Through the two short stories, the reader could see Lu Xun’s perspective on Chinese society during the period in which he lived in—that is when he wrote the stories. He believes that by using this medium or vessel, he could convey his message more effectively. During that time period, China was experiencing stagnancy in their overall development as a nation. They were trapped by their old traditions and were restricted to progress. Lu Xun, like many others, believed that it was time for change. In his two stories, change may be the central theme. A process of change was evident as each story progressed.
This may very well be Lu Xun’s message to its readers: It is time for social change and revolution. The two short stories that will be discussed is “A Madman’s Diary” and “Kung I-chi. ” Both focused on a single character that yearned for change and experienced it, somehow affecting the people around them. Each shall be summarized, analyzed, and related to the Chinese society that Lu Xun experienced. The first short story (that Lu Xun wrote, as related facts claimed) is “A Madman’s Diary. ” It told the story of the narrator visiting two old friends from his hometown (old home). He learned that one of them fell ill, which prompted him to visit.
Upon arriving and greeted by one of them, he was told that his friend’s brother already got better and went on to take an official post. His friend then gave him the brother’s diary and the story would start from here. Apparently, the brother was experiencing a mental illness, from a persecution complex or a variation of paranoia. The madman from the diary constantly thought that the whole town was inhabited by cannibals and all seem to be conspiring against him, as he claimed to see from the look that each gave him. Furthermore, he assumed that they were planning to eat him, even some of the children, a dog, and his older brother.
These assumptions dug him a deeper hole from which he could barely climb out from. His paranoia drove him further into insanity, as people around him would grin, chuckle, and laugh at him. They kept him hidden from the world for most of the time, locked in a dark room. This did not really help cure his sanity as he further assumed that he was being kept so that he could fatten up and eaten later. This paranoia took him back to a painful memory wherein he lost his younger sister. He assumed that his older brother ate her. In the end, he fell into despair as he parted the readers by leaving them a message: “Save the children.
” The story entails a man’s perspective of the world he lived in. In this case, he was seen as a madman mainly because of the fact that he does not seem to appreciate the old traditional ways anymore. He disgusts cannibalism which is a metaphor to describe how the old traditions eat away people. One mother was even spoon-feeding her child with these old ways, while looking at the deviant—the madman—with judgmental eyes. The madman also encountered some children who may have already been influenced by their parents to continuously accept these old traditions.
He was alone in feeling the need for change since the people around him did not feel such or refused to accept change. Hence, they are locked up by their traditional ways. The madman’s solitude on such a decision can be expressed through his mental condition that people fear and laugh at. It was also expressed through the fact that he is locked up inside his room like a hen or a duck inside a chicken house. The desire for change was not evident in his society which inevitably pushed him into accepting these old traditions again; it was mentioned at the beginning that he got cured and took an official post.
It may also mean that he was able to change and move on. What could strike readers the most is the last line, “Save the children. ” It would convey that future generations should not suffer or locked up in the old traditional ways. They should be introduced to other ideals as the world continues to modernize. The madman saw them as the future of the society who would replace the old traditions with fresh ideas and traditions from the outside world. Lu Xun used the madman as a metaphor for a man who was tired f the old traditions and desired for change—the man could have been himself.
When he wrote this around 1918, the May Fourth Movement—a great cultural change—in China was in effect (Denton 2002). It was a social revolution that many longed for and others refused to accept. It involved change not absolute elimination, which many traditionalists feared. Using this short story, he conveyed what was happening currently as traditionalists surrounded a man opting for change. The feudal traditions restricted the Chinese society from cultural change and modernization, which was unacceptable for many like Lu Xun.
Since the short story was written in modern Chinese or the spoken version, many understood what was needed. Hence, change did happen not long after. The Chinese society describe through the story was a traditional society with one man desiring to change it, looking on towards the succeeding generation to make it happen. Correlating it to the period during the May Fourth Movement, the message was successfully conveyed towards the younger generation, thus the society was able to experience a great socio-cultural revolution. The second short story is “Kung I-chi.
” The narrator of the story was a young boy who worked at the Prosperity Tavern, initially as a waiter but was transferred to the wine warmer position since his employer could not fire him; he was recommended by someone influential—of great civil status. In the tavern, he observed a disparity between two social classes described as long-gowned and short-gowned—rich and poor—as each drank their wine in two different rooms and complimented it with different food. One day, he was able to see Kung I-chi, a man who wore a long-gown but drank with the commoners.
