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Chang and Pu give the impression that nationalism prevails over individual sensuality when intellectuals are faced with a dilemma between the two. The writers elaborate that one’s country is more important than the pursuit of love, even when love has been endorsed in its purest form. Love will always be discarded for the sake of revolution, which is a theme that Liu finds repeated by several writers. In the story, “Lust, Caution,” Chia-Chih sought to deliver Mr. Yee to the assassin’s bullet for a long period.
Her emotions were overshadowed by the feeling that she had something greater to do than to commit to the pleasure of love. The endurance of the thought to carry out the plan can demonstrate how strong the feeling of revolution is compared with love. People would expect the intensity of love between Jiang Mei and Qi Hong to prevail over revolution, but it does not. Liu explains that Chinese intellectuals have an extraordinary impression of the sublime prevailing over love.
Qi Hong had tried to remain in Beijing, expecting the influence of love to make Jiang Mei change her mind. However, the mentioning of her father, who died for the revolution seemed to have strengthened Jiang Mei’s decision to stay in China and be among university students who protested.
Eileeng Chang and Zong Pu portray that when intellectuals are faced with a dilemma between love and revolution, they choose revolution, especially in China. The writers give the impression that one’s country is more important than the pursuit of love, even if the feeling of love is long-lasting. They describe the behavior of university students and graduates towards love when there a revolution in place.
In the story, “Lust, Caution,” Chia-Chih sought to deliver Mr. Yee to the assassin’s bullet for a long period without suspecting that she might end up entangled in love. Her emotions were overshadowed by the feeling that she had something greater to do than to commit to the thought of love.
Chang describes her commitment to carry out the plan by saying, “after two weeks tormented by worry, she finally received a jubilant call from Yee Ta-Tai” (22). Chia-Chih was worried that she would not be able to assist the group carry out the plan to assassinate Yee if she were not connected to Yee Tai-Tai. She was obsessed with carrying out the plan more than any thought of love. It indicates she valued the revolution more than romantic love.
The endurance of the thought to carry out the plan can demonstrate how strong the feeling of revolution is compared with love. It is not rare that the love of her colleagues could endure for more than two years, but her commitment to carry out the plan remained as strong as it were two years ago.
Mr. Yee wondered that “how far in advance – two years, the entire trap had been premeditated” (Chang 44). The need is more enduring than love. Chia-Chih demonstrates her resilience and her commitment to the revolution within the two years of separation.
The presence of Mr. Yee and his influential power almost made her develop emotions. Being a girl who had never fallen in love, it would have been easy. Chang describes that “every time she was with Yee, she felt cleansed as if by a scalding hot bath; but now everything she did was for the cause” (23). The revolution involved assassinating those who collaborated with the Japanese invaders.
The love emotions that tried to emerge were overwhelmed by the greater cause. She always had to use her experience in overcoming feelings of love. Chang elaborates that “she had built a powerful resistance to forming emotional attachments” (37). She used the technique to stop any thoughts of love for Mr. Yee.
Even though she hated most of the group members, she knew that the calls for a revolution were much greater. The author elaborates that “she was so obviously regretting the whole business; the rest of the group began to avoid her” (22). The main reason for her regrets was that it seemed as if Mr. Yee had realized the trap and evaded. She considered herself a failure.
The feeling of failure felt like someone who has lost a loved causing sleepless nights and depression. Kuang Yu-min, the mastermind behind the operation, had spoken to her through Wu (Chang 25). The rest of the group did not contact her, yet she was willing to continue with the plan after two years of separation.
Chia-Chih changed her mind to save Mr. Yee the last minute she felt love for him. Mr. Yee, on the other hand, had a wonderful experience to realize a beautiful girl like her would love him. The writer elaborates that “so she had loved him – his first true love” (Chang 44). However, he did not care to execute her colleagues. He was sure that such an action would make her hate him eventually (Chang45). Mr. Yee claims that “she wouldn’t have loved him if he had been the sentimental type” (Chang 45).
Mr. Yee saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. One is to keep his secret love story sealed, and to restore honor to his department. He never cared if he would have wanted to search for her, and enjoy to be loved by her. The political significance of the outcome was more important than love.
