Window on the world

Question One

The definition of literature as “window on the world” by David Damrosch is a metaphor that means that literary materials give the readers a broader and in-depth understanding of global perspectives. Literature expands the mind of the audiences and offers a bigger picture of the ongoing changes in different parts of the world. Literature often serves as a reflection of the way of life by different societies in the eyes of the authors. In his work Brothers, Yua Hua offers a glimpse of modern Chinese society. Yua Hua’s Brothers thus fits Damrosch definition of literature as “window on the world.”

Yua Hua’s work is centered on the Chinese Cultural Revolution with its impacts being reflected in activities of a typical Chinese family unit.  Yua highlights the struggles between the cruel reality of Chinese society and factions.  The main characters in Brothers are Song Gang and Li Guangtou who are half-brothers. While Li Guangtou has unbridled instincts, energy, inventive and an appetite for both money and women, Song Gang is discrete, loving, moral and introverted. Hua indicates that Mao Zedong was the mind behind the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1966. Zedong objective was to have a firmer grip on government operations as there was the belief that the communist leaders were pushing the country in the wrong direction.

The failure of the “Great Leap Forward” pointed out the weaknesses in the ideologies held by the Chinese leaders.  Through the aid of radical individual such as Jiang Qing, Zedong fought the communist leaders with the objective to reassert a firm authority. The book Brothers attempts to highlight the factors that saw the rise of a personality cult, the rise of chaos, harassment of the elderly and the fading of the Chinese moral values. Yua’s work infers that the Chinese Cultural Revolution saw a shift from communist ideologies to capitalism. Modern society is painted as having little regard for family and virtues.

In Chapter one, Yua notes “it was not until Baldy Li’s fourteenth year, he was nabbed for peeping at five women’s bottoms in a public pit toilet.”  Rather than reprimanding his actions, many men seem to adore him. In the second paragraph of Chapter two, one of the men asks “so, kid what did you see?” The author uses humor to indicate the deterioration in Chinese values. On the contrary, these values appear to have been eroded by capitalism. Contrary to the early years, modern Chinese culture is blended in capitalist ideologies that put minimal regard to social values.

The portrayal of Song Gang as having a high appetite for money and women is a reflection of the ongoing trends in modern Chinese cities.  Modern Chinese cities are marked by prostitution, criminal activities, violation of human rights and other evils. The book is a mirror of the devastating impacts of capitalism as there is the pursuit of money at the expense of social values.  Hua explains that the onset of the Chinese Cultural Revolution can be traced to move by Mao to protect his power.   Other than the two brothers, the villagers are also fascinated by the gold rush.

Currently, the gold rush in Chinese cities can be defined as securing economic power and controlling global operations. Song Gang is used to highlight the prevalence of illegal business operations in the country. Currently, there have been instances where Chinese products have been founded to have low standards and illegal. On the other hand, sexual activities are in major parts of the cities. The author depicts the setting of the modern Chinese culture by referring to Li Guangtou behaviors, the sale of ” stimulating ” products, a reference to contents of false/true virgins. Although the book employs humor and other literal elements, it offers a correct illustration of the ongoing events in modern Chinese culture.

Question Two

Gender is one of the themes that are covered in Chen Ran’s work A Private Life. The concept of sexuality in modern Chinese culture is illustrated through the life of the protagonist, Ni Niunju. At the beginning of the literal work, the author refers to Niunju’s comments “sexuality has never been a problem with me. My problem is different”. Despite the statement, Ran indicates that the protagonist’s life is marked by the struggle to define her sexuality and her precocious beauty. Ran is hailed as one of the most experienced contemporary Chinese women writers and successfully defines Niunju’s life.

Just like major cities, Beijing is depicted as being dominated by men with women being on the receiving end and continuously struggling to define their sexuality.  The author depicts Niunju as a vulnerable character and faces many sexual advances from men and women. The author refers to the attempts by an older woman to seduce Niunju before she entered puberty. The example intrigues the mind of the readers on the concept of sexuality in modern Chinese culture.

It concurs with the trends in the modern Chinese society where relationships are not limited to only to members of different genders.  The example creates the impression that same-sex unions in Chinese society are not a new thing. Since the Chinese Cultural Revolution, there has been a significant shift from the traditional values to global perspectives. In recent years, there have been efforts to uphold and respect different sexualities in the country.

The author also highlights the unwanted affair between the protagonist and her male teacher. The relationship with Ti is an illustration of the women undergo through in Chinese cities in an attempt to define their sexuality and gain recognition from other people. Niunju’s case points out that economic and social problems may push women into committing crimes such as prostitution.  While she later meets Yin Yan, their relationship is short-lived as he is arrested after taking part in students’ protests. After the loss, her life is marked by hallucinations and alienation from other people.  Her events capture the sensibility of a woman who escapes from the contemporary world with the hope of finding peace and a better life.

The Chinese Revolution led to turbulent times and triggered the disruption of social structures. As a female, Niunju fails to fit in the bustling contemporary cities leading to a mental breakdown. While her father secluded her, the widow living next door and her middle school tutor took advantage of her.  While there are many opportunities in politically charged Beijing, women remain vulnerable to social and political instabilities. Action by her teacher and next door neighbor offers real-life examples of the problems of women in modern Chinese cities.

Niunju’s experiences in the city can be defined as having been shaped by her gender. Her inability to keep with the events in the city leads to a mental breakdown and alienation from reality. The psychological situation subjects her to a mental institution for more than two years and shuns the world as she defines it as being unable to understating and accepting her. Through her mental recollections, modern Beijing is presented as having many problems as compared to traditional society.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution saw the erosion of the Chinese values and the creation of a new way of life that was based on money and women. Through her writing, she alludes to the hypocrisy of Beijing as the city preys on the female gender. The situation is compounded by the political and social changes in the country. Political turmoil is one of the factors that subject her to a miserable life. It is the need to counter the stressing events in life that makes her make different decisions such as staying away from other people.

She notes that the situation in the city would only serve to make her condition worse. There are chances that her story would make sense in a society where there are policies and laws that protect the plight of women. On the other hand,  staying away from t Beijing implies that she would not have to deal with the threat of many sexual advancements, social and political instability. The argument rests on the fact that her mental condition is linked to stressing urban life. There is thus the possibility that Niunju would have a better quality of life in a different social setting.


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