Many works of Chines literature contains themes of revolution. The authors who wrote these works expressed these themes in many ways. One such author, who is considered to be China’s premier author during revolutionary times, is Lu Xun who lived from 1881-1936. Lu Xun is considered to be China’s greatest modern writer by many. He used his writings to place vivid images in the minds of the reader concerning revolution in China and its effects. Throughout this paper, I will discuss Chinese author Lu Xun and how he depicts revolution in his literary work The Story of Ah Q.
Lu Xun, whose real name is Zhou Shuren lived in China from 1881 until his death in 1936. His family raised Lu Xun to have a solid Confucian background. Due to the illness of his father which left the family poor and struggling and the corruption of the government that caused his in literature. Although many of China’s writers during the time period in which Lu Xun wrote and the period immediately following have been criticized and discredited by the political movements that hit China following their writings’ Lu Xun’s writings have managed to escape such criticism. His literary works contain strong revolutionary these, but he was not overly optimistic that radical social change would occur in China. Lu Xun, through his writing paints a picture of his personal vision for Chinese society (See Lu Xun: China’s Greatest Modern Writer). “The intensity and darkness of this vision makes reading a Lu Xun story a moving and disturbing experience” (Lu Xun: China’s Greatest Modern Writer).
The True Story of Ah Q
The True Story of Ah Q is a story that at first is difficult to understand how it related to revolution. It is about a man name Ah Q, who had no family and lived in Weichang at the Tutelary Temple. Lu Xun stated that he had difficulty beginning writing this story because he could not find Ah Q’s sur name or a great deal of accurate accounts about him. But from all accounts Ah Q had no regular work, however, he was known to take his shirt off and get to work when he needed to. He looked down on the people of Weichang and he was made fun of incessantly. It seemed as though the people had no respect for Ah Q either.
Ah Q then began gaining victories against those who challenged him. He won victory after victory in vividly described altercations. This did not establish Ah Q as a well-known figure until he was slapped by a man of importance, Mr. Chao. Receiving a slap from a man of such importance as Mr. Chao helped to build Ah Q’s reputation. Ah Q soon suffered two humiliating losses, being thwacked in the head by one opponent whom Ah Q considered to be a baldheaded foreign imitation.
“There are said to be some victors who take no pleasure in victory unless their opponents are fierce as tigers or eagles; if their adversaries are as timid as sheep and chickens they find their triumph empty” (Lu Xun, p. 79). This is a very poignant quote which Lu Xun included in the story to help the reader understand the mentality of ‘war heroes.’
Ah Q was disappointed when he was not called on as a revolutionary feeling he was left out by the Imitation Foreign Devil. At the end of his life, Ah Q was dragged around by the invading militia men and shot by men in short jackets and foreign cloth. The rest of the towns-people agreed that Ah Q had been a bad man, that is why he suffered such a fate.
The story of Ah Q gives the reader imagery of revolutionary and wartime though a story of one man who was not accepted by the people and found himself fighting. He is an exaggerated character who can stand for an army that fought hard for a time and was eventually defeated. In many cultures, the ‘Ah Q’ forces are not considered to be legitimate, but instead forces of political unrest that are soon quashed. It is only years later, upon hearing their story, that people have any respect for the force and the fact that it existed.
The tale of Ah Q can be interpreted as a story of many revolutionaries in the country of China who stood and fought forces and were arrested by the government. Oftentimes, these revolutionary forces did not gain much support for the common man, however, they did have an impact on Chinese society and government policy. One example of this is the beginning of the national revolution in China that took place during Lu Xun’s lifetime. This movement did not gain a great deal of widespread support at first and the group had to reorganize and fight for the revival of the National Party name. Immediately preceding this revolutionary students, comparable to Ah Q, engaged in protest in Beijing because of a ruling that Japan would retain property that they had gained in a defeat of the Chinese. The May Fourth Movement, as it was called, can be compared to some of the fights of Ah Q, who was a single force in a town where the odds of his victory was stacked against him. Still Ah Q kept fighting for respect and recognition, and years after his life, through the writings of Lu Xun, Ah Q get what he wanted.
- “Lu Xun: China’s Greatest Modern Writer.” Asia For Educators. Columbia University.
Xun, Lu. “The True Story of Ah Q.”