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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Loss in Chen Jo-Hsi's fiction McClanaghan, Lillian


Chen Jo-hsi's two anthologies, Yin Xianzhanq (Mayor Yin) and Lao ren (Old Man) and her novel, Gui (Repatriates) depicts social and political conditions in China during the Cultural Revolution. Chen shows the effect of Cultural Revolutionary turbulence on the individual by focusing on his experience of loss. This study examines Chen's use of irony, imagery and psychological profile to portray the various forms of emotional, spiritual and physical losses sustained by her protagonists. Chen's fiction also reflects her seven year sojourn In China during which she experienced disillusionment and a loss of faith in the Marxist dream. Based on Peter Marris' model on loss and grief as outlined in Loss and Change, Chen's work can be seen as a literary catharsis for the tension that arises from her experience of loss and her subsequent resolution of grief. Marris' theory posits that an individual successfully resolves his grief when he is able to abstract meaning from the lost relationship and reformulate it in terms of his changed circumstances. This grieving process helps to explain a change in Chen's fiction from social commentary to political polemic and a corresponding decline in literary quality. In Mayor Yin she is content to merely document the losses sustained by her protagonists stemming from the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution. Essentially, her, fiction at this stage shows her attempt to record and validate her China experience. Her restrained tone and skillful use of structural and situational irony, nature Imagery and psychological portraiture to portray her protagonist's response to loss distinguishes this anthology from Old Man and Repatriates. As Chen's purpose of serving China is reformulated, her didactic style undermines the artistic integrity of her fiction. In Old Man Chen's compulsion to protest leads to intrusive commentary and manipulation of plot and character. Repatr iates which is an autobiographical document of Chen's journey towards the resolution of her loss also shows the effects of her renewed purpose. She resorts to using her fiction as a platform to protest against political oppression of the individual and to support basic human rights for the Chinese.

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