Essay: Chinese Literature Is Always Rooted

Pages: 4 (1306 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

Chinese Literature

Literature is always rooted in its historical, cultural, and political context. This is true for modernist literature, which comments on various issues ranging from post-colonial identities, post-colonial governments, and shifting gender norms. In "Love in a Fallen City," the Bai residence is presented as a microcosm of the greater Chinese world contending with modernity and social change. Some family members like the Sixth Sister are fully embracing modernity and seizing the moment. Others, like the Third Brother are too steeped in the past to move forward. Their conservatism proves to be their downfall even if there is some wisdom embedded in their ideals such as family values. In "The Drowning of an Old Cat" there are similar conflicts between the need to retain traditional values and the need to shift norms forward to the future. Like "Love in a Fallen City," the short story "The Drowning of an Old Cat" also refers directly to post-colonialism and shifts in Chinese culture. There is clear tension between the pull towards capitalism and toward socialism. In "Xiaoxiao," the past has a particularly compelling effect and is the backdrop for exploring gender roles and norms in traditional Chinese society. "Xiaoxiao" is set in mainland China, allowing the narrative to incorporate the unique nuances of Communism as it emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. In "Love in a Fallen City," "The Drowning of an Old Cat," and "Xiaoxiao," it is clear that modernist Chinese literature captures the political, social, and economic changes taking place in the trans-Chinese universe.

These three short stories almost serve as historiograhic texts, because they capture the political, social, and economic transformations taking place throughout East Asia. Chinese culture was starting to reveal its fragmentation. Dissatisfaction with outmoded models of political rule led to different factions in the government, reflected in differential visions of the future among the people in the society. These three short stories each show a different facet of early 20th century Chinese culture. In "Love in a Fallen City," the setting is Hong Kong, which was a colonial entity and thus in touch with the outside world's systems of government, economies, and social norms. This is why the characters in "Love in a Fallen City" discuss matters such as stock markets and divorce, which are not things that are discussed in the other two short stories. In "The Drowning of an Old Cat," the setting is Taiwan. Taiwan becomes the symbol of modern progress in Chinese society and the blending of tradition and modernity. The transition from traditional to modernity and the intersection between old ways and new is not always smooth but necessary. Taiwanese literature became nativist in its approach as a reaction against modernism, but also in order to distinguish itself from mainland and other Chinese literary trends. Therefore, stories like "The Drowning of an Old Cat" contain within them rich descriptions that are nostalgic in nature. In this story, there are many references to natural settings as if a reaction against the technology that symbolizes modernity. Finally, in "Xiaoxiao," the setting is also rural and the tone also signals a discomfort with modernity. Its story, like that of "The Drowning of an Old Cat" is more symbolic than realistic but can still be used as a historical reference to capture the mood of political and social change.

Chinese culture was particularly suspicious of modernity, because it was viewed as something inherently Western in nature. Each of these three stories, in spite of their differences, capitalizes on this notion that modernity is something imposed by the Western world onto Chinese society and might need to be shunned in favor of traditional values and a rural lifestyle. Yet not all people in Chinese society felt this way, which is why the authors of these three short stories are sure to capture the tension between old-fashioned beliefs and modern beliefs. There are several grounds for tension… [END OF PREVIEW]

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