Lu Xun and China’s Modern Literature Essay Example

  • Category:
    Literature
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
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    3
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    2115

CHINA’S MODERN LITERATURE 9

China’s Modern Literature Significance of Suffering and Melancholy Themes

Introduction

In the modern literature of China, Yu Dafu alongside other literary scholars such as Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Ye Shengtao played a major role. It has been established that Yu Dafu became famous in the literary circle of China many years back in Shanghai when it was still metropolitan. For instance, Lu Xun and Yu Dafu took part in the coming up with the Great League of Freedom Movement. This was vital in the promotion and development of the modern literature in China, which is currently prosperous. Although Yu Dafu passed on more than 50 years ago, he had published a number of publications especially short stories because he was renowned as a short story author in the Chinese literature. One of his short stories that will be used in discussion in the essay below is an early fiction known as Sinking since it is one of the works studied in this particular unit. Based on the short story, Sinking, themes of suffering and melancholy seems to be evident.1 The essay below seeks to write on the significance of suffering and melancholy in May Fourth fiction and drama. Apart from the short story done by Yu Dafu, other works studied in this unit that depicts the themes of suffering and melancholy will be used in the discussion.

The short story, Sinking, is a well known story among the Chinese people and was written by Yu Dafu in 1921. An overview of the short story indicates that the author followed the story of a young Chinese man who left for Japan to further his studies. The main character of the young man as per the discussion of the short story is a true self that is troubled with low self esteem, paranoia, sexual frustrations, loneliness, megalomania, fear, hatred, and other traits that are self degrading. Critics of the short story argue that this young man who left for Japan can be compared to China at that period. For instance, the traits that he possesses correlates to the condition of China at that time. It is argued that at that period, China was a nation of turmoil that was trying to get away from its traditional and conservative nature. At that time, China was evolving in a new westernized and radical nation just like the young Chinese man who sought further studies in a well established nation like Japan. From a critical overview, China was tainted with the old conservative ways as well as teachings and that it required purification with new ways of living and thinking.2

It has been established that the short story in general terms is seen as a representative of the romanticism that characterized much of the May Fourth period. In the history of the modern Chinese fiction, Sinking has been considered as one of the first psychological stories. The significance of the short story in the literature of China seems to lie in its radically new focus on the personal and profoundly subjective discussion that tends to present for the first time a fictional landscape which is drawn through the mind of a single character. For instance, the mind through which the short story unfolds is seen to be a modern mind. This modern mind through which the story unfolds seems to be alienated from the society, turned it on itself, and eventually divided. Critics argue that the Chinese short story would seem to have left its traditional focal point on social and ethical interaction for the internal conflicts of the fragmented psyche of characters with a psychological identity other than the social world.3

A number of literature critics have established that the cultural, social, and political life of China in the 1920’s and 1930’s went through a series of suffering, affliction, and unease. For instance, the fiction done by Yu Dafu in 1921 can relate well with the suffering, as it is one of the main themes in the story. The expression of melancholia and masochism in the short story tends to reveal part of an increasingly encompassing sentiment with regards to the destiny of the modern literature in China. Melancholy and suffering as they are clearly depicted in the story are terms that were greatly discursive in the 1920’s and 1930’s in the history of China.

As it is indicated in Sinking, suffering tends to display the emotion of literary modernity. The theme of suffering is seen to be encompassing the demise of the nation alongside the tormented sexual identity of the young man who left China to further his studies in Japan. Suffering is considered to be significant because it provides the framework in which both the nation and self could be expressed.

In the work done by Yu Dafu, the author indicates how the young Chinese man went through a series of agony while studying in Japan. Sinking tends to create the impression of the young man suffering through the crisis of identity. The crisis of identity that brings about the suffering of the young man is by his sexual inadequacy as well as his sexual feelings. In the story, the theme of suffering ends up describing the state of incapacitation especially from expression. In addition to that, the themes of suffering and melancholy tend to segregate an interior space of the subject that is precluded from view. Additionally, the use of suffering by Yu Dafu in his work, Sinking, creates a suggestion that conflicts is made up of the drama in this internal life. The hard struggle of the protagonist presumably originates from his unspeakable sin. The hard struggle of the protagonist ends up finding relief in a temporary participation in criminality.4

Still on the story done by Yu Dafu, Sinking, there is the issue of sexual suffering that the young Chinese man who went to study in Japan goes through. This is yet another indication that Yu Dafu’s work is constituted with the themes of suffering and melancholy. Based on sexual suffering that the young Chinese man goes through in the story, it is evident that the author favors a kind of literature that has a greater resonance to the hardship of life. Although undeniable, the aspect of sexual suffering as expressed by Yu Dafu is placed in the service of the discontent at the foundation of life. Significantly, the theme of suffering is lifted from the literary imagination to encompass what plagues the intellectuals of China in a historical moment of a cultural crisis.5

Another significance of the themes of suffering and melancholy as per the literature works done in the modern Chinese literature indicate the birth of Chinese literary modernity. Some of the literature critics argue that at some point the severity of suffering in any occasion tends to promise new birth and health. For instance, a critical analysis on the work done by Yu Dafu carried out by a Marxist critic indicate that the use of the theme of suffering was a healthy expression of the illness that China was going through at that time. As earlier indicated, the country was experiencing some form of turmoil at that period. In this particular argument, the significance of the theme of suffering tends to provide the impetus for revolution in China.

