Free «The Role of Politics in Pre-Maoist and Maoist Chinese Literature» Essay Sample
Literature may serve as a marker of multidimensional transformation in the society that produces it. In this way, the comparison of literary works that belong to different epochs of the same society’s history may allow to understand the main tendencies that appeared during the historical development of this society. In this sense, the comparison of Six Records of a Floating Life by Shen Fu and Six Chapters from My Life by Yang Jiang provides a good opportunity to underline the main differences between the Pre-Maoist Chinese society and the Maoist one. The primary link between these epochs is the so-called Cultural Revolution that happened in the 60-s having transformed the Chinese culture in accordance with the Communist demands applied to the Chinese reality in the Maoist interpretation. Moreover, the preciousness of such an analysis is clear because the work by Yang Jiang is voluntarily written with the reference to the above-mentioned book of Shen Fu, therefore, the book of Jiang already appears as the result of the indirect comparison of two epochs provided by the author. Furthermore, the Cultural Revolution in Maoist China increased the role of politics in the national literature as opposed to that in the previous epoch of the Chinese history.
The Cultural Revolution in the Maoist society is the process that occurred under the leadership of Mao Zedong in contrast to the realization of the Soviet tendencies in the Chinese society (Li 139). Mao Zedong organized the so-called ‘Red Guard’ of the Communist youths and started the persecutions of the Chinese intellectuals who could oppose his interpretation of the Chinese Revolution. In this way, many people were sent for the ‘re-education’ by the Government (Jiang 5) that allowed to separate them from the society, minimize their influence reorganizing the other people in the way needed for the Party avoiding any criticism (Gao 7). Yang Jiang was among those people sent for the re-education to the cadre school where she with her husband had to work for two years before they were allowed to return home. As a result, Yang Jiang wrote the memoirs about her life during the re-education as well as used the memoirs of the Chinese writer and painter of the early XIX century Shen Fu (Fu 18) as the model on which her narration was structured. Thus, both books concern the problem of life’s uncertainty and changeful nature, and in this way, the authors elaborate this issue from different perspectives.
The book by Shen Fu starts with the author’s narration regarding his lifespan. In fact, this is what he tells about his epoch: “Heaven blessed me, and life then could not have been more full. It was a time of great peace and plenty” (Fu 39). In such a way, he provides the description of his inner impressions and life experience since his birth. Besides, the book consists of six chapters: four authentic and two uncertain ones, each of which demonstrates some aspect of the writer’s point of view. In fact, the central idea of the text is uncertainty of life compared to the flawing water that never stops. In addition, the author is a painter and it is obvious that he would stop the water in his paintings but it is impossible to catch such a moment in one’s drawing. Therefore, this metaphor reflects the authors’ inability to perceive life in its fullness. Some part of life experience always goes unperceived, which is the main sorrow of Shen Fu. In this respect, all of his difficulties described (for example, his wife’s sickness) is a part of this general problem demonstrated even in the book’s title.
Yang Jiang’s book, in turn, is based on the same six chapters provided by Shen Fu but her narration differs significantly. She starts it from the reforms provided by Mao Zedong’s Government and from the very beginning of the book sets the atmosphere of total uncertainty. Thus, the writer claims: “we were aware that our days together were numbered… but we could do nothing except guess the date of our departure – guess and wait” (Jiang 6). Additionally, the same feeling of fatal dependence of an individual from some external influences is the main motive of the work. Moreover, it is symptomatic that the salvation from her re-education Jiang accepts from the same Government which repressed her. In other words, the narrator remains the same person as she was before the cadre school, as she underlines; however, these words have an ambivalent meaning. They mean that Jiang both preserved her personality and remained as helplessness as before.
The critical difference between the books of Yang Jiang and Shen Fu is the attitude of their authors to the political issues. Undoubtedly, both works include many common motives as well as the same structure. In fact, the main motive of both is the idea of individual’s oppression by various independent and inevitable factors. Besides, when for Shen Fu such aspects involve everything, especially the natural dependence of the humans on the material world with its specific features and weaknesses, Yang Jiang mentions the political impact only and even the other points are interpreted through this prism. One example in this respect can be very illustrative: the authors’ considerations concerning the sicknesses are dissimilar, although both authors claim that sickness makes people helplessness. Thus, writing about his wife’s blood sickness as well as about the other problems, Shen Fu appeals to the Chinese traditional belief that all misfortunes are “the retributions for one’s own sins” (102). At the same time, he claims that he did nothing sinful to suffer all the misfortunes he gained, and in this way he creates the atmosphere of uncertainty and disbelief in the Heaven’s justice. On the contrary, Yang Jiang writes about such issues in another way.