In her compelling masterpiece, “the wild swans: three daughters of China”, Jung Chang gives a vivid description of the struggles of three women amid a politically unstable society. Chang describes the occurrence of different events in her family in relation to the radical political events in China.
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Through the description of her three generations, Chang highlights the theme of oppression, which comes up due to the barbarism of the reigning regime. The following text expounds Chang’s theme of oppression especially to women mainly due to political upheavals.
Yu-fang is the first woman who suffers in the hands of her father. Because of his greed and selfish gains, Yu-fang’s father gives her off to an old man not necessarily as a wife but as a concubine in order to elevate his social status. Surprisingly, the warlord who had countless wives and concubines has no time for her.
However, according to traditions, Yu-fang has to endure the loneliness as a submissive woman. Six years later without her conjugal rights, she conceives a daughter after the return of her husband but she flees after his health deteriorates. Her departure is to protect herself against the General’s wives and other relatives who may harass her.
Sadly, again she falls in hands of an old doctor Dr. Xia as a wife. The suffering of women prompts Yu-fang to pray to her god not to create her as a woman because she says, “Let me become a cat or a dog” (Chang 58). Therefore, the lack of respect for women, especially young girls, was evident among the prominent men during Yu-fang’s generation.
Similarly, Chang’s mother enters the institution of marriage at only fifteen where she joins the communist party. On one occasion, her husband forces her to walk over thousands of kilometers for military training. On the contrary, Chang’s father uses a jeep in his movement while his wife treks. Consequently, she loses her pregnancy due to the strenuous activity and movement.
On the other hand, the people of China live under abject poverty mainly because of the reigning regime. Children attend poorly built school, live in poor structures and the authority dictates corn and sorghum as the only food. Anybody who eats other food is liable for a punishment. Thus, the terrific ruling regimes together with the suffering of the people motivated Chang to relocate to England after the fall of Mao regime where she still currently lives.
Although Chang’s masterwork received international praise and awards, a few critics, especially the political class in China, are against her efforts in exposing the oppressive history. The author paints negatively the history and especially the men of China as inhuman, oppressive and greedy.
Chang’s main aim is to expose china’s history, but her use of contemptuous, judgmental, and harsh tone prompts the readers to develop a negative attitude towards the people and the nation of China. Consequently, the negative presentation of the Chinese history prompted the Chinese authority to ban it, which makes it useless in the country.
In conclusion, Chang’s describes educating a woman in the China society as useless investment especially because of the brainwashed minds. Women or girls were like assets to men who out rightly owned, controlled and humiliated them. Therefore, in the ancient China educating a woman was equivalent to “pouring water on the ground” (Chang 480)!
Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. London: Anchor books, 1992.