COMPARATIVE ESSAY

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Introduction:

            The modern cosmopolitan city has the potential of holding so many stories and situations which are entirely different from its fast paced life. People have known to live in big cities and have lost the essence of small conversation and feeling emotions. The people living in the cosmopolitan cities tend to have very busy life and they tend to get abstract moments in the most unconventional places. The theme discussed in this essay focuses on the busy cosmopolitan cities and with characters having romantic experiences in situations most unlikely. There is romance and emotions in every aspect of life but people have somehow forgotten to take time and enjoy little joys of life.

The two works discussed in this paper narrate the story of two big and busy cities of China with characters involved in almost dreamy romantic encounters. The theme explores the need for attachment and retrospection along with a philosophical effect. The characters are shown to have a chance encounter with strangers with whom they found solace and comfort for the brief moment of slowed down or stopped busy life of the big cosmopolitan cities (Kirk A. Denton, 2012). The theme reflects a lot about the cosmopolitan structure of cities in which everybody respects each other’s priorities, culture, religion, occupation and personal life but still have a sense of aloofness within themselves.

 

A cosmopolitan city might be busy with its activities but the people living in it might not have the sense of fulfillment of the inner self. This can be shown by the two example considered in the comparative essay (Kirk A. Denton, 2012). Both of the situations show the characters to be caught up in situations of emergency whether it is being caught up by heavy rains or the sealing off of the city due to an air raid. The situation was unconventional where the characters have found their romantic moments. This was the works of literature from eth modern Chinese era where according to Kirk a Denton a transition is occurring where the Chinese traditions were being replaced by continuously changing western ideas and influences. According to Denton these works depict a difficult and complex experience with modernity which is new to Chinese culture and traditions.

The Chinese culture was very different from the western culture and influences of the western culture were evident in these works of fiction by the Chinese authors. The eastern countries were considered more traditional than the western countries and thus the Chinese work of literature was seen deviated from the kind of bearings expected from an eastern country. Kirk A. Denton has done research on the literary thought of the Chinese culture and observed this deviation from the old tradition (Kirk A. Denton, 2012). This was observed as a modern Chinese literary transition in the recent times. It was realized as a break in literary values and tradition by the radically alien western literary values and belongings.

Thesis:

            The thesis comprise of understanding of the changing Chinese cosmopolitan structure, tradition and shifting towards the western trends of managing relationships. The two works considered have similarities in the theme and both of them explored the cosmopolitan life and relations between the characters in familiar settings. The narration is from the first person point of view as well as the third person omnipresent point of view and thus defines the elements of the literature very clearly without personal influences. There were elements of femininity, sensuality and ideas about form and body evident from the representations of the ideal characterization which is essential requirement for fiction and there were comparisons from paintings and literature to suffice with that.

Main Body:

            The first work is written by Shi Zhicun and translated by Gregory B. Lee and is named ‘One evening in the rainy season’ (Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Shi Zhicun, 1905). This was a depiction of the normal routine life of a busy cosmopolitan city of China and is narrated by the first person point of view. This appears as a personal experience of the author and thus has influences from the character. It also has the glimpses of the confusion and uncertainty of the real life experiences as observed by the character himself. The narration takes the readers to the personal journey of the character how he felt confusion, bindings and an unusual force when he has a close encounter with a girl in the heavy rains that he considers as her long forgotten first girlfriend. It was about a man who was returning from his work and has a chance encounter with a lonely girl caught up in the heavy rains and how he was so much driven towards helping her out in the situation.

The depiction however, was clearly giving evidence of a dream like situation because of the occurrences. The author states that he was attracted towards the girl because he was alone and became very eager to help her in the difficult situation where no rickshaw was available and the downpour was going on for long time. The author thought in the starting that she was just a good looking girl caught up in the bad weather but when he offered her help and get a bit closer to her he thought she was her first girlfriend whom he remembers from his childhood, “Ah yes! Now I had it! How was it possible that I couldn’t recall her! My very first girlfriend, my schoolmate and neighbor. Judging from her profile, wasn’t she just like her? We hadn’t seen one another for years.”