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Eileen Chang appears to give the impression that a woman might have second thoughts of choosing love over revolution. On the hand, Zong Pu elaborates that even the intellectual female may be persistent in the quest for a revolution instead of love. She uses Jiang Mei’s character to support her point. Jiang Mei was determined to stay in China and be part of the revolution instead of boarding a plane to America to be with her first love (Pu 273).
In Chang’s story, both the man and the woman had strong political reasons to influence their behavior. In Pu’s story, the main female character is attached to a strong political movement when the main male character relies only on personal thoughts of love to influence his actions.
People would expect the intensity of love between Jiang Mei and Qi Hong to prevail over revolution, but it does not. Her love for him can be seen when Xiao Su criticizes Qi Hong. She utters, “How can you say such things? I love him, I love him” (Pu 258). She is resistant to criticism that touches Qi Hong.
Xiao Su mentions that she should forget him for his violence and cruelty. Jiang Mei replies that “Yes, I’ll forget him when I die” (Pu 266). It was a sign of resolution, but in the end, revolution prevailed over her decision to stay in China when Qi Hong flew to America. A decision she claims that she can never regret even if she loves him so much that she cannot forget about him.
Love should be able to convert Qi Hong to carry placards beside Jiang Mei, and protest. It would be love that makes people do things for their loved ones, but their perceptions are divided. It appears that intellectuals are sure of their paths and cannot easily be diverted by the influence of love, no matter how strong it appears. Neither could Qi Hong join the revolutionary movements for the sake of love nor Jiang Mei abandon revolutionary movements in China for prosperity waiting in America (Pu 270).
Each person was loyal to his/her dreams than to the influence of love, even though they claimed that they have more for love than for dreams. Qi Hong claims, “I wish I could kill you and take you with me in a coffin” (Pu 270). On the other hand, she claims, “I’d rather be told that you were dead than know you were living in such a cowardly way” (Pu 270). Eventually, the influence of love changes neither their dreams nor their decisions.
Qi Hong had tried to remain in Beijing, expecting the influence of love to make Jiang Mei change her mind (Pu 271). However, the mentioning of her father, who died for the revolution seemed to have strengthened Jiang Mei’s decision to stay in China and be among university students who protested. Her decision was already firm on political movements, and love only made her sigh with emotions.
It did not make her change her dreams or actions. Zong Pu gives an impression of both a male and a female character that are determined to keep on with their dreams. Eileeng Chang demonstrated that a woman might have second thoughts at love when a man is more resolved to fight for national needs than individual ones.
The writers tend to give the revolution theme a stronger engagement than love. Zong Pu makes the places where emotional feelings are displayed to be accompanied by the characters in tears. However, Pu makes the demonstrators have a happy mood, which may put the revolution in a better picture.
Love develops in bitterness, and revolution is cast in happiness. As a result, the revolution appears more attractive to the reader. Jiang Mei tells herself that even though it is bitter, she has to endure “this last-minute” (Pu 273). It may be perceived as one last minute of pain for love, and then lasting greatness for revolution. On the other hand, Eileen Chang never develops the theme of love until the story reaches a climax.
Revolution has been developed as the main theme, and love as the subordinate. Chia-Chih’s love for Mr. Yee emerges after he bought her a rare type of pink diamond (Chang 37). The price of eleven gold bars may have much to do with what Mr. Yee was willing to do for her, but not for the sake of revolution.
At the beginning of the “Red Beans,” Jiang Mei opens the box with the two red beans sorrowfully but meets the party leaders with a lot of enthusiasm (Pu 274). Eileen Chang portrays that love may be regrettable, but not revolution. Jiang Mei elaborates this by her distasteful look at the crucifix picture, where the red beans had been kept. She does not want to have memories of those days (Pu 250).
Liu (210) discusses that the formula of love and revolution becomes a concern of modern theorist because it has been used repeatedly by Chinese writers. The Chinese writers, in most cases, make love to be subordinate to revolution. Love is expected to generate individual happiness. Revolutions are associated with a collective struggle.
