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An Analysis of Modern Chinese Literature

The central conflict in Yu Dafu’s short story, “Sinking,” was the main character’s inability to handle some of his personal issues that were initially influenced by his failures in reconciling his national identity to the kind of life and environment that he was living in Japan. Moreover, his frailty and unconstructive views on life, that were caused by his experiences from childhood as well as the cruel and chaotic history of China which was subtly embedded in the narrative, hindered him from resolving his personal issues.

In the latter part of the story, one may realize how the personal conflicts of the main character, illustrated in his personal struggles and difficulties, represented the same struggles and difficulties that China was expected to overcome. In general, the personal disputes experienced by the main character in the narrative mirrored the national struggles of China to realize its value and significance amidst instability as a means to develop a cultural and national identity that will remain true to the beliefs, values, character, and ideologies inherent to the country and its people.

From analyzing the short story, one may presume that the main character suffered a heartbreaking and insecure childhood which consequently influenced his vulnerability, faintheartedness, and negativity. His father died when he was still young and, unlike his older brothers who were able to finish some schooling and develop a profession, he was most afflicted by poverty due to his family’s loss.

The achievements of his brothers have placed him in a very difficult and challenging position of following in their tracks, but he always knew that he was not interested in joining the Ministry of Justice or the army because his interests were directed towards literature. When his oldest brother was sent to Japan, he soon followed. He went to a Japanese high school where he was forced by his brother to take up medicine, instead of literature, because he was easily swayed and because he lacked the initiative to make decisions and stand by them on his own.

Throughout the story, it was evident that the main character was unable to face his personal demons in order to usher a better and healthier frame of mind that should have allowed him to develop the strength, courage, and willfulness to lead a life that he wanted for himself instead of wallowing in grief and in disappointment. As aforementioned, the life story of the male character mirrors that of the regrettable situation of China during that time.

Like the protagonist, China sank into extreme poverty after countless wars and conflicts, and non-existence of a great leader who will be able to bring peace and prosperity in the country. Moreover, the status of developed countries has made it difficult for China to cope, leaving the country a helpless nation that was subjected to the domination and decree of more powerful countries. Like the male protagonist, the country was unable to establish a strong stance against foreign policies and intrusion.

Like him, who was treated unjustly in Japan due to his culture, the people of China have suddenly become victims of the instigation and oppression of authority figures represented by powerful countries who take over feeble nations. The protagonists’ sinking into poignancy and insignificance represents the breakdown of the political, social, and cultural foundations of China. The country’s powerlessness has caused it to lead a kind of life that is entirely different from what it wants for its people and the kind of life that the people of China deserved.

Like the male protagonist who was left no choice but to be a Chinese man tied down in Japan, taking up medicine, and unable to feel loved and cared for by women, despite his interest in literature, in finding bliss and contentment in love and sex, and in going back to China, the nation has also experienced being at a loss for chances to choose or make decisions for the nation as it is unable to break the chains of its obligations to submit to powerful countries.

Lu Xun’s “A Madman’s Diary” also represents the same theme of a nation in crisis which was represented by the personal situations and observations of the main character of the kind of society that he was living in. The protagonist in “A Madman’s Diary” said, “I have been living in a place where for four thousand years human flesh has been eaten.

” The concept of cannibalism in this short story portrays the existing society during that time wherein powerful people “devour” the weak. The protagonist has expressed China’s long and ill-fated history not only of extreme poverty and famine that led the people to resort to the practice of cannibalism to survive, but also cannibalism in the metaphorical sense in which people in this world may either be the one’s who are devoured or those who devour – the prey or the predator.

The history of China subtly embedded within “Sinking” and “A Madman’s Diary” revealed how the nation was once prey to predator nations who unjustly oppressed the defenseless. Aside from the central themes of repression and wretchedness in both “Sinking” and “A Madman’s Diary,” there is also the theme of hope and possibilities in the future. The protagonist in “Sinking” uttered his hope of a better China saying, “I wish you could become rich and strong soon!

” Despite his surrender to his bitter and distressing life, he still wishes and hopes that there will come a time when suffering will be eased, maybe not in his lifetime, as he surrendered not only to his life but also to death, but in the future. The protagonist in “A Madman’s Diary” also has the same hopes and expectations as he expressed his optimism that “Perhaps there are still children who haven’t eaten men? Save the children…”

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