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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Zhang Ailing's experimental stories and the reader's participation in her short stories and novellas Teichert, Evelyne


This thesis is an in-depth analysis of three later short stories "Lust and Restrictions" (Characters Omitted),"Flowers and Pistils Floating on the Waves" (Characters Omitted), and "Happy Reunion" (Characters Omitted), written by the 1921 Shanghai born Chinese author Zhang Ailing. The analysis takes a look at the structure of these short stories and discovers that they differ from her earlier short stories, that is those she wrote ten years earlier in the 1940s, in their structural and narrative approach and thereby place a greater demand upon the reader's participation. These three stories are the only short stories by Zhang Ailing that do not develop in a linear fashion. The author introduces them in the preface of the anthology Sense of Loss by calling the second story "Flowers and Pistils Floating on the Waves" an "experiment." Because of their similar structural and narrative approach, I called all three of them "experimental" which really means the same as "modernists", to distinguish them from her earlier linear stories. The three major characteristics of the experimental stories, that is—the narrative happening in the character's minds, the chronological distortion of the narrative and the almost invisibility of a narrator large subordinated to the character's presence—all have the effect of bringing the reader close to the characters' subjective thoughts and reflect the characters' state of mind in the stories' present time, depending on the frequency of the switches between the times, that is between the past happening in the characters' minds and the stories present time. The reader's participation in these three stories is largely due to the narrative structure while in some of Zhang Ailing's lienar stories, as examined in this paper, it is based on the stories' content. The political changes in China, and the author's move away from the mainland could account for her increasingly pessimistic outlook on life reflected in the disjointed structures of the "experimental" stories.

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