They are expected to create heroism, and fulfillment of a better life for all members of the community. Eileen Chang elaborates the message by emphasizing the matter of everyone through Jiang Mei. Jiang Mei and Qi Hong try to find out the meaning of the philosophy of everyone (Chang 255).
Chang can elaborate on the differences in perceptions between the two characters. Qi Hong does not care about the collective good. He only cares about his career and individual success. On the other hand, Jiang Mei finds collectivism more important than individual success.
Revolution is one thing that shows payment to her mother, herself, her country, her roommate, Xiao Su, and the death of her father. Love only shows recompense to herself and Qi Hong. The choice is simpler considering the beneficiaries of revolution. For this reason, love has to be in subordination to revolution.
Love and revolution do not exist independently but reinforce each other. Liu states that “they are inextricably combined, enveloped by the light of idealism” (211). Liu (211) tries to show that love makes the fantasy of collective happiness much stronger. Politics without love would not have been strongly pursued. One would look at the sacrifice they have made for revolution, and gain more impetus.
Liu (210) discusses that the combination shows the “over-determined relation between the collective power and individual sensuality that elaborate how Chinese intellectuals went to extraordinary lengths to portray their utopian dream of a stronger and more modernized China” (210). The discussion shows that the extraordinary action of Chinese intellectuals has been emphasized by accompanying revolution with love, where revolution is chosen at the expense of love.
The writers have been able to achieve more by using female characters in the revolution than if they would have used male characters only. Liu (104) discusses that female bodies can be used critically to convey revolutionary ideologies, which gives a different picture from the repressive patriarchal system of traditional China.
Zong Pu uses Jiang Mei and Xiao Su to gives a critical picture of women’s determination to fight for revolution and forsake love. It is unexpected from the patriarchal system. The women were supposed to follow their lovers wherever they went. Eileeng Chang uses Chia-Chih to emphasize a form of determination that could last for more than two years.
Before the revolution women were defined by their natural seductive bodies. Liu (104) discusses that seductive women’s bodies are used as instruments to convey revolutionary ideology. Eileen Chang uses Chia-Chih’s natural seductive body as they were entering the Indian’s jeweler shop. She narrates, “She knew she was watching her, and so slightly exaggerated the swivel of her hips” (Chang 28). What women commonly use for love has been diverted for the benefit of the revolution.
The issue of class struggles also emerges in the revolution. Liu discusses that some writers “link gender identification to class identification” (104). Chang (4) elaborates the class identification of gender through the display of diamond rings and black caps. The revolutionary role played by the female gender is linked to the higher class.
On the other hand, Zong Pu (251) uses Jiang Mei, whose class fell lower when her father died. The revolutionary struggle has an association with the higher classes, who have a different perception of the meaning of love. The two writers use two girls who are not spoilt, who knew for the first time. They were expected to give their purest love. Forsaking that love shows a great sacrifice.
The matter of love being subordinated to revolution is a common theme in Chinese literature. The writers usually use love and revolution, side by side, to elaborate the level of sacrifice that the characters were able to take to fight for revolution. The two writers have made the theme of revolution over love stronger by using young girls, whose love is pure, and have not been spoilt. The critical use of determined female characters gives the revolution a stronger impact because women are expected to choose love over revolution.
The two writers have enhanced the seductive women body in their descriptions, but show that the seductive bodies are used for revolution instead of love. When Chang shows that a woman can change her mind, Pu gives Jiang Mei a more resolute determination even though the intensity of their love is stronger compared with that of Chia-Chih towards Mr. Yee. Chinese intellectuals tend to have a stronger stand towards nationalism than they have towards love.
Chang, Eileen. Lust, Caution and Other Stories, London: Penguin Books, 2007. Print.
Liu, Jianmei. Revolution Plus Love: Literary History, Women’s Bodies, and Thematic Repetition in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003. Print.
Pu, Zong. “Red Beans.” Writing Women in Modern China: An Anthology of Women’s Literature from the Early Twentieth Century. Ed. Amy Dooling and Kristina Torgeson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 247-273. Print.