The True Story of Ah Q and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
The True Story of Ah Q is the most significant work of Chinese writer Lu Xun. This story describes the soul of Chinese people. The illustration of The True Story of Ah Q shows the sense of the whole novel and conveys its general idea. The author portrays people’s way of thinking, as well as the slavish and insignificant substance of the majority. The man in the picture who stands on his knees in front of a large group of gentry is the main protagonist of the story. He is the epitome of plain Chinese people, the obedient servant. The rumorsabout revolution reached him and forced to think vaguely about some reorganization of his life. He is forgotten and plain truth-seeker who has lost self-esteem; even his name means "nobody." Ah Q manifests the Confucian morality that had been preaching servility and humiliation for many centuries. Thus, such an imposed way of thinking puts him on his knees in front of brutal reality.
I suppose the very moment where Ah Q is asked to “sign” to be worth illustrating because it shows big pressure of public opinion on the person, especially when he/she is weak and does not have his/her own point of view. The episode where Ah Q is afraid of drawing uneven circle because he thinks that everyone will make fun of him shows that opinion of other people is more important for the man than his own life. When he sees people who are higher in social class, he instinctively falls on his knees before them because he had been taught to do that for many years.
When the time of his death approaches, Ah Q fights against fear and inevitably doom; however, it seems during his final journey that enlightenment comes, and he realizes what is happening in the world he lives. He compares the society to the wolf who wants to eat him. The weak revolutionary spirit awakes in his mind and says his last words. In that episode, the reader understands that after the death of a foolish revolutionary, the millions of other revolutionaries will come and tell their menacing protest.
Throughout the whole novel, the protagonist evokes mixed feelings in reader. Firstly, Ah Q seems to be the man who has no idea about ethics, morals, and good relations with people because he has no family or friends. He considers himself to be the best, fights against other similar strollers, has vile attitude towards women, and not only lives in the mud in literal sense but also in "moral" dirt. Most of the manifestations of his character are an intrinsic part of a primitive man. More precisely, he is like a child who has not learned and adopted social norms. He hates the representatives of the wealthy families of the village and city officials, but he sees them as "the oppressors of the people" and his personal enemies. For him, the revolution means only “to take away from them and give him." On the contrary, when the reader sees how people treat Ah Q when they expelled him, that no one treats him seriously neither as a revolutionary nor even just as a human being, he/she begins to sympathize with him. Perhaps, his surrounding made him such a miserable man. I think the author is not only sympathetic to the "little man" but also ridicules his servile traits trying to "cure society." Using such a guise of Ah Q, Lu Xun interprets his sadness.
The image of the main character shows violent protest against alleged eternal trait of the Chinese national character. It is patience and humility that leads the reader to the idea of revolutionary struggle. Lu Xun conveys the meaning that an uneducated person who does not want to learn something new cannot change anything even if he/she wishes it. The True Story of Ah Q describes the policy of a higher social class that imposes its life scenario on weaker people where there is a "master" and a "slave". Ah Q’s participation in the revolution is meaningless: he does not know what to do, he is not aware of his power, and he does not understand what solidarity is. The soul of a man who has lived the whole life with the mentality of a slave cannot be free. In trying to change something and becoming different than others, he is punished by cruel reality. Stunned and monstrously ridiculous Ah Q becomes a victim of the executioners. Moreover, talking of public opinion, one can say that it is striking of its naivety and reluctance to think of diversification because everybody agreed on the thing that Ah Q was a villain; and the proof of this idea was his punishment. After all, it is easy to live in the world where everything is clear and indifferent.
The general mood in The True Story of Ah Q is very pessimistic; there is no hope for improvement; there is no other world; there are no ideals that can cure society, no mystery; and everything is simple, ordinary, and quite nasty. Though written about another time and about another country, The True Story of Ah Q makes the readers rethink their lives and think of where everything goes. Also, it probably makes them think over the global ills and vices of humanity existing in all times in spite of all the "technical progress": laziness, cowardice, greed, indifference to each other, ignorance, unwillingness to accept the opinion of another person, and poverty thoughts. I believe that this story is relevant today and will undoubtedly set the readers to reconsider their views on life.
