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Chinese Novellas: The Role of Memory and Perception Essay

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2019

My Old Home by Lu Xun

“As I remembered it, it was nothing like this; it was a much better place. But when I tried to recall or articulate its beauty, I discovered I held no mental image of it – no words to describe it. Maybe it had always been like this, I told myself. Even though time had been kind to it, it was surely not as bleak as it now struck me. It was I who had changed, I reasoned; grown melancholy (Xun 70).

The passage is uttered by person who comes back to the house of his parents. Judging from the plot, the readers can deduce that the protagonist has not been in this place for a long time, and he expects to see the images that are extremely dear to him. However, his expectations are bitterly disappointed.

The main character cannot understand whether he has become too melancholy or his home has become so bleak (Xun 70). It is possible to argue that Lu Xun attempts to show how individual can create artificial memories in order to shield themselves from traumatic experiences and create a different version of the past.

Overall, in this short story, the author attempts to emphasize the inaccuracy of memory and perception. The descriptions provided by the writer show that an individual can convince oneself of something and this idea can become engraved in his/her memory. This is one of the points that can be made.

Such experiences are familiar to the narrator. Nevertheless, this person can easily become disillusioned. This phenomenon is depicted in the selected passage. The story-teller attempts to discover the mental images of his home in order to recollect the beauty and the joy of his childhood years (Xun 70).

Nevertheless, his memory fails him because he can find nothing that may confirm his convictions about the past. This is the moment when he begins to re-evaluate his perception of the past. One should take into consideration that Lu Xun relies on the literary technique that is very popular among writers.

In particular, he adopts such a method as stream of consciousness when the narrator combines his/her memories of the past with present-day experiences (Middleton & Woods 12). This is one of the details that attract attention of the readers, and one can say that it is important for understanding the passage and the short story, in general.

Lu Tun describes a situation that can be encountered by many individuals. The moments of disillusionment can be experienced by people who earn to see somebody or something that was once extremely dear to them. Moreover, this disillusionment can make a person re-evaluate his/her attitude toward other people.

For example, the protagonist has to accept that his childhood friends can be actually hostile to him. So, this transformation can inflict an emotional trauma on a person. Thus, the main focus of his novella is the inaccuracy of human perception, especially at those moments when an individual wants to construct a comforting version of the past (Xun 70).

The chosen passage highlights the conflicting emotions of a man who has to reconcile his/her memories with reality. This is the main aspects that should be considered by the readers of this short story. In this way, one can better understand the ideas of the writer.

When I was in Xia Village by Ding Ling

“Somehow I had to find a way to survive, and if at all possible, to live a life that was meaningful. That’s why I am pleased that they intend to treat my disease. It will be better to be cured. Actually, these past few days I haven’t felt too bad” (Ling 308).

These utterances are made by Zhenzhen, a woman who was once captured by the Japanese soldiers. Furthermore, she was raped by the invaders, but many people believed that she was a person without shame or honor. More importantly, the residents of the village did not know that she became a spy for China.

It should be taken into consideration that the political and military rivalry between Japan and China has always been intense (Faure 16). In turn, any form of cooperation with Japanese soldiers could be viewed as treason and women like Zhenzhen were often turned into outcasts. The main tragedy is that Zhenzhen did not deserve the suspicions and the contempt of others.

Overall, it is possible to argue that in this short story Ding Ling also focuses on the peculiarities of people’s perception of the world and the differences in their worldviews. Furthermore, the role of memory is also important for Ding Ling. The writer shows that the memories of an individual can be artificially constructed by others. This is the main differences between these short stories.

Zhenzhen cannot be blamed for her misfortunes, and she definitely deserves the compassion of others. Nevertheless, other women living in the village do not feel any empathy for her. In fact, they continuously emphasize Zhenzhen’s impurity. This is one of the things that torment her.

The passage under analysis is supposed to describe the emotions of this girl and her willingness to escape the hidden accusations of others. Moreover, she has even convinced herself that she has some disease. This is the main tragedy of this person. She wants to find a meaning in her life.

There are several differences between these passages as well as novellas. Lu Xun depicts the feelings of a person who has to confront reality and reconcile this reality with his memories of the past. In turn, Ding Ling portrays the sufferings of a woman whose worldviews are shaped by her sense of shame and guilt inflicted by others.

The most important point is that she did not do anything to deserve the accusations of others. One can argue that Lu Xun and Ding Ling take different approaches to memory, but despite these differences, each of these novellas is equally interesting.

Works Cited

Faure, Guy. New Dynamics Between China and Japan in Asia: How to Build the Future from the Past?, New York: World Scientific, 2010. Print.

Ling, Ding. I myself am a woman: selected writings of Ding Ling, Boston: Beacon Press, 1989. Print.

Middleton, Peter and Woods, Tim. Literature of Memory: History, Time and Space in Post-War Writing, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. Print.

Xun, Lu. The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, London: Penguin Classics, 2010. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Chinese Novellas: The Role of Memory and Perception'. 18 April.

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