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Love in a fallen city is a novel whose main theme is the conflict that exists in love relationships. The author’s central concerns in this novel are the social factors that influence the quality of a relationship that develops in marriage. The author has used characters with differing perspectives to illustrate this conflict. Bai Liusu and Fan Liu Yuan are the major characters in this story whose love relationship started with conflict but later ended up in marriage. The author based the story in Hong Kong referring it to ‘a fallen city’ because it was not a favorable environment for love. The two main characters had different perspectives on love even though lastly married. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the strategies that the author uses to depict the characters. The author used specific themes to illustrate how the characters struggle to have a better future.
The story of Bai Liu Su and Fan Liu Yuan was based in Hong Kong. Bai Liu Su was a twenty-eight years old and divorced woman who lived in Shanghai. She faced a lot of criticism from relatives for living at home instead of living with a man. Bai’s relatives lived a traditional form of life whereby a woman would only earn respect if she lived with a man irrespective of whether the woman loved the man. As a result of this culture, Bai had to get a man to live with. On the other hand, Fan Liu Yuan had just arrived from England and had inherited wealth from his father. When in England, Fan realized that Chinese women were the best women to marry and therefore thought of Bai. Fan Liu Yuan loved this woman so much and therefore expected that Bai would also love him. Chang (p. 156) notes that “Fan had grown up in the foreign country and thought that real Chinese women were the most beautiful women in the world”. Therefore, when he came to Hong Kong, she called Bai to come to his place. When the two met, Bai insisted on marriage while Fan insisted that he just required Bai to love him deep from her heart. Due to these differing opinions, a conflict of interest resulted even though the two rely on needed each other. When Bai returned home, she expected that her people would not be happy if she was not able to win that man. Bai, therefore, had to do her best to marry this man so as she could earn respect from her people. For her plan to work, Chang (p. 174) notes that “to win other woman’s respects, she decided to go with Mrs.Xu to Hong Kong to see whether she could win the love of Fan”. They would therefore walk in the city together and could not even hold each other. Even though many pretty young girls liked Fan, he only loved Bai and especially because of her Chinese style. Eventually, they understood each other and got married and at the end of the novel, they lived happily.
The author used the conflict as a strategy to express how characters in the novel struggle to end up living a better life. First, the author portrayed the conflict between traditional marriage and the modern lifestyle. Bai Liu Su adopted the traditional lifestyle, whereby people believed that a respectable woman was the one who lived with a man. However, Fan Liu Yuan was a modern man who had even lived in a foreign country believed that; to live a comfortable life, he needed a woman to love him (Chang, p. 256). These different perspectives on life were responsible for the misunderstanding that existed between Bai and Fan. The author emphasized that; the couple suffered before it eventually settled on marriage. When they are finally married, Fan recalled how they suffered, Chang (p. 302) notes what he told his wife “we were too busy falling in love, how could we possibly find time to love”? According to the author, the conflict between the two characters was a result of the two being brought up in different settings.
The author also used determination as a strategy to depict the characters. The characters in this novel were very much willing to settle as married people. Determination calls for sacrifice and willingness to take any step to succeed. Bai Liu Su sacrificed her time to travel to Hong Kong whenever Fan Liu Yuan called her to an extent that she assumed that Fan was misusing her. On the other hand, Fan Liu Yuan did not have any interest in the young pretty girls of Hong Kong who loved him since his interest was in Bai. Chang (p. 295) supported this saying “although lots of pretty young girls liked him, he was attracted by Bai Liu Su as he saw the same flimsy, conflicted and lonely heart with him”. The author, therefore, implied that; none of the characters could change his/her minds before realizing his/her goals. Each of the character’s dreams was to live a life that was good irrespective of how such a life could be earned.
The author also portrayed the characters as being individualistic as a strategy to depict them. The two major characters could be termed as being individualistic since each of them decided to stick hard on his/her decision. Bai Liu Su insisted that she just wanted marriage from Fan Liu Yuan and nothing else. There is no one time that she agreed her decision to be influenced by her future husband. On the other hand, Fan Liu Yuan insisted that he wanted love from her future wife and therefore could not change his mind easily. This principle led the two characters to live in conflict before they settled for marriage. Chang (p. 305) notes that Fan Liu Yuan regretted his past and said to his wife that “If… you had known me before, then maybe you could give me for the way I am now”. If the two characters had a chance to listen to each other, they would have settled their differences easily through dialogue. However, each of the characters believed that the decision made was the right one and therefore decided to wait until the good day would come. The conflict between the two characters could be easily solved since the two characters were interested in each other for specific reasons and therefore they needed each other.
The author referred to the novel as ‘Love in Fallen City’ because of the way the love between the two main characters went along. Hong Kong city could also be referred to as a fallen city because it was not a good environment for lovers. Before the couple ended up in a marriage, the two used to meet in Hong Kong but nothing grew out of their meeting. There were times that the two characters would meet and they could not even touch each other.
Chang, Eileen. Love in a Fallen City. New York: New York Review Books, 2007.