At starting, he was a lot hesitant of even offering her his help but he could not left her in the bad weather as she was alone without even an umbrella. The man was married as he was referring to his wife who was waiting for him at home but still he was very much content and in the moment, with this girl whom he thinks as her long lost girlfriend (Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Shi Zhicun, 1905). He was confused with the thoughts of her getting committed and married without thinking that he was also not in a position of being caught alone with her as a married man. This showed the romanticism he felt towards her which almost dragged him for two hours observing her and later helping her out. He was not bothered about people staring at them and was busy with his thoughts about her.

At one point of time he also remembers watching his wife at a shop staring them enviously, “She looked at me with melancholy eyes, or perhaps she was looking at her. Suddenly it seemed that I’d stumbled across my wife.” Although it was his mere imagination depicting his inner turmoil as the girl and the narrator both were stuck in this awkward situation under one umbrella that if anyone knowing them would see them can get confused over their relationship which was actually nothing but situational. The theme was however depicted itself throughout where strangers can get involved in a romantic situation in the rush of the cosmopolitan city (Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Shi Zhicun, 1905). It presented the inner dilemma of the protagonist very well where he wants to have something different from his regular life and it also appears that he remembers his old girlfriend like this. The whole situation has an air of confusion, suspense and curiosity.

The second work was by Zhang ailing and translated by Karen Kingsbury and is named ‘Sealed Off’. This was the depiction of two strangers met on a tram ride and ended up falling in love. The air of suspense was rather high as in the end the reader feels whether or not the chance encounter happened. It was narrated from the third person point of view and the two characters were named Zongzhen and Cuiyuan (Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Zhang ailing, 1921). Zongzhen was a married man while Cuiyuan was an unmarried young teacher not happy with the way her life is going on. She appears to be in a desperate need of love and attention as the story reveals her being in a situation where the stranger offers to have an affair with her and she seems to like it. This was extremely untraditional from the point of view of Chinese literature.

The two characters meet in the tram during a sealed off where they get to talk about each others’ life and understanding their situation (.Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Zhang ailing, 1921) It also depicted the strange fact of the cosmopolitan life style of working continuously and still not having pleasure in the materialistic things as Zongzhen says “In the morning I go to work and in the evening I go home, but I don’t know why I do either. I am not the least bit interested in my job. Sure, it’s a way to earn money, but I don’t know who I am earning it for.” Cuiyuan seems to understand him completely as he talks about his wife being not being able to comprehend him and says “You seem to take diplomas very seriously. Actually, even if a woman’s educated it’s all the same.”

The situation of the second story was rather an imagination as it appeared in the end because the man was depicted seated at his old seat in the tram and the tram started again which was a clear indication that it was all dream by the girl who is bored of her mundane life and probably wanting to be with someone badly (Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Zhang ailing, 1921). This was also one of the reasons that Kirk A. Denton considers a deviation in the Chinese traditions of literature and the shift was towards the western values of literature (Kirk A. Denton, 2012). This also presents a strong feminism and has a strong portrayal of the modern woman who does not want to be bound up with traditions again denoting towards a western set of values.

The two strangers in the story shared their problems and challenges in life and were very comfortable in the company of each other which was unusual because they were both coming from good households with loving parents and spouse. The story emphasized about the inner contentment of being understood and well received. It also brought up issues of shallow lives people lead in the big cosmopolitan cities where they are busy earning money but actually don’t know for whom as they have no love for their life (Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Zhang ailing, 1921). The need of being understood and not just being judged by the set of values and rules was a new tradition appeared in this story. Both the characters were happy with each other and found solace in the tensed situation of a sealed off inside a tram.

Discussion:

            There were some very apparent similarities and differences as well in the two works considered. The main similarity was the fact that it has the same romantic theme in the backdrop of the big, busy cosmopolitan cities of China.  There were mainly two characters given emphasis which appear strangers, which are stuck in an emergency situation bringing them together. There was a dream like situation in the end making the reader ponder over the story as an imagination. The differences however were in the story telling. In the first work the characters were stuck in the heavy rains while for the second work the characters were stuck because of the air raid which sealed the city and put off the movement of the tram they were traveling in.