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In many countries, the society has always been interested in developing the mass mind instead of an individual one because manipulating the crowd is much easier than manipulating one person. In the world, there were always certain moral rules that reflected the demands of society to its members and govern the relationships between people, but they were so invested in daily lives and activities of people that they unconsciously followed these standards without thinking about their origin and meaning. In the field of morality, people are usually guided by the generally accepted norms and principles in relationships operating in society, mostly without asking why they have to follow those rules. At the level of everyday consciousness, this method of regulation usually works with people. As for more satisfying exploitative ruling classes of society, it helps them mask the morality embodied in the interests of their class. However, the moral consciousness, which often limits experience incorrectly, reflects today's realities. «Spiritual victory» is a try to teach every member of society to distinguish required new and old set moral standards dying in being able to analyze and understand what is right and what is not, to develop and defend their own points of view. We live in a world where psychology teaches people of manipulating and cheating to program other people. Television, advertising, news, and internet imposed on us the idea how we should look like and behave; and most people all over the world follow such way of life. It is hard for modern society to accept those who want to be different from the others; nevertheless, in spite of oppression of the majority, many people still overcome all obstacles in their path and become successful. It is their «spiritual victory» over the invented truth.
Considering the specific example of «spiritual victory» over public opinion and generally accepted norms, we can take American society. America has always been attractive to those who could not find their place in tough reality and looked for space to implement their own ideas, the individualists who rely on themselves and not on the grace of God, which is dictated by the religion or moral principles of those times in the world. «Spiritual victory» and the beginning of American society consisted in achievement of better life through one’s own efforts and the development of the cult of personality. These ideas spread throughout the whole world. The rapid development of personal freedom and personal success in literature and art, and issues of personal growth and self-realization has become an integral part of our lives. People began to reach what they desire despite the unjustified ban imposed. It was a «spiritual victory» that led to the formation of a new society and a new country.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is an amazing story that tells how the penetration of Western liberal values leads to destruction of the most persistent stereotypes of the communist regime. It shows how irresistible attraction of young hearts to freedom, happiness, and love can confront the system of soulless totalitarian society and ruin the walls of the grossest communist ideology.
The major figures of the novel (Luo, the narrator and a seamstress) are the embodiment of Cultural Revolution, and the minor figures are the personification of declining personality. The reader has an opportunity to see the story from different points of view.
The analysis of the novel from young Luo’s point of view is as following. The young intellectuals are sent in a remote village where people cannot even read for "re-education"; they face total injustice of the communist system. There is a decline of Chinese culture. They get into a place where politics have killed cultural nation and everything that was beautiful inside people and turned them into humble servants. The latter have to work hard with no opportunity for self-improvement. When Luo is ready to give up and die in such moral mud, his friendship, love, and unexpected knowledge to which he aspired saves his soul. He reveals the talent of the speaker that turns his stories to appear in the consciousness of rural communities. His stories become extremely important for his friend, dressmakers, head of the farmers, and Luo. These stories give headman and seamstress a hope for the future meaning the further struggle, and open a new world that is radically different from the one that they used to live in.With the help of books forbidden in China, Luo, whose intellectual, spiritual, moral, and aesthetic horizon is immured by "red book" of Chairman Mao, discovers the world of passions and real not primitive feelings in Balzac's works. He opens the idea of a woman and femininity, an ordinary, earthly, and sensual character that he embodied in young seamstress. Those stories give the young men a hope for the future meaning further struggle. For seamstress and other villagers, the books and storytelling open a new world that is radically different from the one they used to know.
Considering the minor characters who are the village headman and villagers, it is evident that they represent the lower strata of Chinese society, the victims of communist ideology. The headman and villagers are like children who have stopped in growth and mental development because of serious illness. They have no ability to study and analyze, there are only slave labor and ignorance as in the Middle Ages. Luo’s storytelling influences them strongly. It opens fantastic, interesting, and unattainable world for the villagers, which has colors other than red and more interesting life. They plunge into the country with learning about love and beauty. In the episode where Luo tells about the event from the film where he has seen even more severe things, a silly headman does not hold back his tears. This means that even a humble follower, woolly ideology political tyrant, and gendarmes can have their great feelings to be awaken, thus even having a soul. Due to natural curiosity, the desire of a person for knowledge may triumph over ideological madness.
"The Cultural Revolution in a single soul" is the sense of the novel. The reader feels respect to the attempts of young people maintaining somehow their education and not letting to make them full with revolutionary postulates. It is hard time for the families of intellectuals who were sent to re-education by heavy physical work beyond the horizons of distant mountains. The purpose of this re-education was to impart the communist ideology of the hard work and life to people for the good of the country while destroying any features of cultural development. Also, the hard times have always existed; however, such concepts as love, friendship, trust, faith, and hope would always accompany people on the thorny path of life.