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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Walking out of darkness: a study of the characters in Turbulence and The Old Boat Zhou, Xiuyan


This M.A. thesis is a critical study of two contemporary Chinese novels: Jia Pingwa’s Turbulence and Zhang Wei’s The Old Boat. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the two novels’ achievements and limitations in portraying the images of Chinese peasants in the reform era. Chapter One provides the synopses of these works and discusses their repercussions in China. It also gives a brief account of the authors’ backgrounds and the two novels’ social and literary milieu. Chapter Two discusses the thematic similarities and differences of these works, with an emphasis on the ideological breakthroughs demonstrated in the themes. Chapter Three and Chapter Four analyse four groups of characters, mainly from the social and historical perspective. The first group consists of the protagonists. Discussion concentrates on the characteristics of these protagonists as educated peasants and the conflicts between the opposing desires and values within their respective temperaments. The second group is made up of two characters who believe in “combating evil with evil”. The complexities of their personalities and the meanings of their failures are explored. The third group comprises the villains. Attention is focused on the negative aspect of the peasant revolution and the influence of the clan system. The fourth group includes a few supporting characters. Chapter Five deals with the artistic techniques employed by the authors in characterization. It examines how the two authors present the personalities and feelings of the characters by the reproduction of their speech and movement, or through the descriptions of the physical settings. This chapter also probes the functions of the symbols used in these works. Chapter Six draws some conclusions based on the above discussion. It points out the meanings of these works in the context of modern Chinese literature.

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