The kind of romanticism which is deviating from the traditional themes observed in Chinese literature was coming as an influence from the western values of literature as observed by Kirk A. Denton. Chinese literature was more traditional and prone to narrating themes which were inclined towards cultural belongings and less of the westernized romanticism. The work of fiction though conceived well has essence of the western culture in it and it was well noticed and documented by Kirk A. Denton in his essays on the literary thoughts under the name ‘Modern Chinese Literary Thought’ (Kirk A. Denton, 2012). The two works discussed have shown the type of portrayals and characterization which would promote a westernized view of the situations.

The protagonists deviating from the reality and being in a situation with the ideal lover and ignoring the spouse or family was a type of situation common in the western literature of fiction. In both the works the situation in the end reaches a point where the two characters consider each other their lovers and it does not matter that it was for a brief period of time. In the first story the author lies to his wife at home that he was with a colleague having tea and cakes and in the second story the female protagonist who is not happy with the way her family treats her thinks of having an affair with a married man. Both these propositions were a big deviation from the point of view of Chinese literature.

There was use of simile and metaphors as well to beautify the text and prose as the beauty of the woman was compared to a painting or a pretty piece of literature. There was vivid depiction of the feminine beauty in both the works and the female protagonists were given importance. The settings were however very similar, and they were supporting the somewhat romantic background of the fiction stories where the characters were caught up in the strange and lonely situations. Another very important deduction from the paper was done from the findings of Kirk A. Denton on the Chinese literature which was inspired by the western literature lately (Kirk A. Denton, 2012). The narration for both the works was strictly based on the cosmopolitan style of living in the developed big countries of the world.

Conclusion:

            The theme discussed in this essay focuses on the busy cosmopolitan cities and with characters having romantic experiences in situations most unlikely. There is romance and emotions in every aspect of life but people have somehow forgotten to take time and enjoy little joys of life. The two works discussed in this paper narrate the story of two big and busy cities of China with characters involved in almost dreamy romantic encounters. The theme explores the need for attachment and retrospection along with a philosophical effect. The characters are shown to have a chance encounter with strangers with whom they found solace and comfort for the brief moment of slowed down or stopped busy life of the big cosmopolitan cities.

Chinese literature was more traditional and prone to narrating themes which were inclined towards cultural belongings and less of the westernized romanticism. The work of fiction though conceived well has essence of the western culture in it and it was well noticed and documented by Kirk A. Denton in his essays on the literary thoughts under the name ‘Modern Chinese Literary Thought’. The two works discussed have shown the type of portrayals and characterization which would promote a westernized view of the situations. The protagonists deviating from the reality and being in a situation with the ideal lover and ignoring the spouse or family was a type of situation common in the western literature of fiction.

In both the works the situation in the end reaches a point where the two characters consider each other their lovers and it does not matter that it was for a brief period of time. There was vivid depiction of the feminine beauty in both the works and the female protagonists were given importance. The settings were however very similar, and they were supporting the somewhat romantic background of the fiction stories where the characters were caught up in the strange and lonely situations. There was emphasis given to the story narration, setting, femininity, and characterization to bring the elements of Chinese literature of fiction. Thus, the two works have similarities as well as slight differences in narration and treatment.

A very important deduction from the paper was done from the findings of Kirk A. Denton on the Chinese literature which was inspired by the western literature lately. According to Denton these works depict a difficult and complex experience with modernity which is new to Chinese culture and traditions. The Chinese culture was very different from the western culture and influences of the western culture were evident in these works of fiction by the Chinese authors. The eastern countries were considered more traditional than the western countries and thus the Chinese work of literature was seen deviated from the kind of bearings expected from an eastern country.

References:

Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Shi Zhicun, 1905, One evening in the rainy season, The Columbia anthology of Modern Chinese Literature.

Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt, Zhang ailing, 1921, Sealed Off, The Columbia anthology of Modern Chinese Literature.

Kirk A. Denton, 2012, Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893 – 1945.