In addition to the work done by Yu Dafu, works done by Mao Dun and Ye Shengtao as well indicate the significance of suffering and melancholy as part of the themes in the works. In the modern Chinese literature, Mao Dun and Ye Shengtao are considered as champions of realist fiction considering the types of work they have done. With the two literary scholars using the theme of suffering, its significance mainly encompasses a sense of social suffering as well as exceeding individual affliction. For instance, this particular extension of social suffering found resonance with authors interested in directing literature away from the individual and towards masses.

In Mao Dun’s work of 1928, the themes of suffering and melancholy are used in the context of the New Woman. In the work, the theme of suffering seems to be focused on the impacts of oppressive social expectations on the life of a young woman. This is referred to the experience of suffering of modern women. In the story, it is clear that the female protagonist ends up falling the prey to a society that offers little space for the independence of a woman. The persistent ideals as well as the aspirations of the female protagonist in the story tends to come to an end in her death that is tragic. For instance, it has been established that according to Mao Dun, suffering and melancholy originates from the externally imposed prescriptions. In the externally imposed prescription, one tends to struggle to free themselves from whichever trap they may be in. in this case, suffering and melancholy tends to be led away from the interior torment of the subject and directed at a larger social criticism.6

In addition to that, according to some of the modern Chinese literature scholars such as Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Yu Dafu, Ye Shengtao, and many others, the themes of suffering and melancholy are seen to the cause of societal as well as individual torment. Based on a variety of works done by these authors, individuals who undergo some kind of suffering, rather a society that goes through suffering, they end up being tormented in future. The torment they go through is mainly based on social aspects of life.

Another significance of the themes of suffering and melancholy is based on the economic hardships faced by China. For instance, the young man who left China for further studies in Japan is equated to China in the short story done by Yu Dafu. At that period, when the short story was written, China was as well going through a serious of hardships including its poor economy. The author indicates that this young Chinese man went through a series of agony when he was in Japan, which is equivalent to what China was experiencing at that time. Since the country was struggling to boost its economy, the theme of suffering in the story signifies economic hardships faced by the country. 7

The themes of suffering and melancholy in the short stories as well signifies the hardships that the traditional literature of China went through. This is based on the short story done by Yu Dafu in 1921. As compared to the western literature at that time, critics argue that the traditional Chinese literature was going through a set of agonies. It is argued that in the 1920’s the country was struggling to get into great transformations in its literature. The traditional literature of the country at that moment was quite unstable and that it needed to stabilize. Hence, a group of Chinese poets, literature scholars, as well as novelists worked on the modernization of Chinese literature.8

Conclusion

In conclusion, the themes of suffering and melancholy seems to be of great significance in most of the works done by some of the modern Chinese literature authors. Among the authors of modern Chinese literature, include Yu Dafu, Ye Shengtao, Lu Xun, Mao Dun, among others. In most of the works done by these authors clearly depict the themes of suffering and melancholy. The discussion in the essay above about the significance of the theme of melancholy and suffering was mainly based on the short story Sinking by Yu Dafu alongside other works done by other authors. The main significance of the themes of suffering and melancholy as discussed in the essay is social, economic, as well as political. The significance of the themes is based on the condition of China because at the period of May Fourth, the country was going through a set of hardships. The hardships that the country was facing at that time ranged from social instabilities, political instabilities, and economic instabilities to instabilities in the traditional Chinese literature.

References

Goldman, M. (1977). Modern Chinese literature in the May Fourth era. New York: Havard University Press.

Tsu, J. (2005). Failure, Nationalism, And Literature: The Making Of Modern Chinese Identity, 1895-1937. Stanford : Stanford University Press.

Widmer, E., & Wang, T.-w. (2009). From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China. New York: Harvard University Press.

1
Goldman, M. (1977). Modern Chinese literature in the May Fourth era. New York: Havard University Press.

3Tsu, J. (2005). Failure, Nationalism, And Literature: The Making Of Modern Chinese Identity, 1895-1937. Stanford : Stanford University Press.

6
Widmer, E., & Wang, T.-w. (2009). From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China. New York: Harvard University Press.