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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Jaded Garden:a cross-cultural comparison of nostalgic female characters by Pai Hsien-yung and Tennessee Williams Cheung, Wai Lam


This study consist of a comparative analysis of the nostalgic female characters in Pai Hsien-yung's two short stories: "Wandering in a Garden, Waking from a Dream," and "A Celestial in Mundane Exile," and Tennessee Williams's two plays: The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. Beginning with a brief discussion of the socio-historical background of Pai's Republican China and Williams's American South, a general analysis of previous scholarship on Pai and Williams's works follows. The analysis of the selected works focuses on the stylistic and symbolic features in Pai and Williams's characterizations, such as Pai's use of stream-of-consciousness, reference to the k'un opera Peony Pavilion, elaboration over descriptive details of the setting, symbolic use of clothing and accessories, and Williams's symbolic use of music genres: "Blues Piano" and the "Varsouviana Polka," and his use of rhythm and other poetic elements in his characters' speech, in the style of "personal lyricism." My study is based on a close-reading analysis of the selected works by Pai and Williams. Their humanistic approach to their respective declining aristocratic cultures and their sympathy for the nostalgic female characters' tragedies will be more apparent when the study focuses mostly on the texts themselves. Their similar belief in the universal values, such as compassion, sacrifice, and courage, has made their works comparable. In the discussion of themes, the idea of the humanistic role of literature articulated by William Faulkner in his Nobel Prize Speech is also used to connect Pai and Williams's sympathetic approach to their characters.

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