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Congwen’s “Border Town: A Novel” and Su-Hui’s “Six Records of a Floating Life” Essay


Introduction

Comparison is the process of explaining an analyzing two subjects that are of the same or varying nature. The procedure allows readers to see the items under discussion in a clear manner.

In this paper, the author will compare two texts that are written by different authors. The first text is “Border Town: A Novel”. The book is authored by Shen Congwen. Jeffrey Kinkley acts as the translator. It was published in 2009. The second book is titled “Six Records of a Floating Life”. It is written by Shen Fu and translated by Chiang Su-Hui. Leonard Pratt acts as an editor and translator for the book. The latter has also written an introduction for the text. The second book was published in 1983.

The two paperbacks contain extraordinary tales of love, pain and human tragedy experienced by two youngsters in the Chinese setting. The elements become evident when the two books are compared. To this end, the author will compare the different themes presented by the writers of the texts. The aim of this comparative analysis is to bring out the differences and similarities between the books with regards to love, pain, and human tragedy.

Similarities between the Two Texts

Setting

The accounts highlighted in the two books chosen for this paper are based on a similar setting. For example, “Six Records of a Floating Life” is an autobiographical account of a young man in ancient Chinese era (Fu 51). The book is written by an author who is educated to be a scholar. However, he makes a living by working as an artist and a civil servant. In the paperback, Shen Fu narrates the story of his life in the 18th century. The writer tells of his happy experiences after he enters into a matrimonial union with his childhood love. In addition to the marriage life, Sheng Fu talks about different incidents in his life. The events include the manner in which his beloved wife acquired a courtesan for him, as well as his trips to China. In the book, Sheng Fu describes instances of one man’s life, career, and love while living in a Chinese Society.

Similarly, “Border Town: A Novel” has a setting of a Chinese classic. The series was banned during the oppressive Mao regime. The plot is set in 1934, and the manuscript describes life in rural China through the eyes of a young lady and her grandfather (Congwen 49). In the book, the writer gives the account of Cuicui. The character is a young country woman from rural China. She grew up during the Communist Revolution.

The theme of love

The contents of the two books used in this paper are rich with emotions. Congwen and Fu provide thrilling and extraordinary tales of two young persons living in the Chinese society. For instance, “Six Records of a Floating Life” tells the story of a young poet and painter who falls gets married to his longtime lover. Sheng Fu met with Yun when they were both children. When they first saw each other, the two got involved in a timid engagement. After attaining the age of 17, they got married (Fu 65).

Yun is described as having a slim figure, delicate shoulders, and a stately neck. In addition, her eyebrows are arched over her gorgeous and lively eyes. However, she has her share of flaws. They include slightly protruding front teeth. The aspect of teeth was associated with lack of good fortune. In spite of her blemish, Yun was charming and hypnotizing to all those who saw her (Fu 78). The newly married couple remains fond of each other like they were before. However, their mutual love for poetry and travelling alienates them from their families.

The book “Border Town: A Novel” also talks about love. Cuicui, a young country girl, is brought up during the era of Communist Revolution. Like other girls her age, the main character aspires to find romance and love in her life. In her quest for love, she is approached by two eligible brothers. The two young men are sons of a wealthy Chinese merchant (Congwen 48). Cuicui’s intrusive but well-intentioned grandfather encourages the two brothers to continue fighting for his granddaughter’s love.

The theme of human tragedy and pain

The two authors bring out the theme of death and pain in a detailed manner. In the book “Six Records of a Floating Life”, Shen loses his wife and father. Throughout their married life, Yun suffers from a myriad of health complications (Fu 88). As her condition worsens, it reaches a point where Shen Fu finds it difficult to cater for his wife’s medical expenses. The reason is because he earns a meager salary. From the book, it is clear that Shen and his wife face numerous challenges in their lives. However, they address these problems together and as a team. Yun later succumbs to her health complications and dies.

The book tells of her pain and regret before her demise. According to Fu, Yun claims that “even someone who lives a hundred years must die one day” (109). She continues to say that she is sorry for having to leave her husband so suddenly halfway through their journey in life. On his part, Shen suffers from a severe heartbreak after Yun’s death. Fu notes that Shen laments the turn of events, asking “how can there be anything greater than his everlasting grief?” (112). Later on, Shen loses his father.