He used to study classics but never passed the official examination. He continued to fail until he became a beggar—the Kung I-chi that people ridiculed in the tavern. But unlike many of its patrons, Kung I-Chi was able to pay for his debts. Every time Kung I-chi would go there, he was ridiculed and laughed at; a sad fate. One day, he asked the narrator if he ever had any schooling. When the boy replied with a nod, he wanted to test him. This somewhat irritated the boy as he tried to ignore him while such a reaction, disappointed Kung I-chi. Surprisingly a few days before the Mid-Autumn festival, he did not come.
This aroused the curiosity of the narrator and his boss, who kept on reiterating about his debt. One customer said he broke his leg. After the festival, he showed up but only for one drink. He crawled away after and was never seen again. The events that transpired throughout the story were seen on the boy’s perspective. He was able to observe a lot of things while working at the tavern. He saw the disparity between the rich and the poor—which will always be present. However, he was keener about the old man named Kung I-chi, who frequented the tavern.
The man seemed to unintentionally bring joy to everyone in the tavern. The boy became a witness to the changes that occurred inside the tavern throughout the story. However, these changes seemed insignificant for the boy as it never really affected him; just his curiosity. The people from the tavern seem to have just gone with the flow, letting change pass through. However, Kung I-chi acted as the factor that kept these people from experiencing change as they were used to him being around for their entertainment. Life at the tavern seemed monotonous when Kung I-chi was around until he finally disappeared.
The boy can be equated to a person who lived during the May Fourth Movement was in effect. This person was a witness to the socio-cultural revolution that was occurring in China; although, only perceived as an observer who did not actively participate. The people may be equated to the people who would just go with whatever flow as they somehow saw it as insignificant. As the boy mentioned, “Kung I-chi was very good company, but we got along all right without him too,” showed how change did not matter for many individuals as they would go along well either way.
The main factor here is the presence of Kung I-chi amongst them. He was a representation of the old traditional ways or at least, its remnants. Kung I-chi represented the monotonous life that people experienced pre-May Fourth. Traditions kept these people at bay—even though many found it insignificant— restricting them to experience a more modern and liberal way of life. Both stories describe a society that seemed ready to let go of their old way of life and adopt fresh ideas from the outside world. However, there were people who refuse to accept this inevitable Cultural Revolution and kept their traditional frame of mind.
The Chinese society may have been at war with itself as a struggle for the retaining of feudal traditions and change boiled up. These feudal traditions were seen as a cannibal that eats people and an irritating presence that shackles people to a monotonous way of life. Enter the May Fourth Movement that gave the Chinese society some breathing space, as they were able to experience the Cultural Revolution. It was not there to completely eliminate the feudal traditions but rather, it was there to improve it in order to make room for society’s progress.
It was a need to experience such change because the rest of the world was already modernizing. The Chinese knew that if they got left behind, they may soon fall into trouble. Those who were not able to accept this great change immediately had learned to gradually accept it. Through the metaphors of these two stories, the readers were able to witness what Lu Xun saw as a significant event for China during his lifetime. Cultural Revolution was happening in China as Lu Xun wrote these two short stories. He used it as a vessel, written in contemporary spoken Chinese language-, to transport the imagination of its people into an inevitable change.
He knew that for them to survive, change must happen since the feudal traditions seemed more of a burden than a blessing for their society. It simply, restricted their progress into what seemed to be a better life.
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The College of Wooster Chinese Program. 2 April 2009. <http://www. wooster. edu/Chinese/Chinese/reviews/luxun_madman. html> Zhang, Lucy. “China Trapped in Its Old Ways. ” 6 May 2006. The College of Wooster Chinese Program. 2 April 2009. <http://www. wooster. edu/Chinese/Chinese/reviews/luxun_madman. html> “A Madman’s Diary. ” 2005. Marxist Internet Archive. 2 April 2009. <http://www. marxists. org/archive/lu-xun/1918/04/x01. htm> “Kung I-chi. ” 2005. Marxist Internet Archive. 2 April 2009. < http://www. marxists. org/archive/lu-xun/1919/03/x01. htm>