in an unnamed city. The narrator is an owner of a beauty salon which is known as “The Terminal” where sick men suffering from a terminal illness come to stay until their time of death. The Terminal offers invaluable protection and a place to stay for the victims of a plague as society shuns them for their disease and there are predators called the Goat Killer Gang who are harming the locals and the diseased. It is notable that the owner of the beauty salon is a homosexual man who also cross-dresses and occasionally engages in prostitution. He is shunned – treated like an outsider to society like his patients – but for different reasons. The purpose of The Terminal is to provide a place for the sick to die respectably. The narrator struggles to make sense of his own identity, trying to break free of what he considers a ‘morbid society’ by escaping into his imagination which is as disturbing as it is beautiful. He occupies himself by looking after an aquarium. By the end of the novel, he has lost all his friends and lost all interest in the things that used to bring him happiness. He has completely withdrawn from society
Important Symbol and Figurative Elements:
•?Fish and the Aquariums:
o?Fish serve as a symbol of the sick people within the hospice. From the beginning of the novel the reader learns of the narrator’s obsession with different species of fish. The dynamics between sick, healthy, and violent fish are powerful metaphors of society. For example, the Piranhas in the tank serve to be a metaphor to the violent Goat Killer Gang in his society. The aquarium is a symbol and allegory for dynamics of the entire society. The narrator is less concerned with tending to the people in the hospice than he is describing the elaborate fish he houses in his aquarium. His obsession with the fish help define structure of the novel and distract him from the daily events of the hospice which he reluctantly shares with the reader. The fish in the tank signify the afflicted. When the beauty salon flourishes, the fish parallels the beauty of the salon. However, when the beauty salon turns into a hospice, the narrator slowly stops caring for the fish and leaves them to die like his patients.
o?Beauty Salon is a vivid representation of the truths of society. It highlights what unsung heroes do to help others without expecting anything in return. It also depicts the suffering that social outcasts experience at the hands of society. The narrator’s journey from social rejection to acceptance of social outcast – even if it means leaving everything that brought him happiness – illustrates the importance of empathy and compassion in our society. The book exhibits not only the writer’s compassion for the unfortunate but also his ability to maintain a courteous detachment: he avoids forming bonds with his patients while also taking care of their emotional wellbeing during their time at the Terminal. The book marks a clear distinction between a hospital and hospice, where a hospice emerges as a sanctuary for the sick and dying, which under normal conditions an institution like a hospital would not offer. The narrator himself is later struck by the disease but still does not change his philosophy towards death and empathizes with his patients. He states that if he empathizes with his patients he will always be depressed. The novel is an epitome of the disturbing realities of life and the beauty of the human spirit.