Essay on Rosaldo, Renato. "Grief and a Headhunter's Rage."

Essay by civic935College, UndergraduateA, February 2003

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Grief and Rosaldo's Rage

She had not suffered much. Her death came and went quickly. Michelle was dead, gone forever at the blink of an eye. As her husband looked over her body at the bottom of a 65 foot sheer precipice, many ideas and emotions fluttered in his mind. Renato Rosaldo describes his experience at the site of the fatal accident, overlooking the body of his lifeless wife, Michelle Rosaldo: "I felt like in a nightmare, the whole world around me expanding and contracting, visually and viscerally heaving (476)." Although at the time of the tragedy and many months after, Renato Rosaldo found himself in an almost delusional state of grief, the calamity helped Rosaldo reach a state of enlightenment with his study of the Ilongot tribe.

Michelle and Renato Rosaldo had studied the Ilongot tribe in the northern part of the Philippines as anthropologists. Renato Rosaldo's past attempts at understand the Ilongot's reason for head hunting, "rage, born of grief," had failed using his method of hermeneutics.

The conclusions Rosaldo drew from this explanation were, at best, educated guesses. Trying to be objective to his study of the Ilongot tribe, Rosaldo could not understand the driving factor behind killing a fellow human as a way of dealing with the loss of someone close to you. What he later started to understand was that the ritual was something that could not easily and readily be described. It was not until the time of his wife's death that he could comprehend the force of anger possible in bereavement. The force was so strong within him that drawing parallels with the ways Rosaldo's own culture had molded him into dealing with bereavement started to overlap with the Ilongot way. This emotional force became the key in helping Rosaldo unlock the...