In the book “Border Town: A Novel”, the themes of death and pain are also made apparent. The main character is troubled by the looming demise of her aging grandfather. The old man is the only family that she knows. In the first chapters of the text, it is revealed that this girl is an orphan. Her grandfather observes that he is worried about what will happen to his granddaughter after his death. His worries are aggravated by the tragic-romantic demise of her parents. Congwen notes that “Cuicui grandfather died of acute illness” (64). The demise leaves the young girl alone in life and lonely. In addition, one of the two brothers courting her also dies in the story. It is noted that on the eve of the competition that was to determine the winner, the older brother withdrew and went down to the river. An unanticipated turbulent storm occurred. The bad weather led to his death through drowning (Congwen 98).

Delivery

In the two paperbacks, the authors present their tales using rich, sensitive, fluid, and simple language. In addition, the accounts provide readers with an extensive ethnographic flavor. The writers also employ short bursts of emotional dialogues in different scenes throughout the novels. The emotional conversations are used to depict instances of pain, regret, blame, despair, love, and human suffering. For example, they portray the experiences of the main characters after the loss of their loved ones.

Differences between the Two Books

The use and development of characters by the authors

There are variations between the characters used in the two texts. For example, in the book “Six Records of a Floating Life”, the main character is portrayed as having many friends. The acquaintances were close to one another. They shared a common talent of painting. In the text, Fu notes that “Shen’s friends comprised of Yang Pu-Fan, who was a talented portrait painter, and Yuan Shao-Yu, who was good at painting mountains and rivers” (102).

The other close friend is Wang Hsing-Ian. He is a skilled painter of birds and flowers. The individuals in the life of the main character provide many intertwined storylines in the book. However, this is different in “Border Town”. Here, the author uses fewer characters to tell the story of the young girl. In addition, the main character’s closest friend is just one. Congwen indicates that Cuicui and her grandfather had a mutual bond because he was her only family (51).

The authors’ connection with the characters

Another difference between the two texts is the mode of delivery adopted by the authors. For instance, in “Border Town”, Congwen shows sympathy towards his characters and their ways of life. In spite of this, the story is presented in a lyrical, fluid, and beautiful manner. In the book “Six Records of a Floating Life”, the author is less sympathetic. In spite of this, Fu tries to establish a connection between the reader and the characters used to develop the story. The reason is that the author presents their account in an enjoyable and charming manner. For example, Fu claims that “Yun is a young lady ahead of her time who balances her wife duties with the love of learning and her desire for life” (113).

The descriptive approaches adopted by the writers

Both books are written in a Chinese context. However, in their text “Six Records of a Floating Life”, Fu presents their tale in a highly descriptive manner compared to the approach adopted by Congwen in “Border Town”. When going through Fu’s paperback, the reader can easily understand the long lost ancient Chinese customs and traditions. The connection is made apparent when Fu indicates that “in the ancient times, lonely rich men could visit brothel boats and sit like floating leaves on the river” (120). Another incident connected to the Chinese customs is the arrangement of matrimonial unions. For example, the marriage between Shen and Yun was planned when the two were still young.

Conclusion

A comparative essay helps to create a contrast between two literary works. It also helps the reader to understand the accounts highlighted by the authors. The two books used in this paper share a number of similarities. However, there are also important differences between them. The stories in the two texts are told within the ancient Chinese setting. In addition, both writers connect their ideas with events that are taking place in the natural world. For example, death is linked to regret, pain, and blame. For instance, Fu writes that “Yun blames herself on the death bed, regretting that she is leaving her husband too early” (110). The themes presented in the two texts reveal the use of common references for varying purposes and effects.

Works Cited

Congwen, Shen. Border Town: A Novel, New York: HarperPerennial, 2009. Print.

Fu, Shen. Six Records of a Floating Life, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1983. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 10). Congwen's "Border Town: A Novel" and Su-Hui's "Six Records of a Floating Life". Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/congwens-border-town-a-novel-and-su-huis-six-records-of-a-floating-life/

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"Congwen's "Border Town: A Novel" and Su-Hui's "Six Records of a Floating Life"." IvyPanda, 10 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/congwens-border-town-a-novel-and-su-huis-six-records-of-a-floating-life/.

1. IvyPanda. "Congwen's "Border Town: A Novel" and Su-Hui's "Six Records of a Floating Life"." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/congwens-border-town-a-novel-and-su-huis-six-records-of-a-floating-life/.


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IvyPanda. "Congwen's "Border Town: A Novel" and Su-Hui's "Six Records of a Floating Life"." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/congwens-border-town-a-novel-and-su-huis-six-records-of-a-floating-life/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Congwen's "Border Town: A Novel" and Su-Hui's "Six Records of a Floating Life"." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/congwens-border-town-a-novel-and-su-huis-six-records-of-a-floating-life/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Congwen's "Border Town: A Novel" and Su-Hui's "Six Records of a Floating Life"'. 10 June.

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