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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Theme of Death in "Hezbollah"

John Reinhard Dizon's novel, Hezbollah (the Party), is a postmodernist work of literary fiction centered on the exploits of Tina Rivera, a renowned Third World percussionist diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The news comes at the same time as rumors surfacing that a reunion tour of the Middle East is being discussed by the promoters of the original concert tour of the 90s. Tina is torn between encouraging and supporting her former bandmates while realizing she may not live to participate in the event.

The theme of death resonates throughout the novel as we see how the killing of David Diamond, the co-founder of The Party, has impacted the lives of the band's infrastructure. David volunteers for a rescue mission of a fellow band member after the Crusader Concert in Palestine. He creates a diversion during the operation that allows the team to overcome the abductors at the cost of his own life. It is later found that he had a terminal case of cancer, yet it does not alleviate the grief of his inner circle who see it as an untimely death nonetheless. We can see how his life and legacy are treasured to the extent that even the few remaining months he may have had are seen as lost and wasted by his demise.

Alternately, Tina is desperately trying to avoid making her own demise the public spectacle that David's had become. Most of the story is about her relinquishing her privacy, which she feels is her most personal possession as a celebrity. She confides in her niece and nephew first, then her longtime lover, and finally her sister. She swears them to secrecy but ensures them that she intends to spend her remaining time with them in celebration of their relationships and the memories she will leave behind.

We also see how the symbolism of the Valley of Megiddo appears as an allegory to the 'valley of death', the place where the original Crusader Concert for Peace in the Middle East takes place. The band, renaming themselves Hezbollah in what journalists refer to as a 'death wish', are constantly discussing morbid subjects to reinforce their image as a hardcore punk band. It is as if challenging and mocking death becomes part of their tribal ritual. Yet it is something they are unexpecting and unprepared for as the murder of David Diamond becomes a trauma affecting them over two decades.

The cult of domesticity is also seen as a form of death by the female protagonists as Tina is constantly fighting against Zeke's controlling nature. She submits herself at the end of the story, moving back into his penthouse as part of the process of letting go. Debbie Munson is as her alter ego, a hellion in her forties who refuses to change her punk attitude in seeming fear of allowing her age to catch up with her. Tina's sister Carmen is also a divorcee who has refused to allow her dreams to die under the yoke of a 'macho' Hispanic spouse.

Paradoxically, Tina negotiates for the life of her unborn nephew when she learns of Carmen's plans for an abortion. She sees the medical procedure as a double death, reasoning that the infant would be symbolic in carrying on the family legacy after Tina expires. Carmen fails to acknowledge the abortion as a death until Tina makes her see the choice of life as an either/or situation for the in utero family member. Tina's influence in saving the baby's life appears as her final act in overcoming death itself.

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