Tradition and Modernity in “A Madman’s Diary”

During Lu Xun’s time, China was witnessing a landmark political and economic change. This was the time for the popular May Fourth Movement in 1919 following the announcement of the terms of the Versailles Treaty that concluded WWI. At this time, the Chinese society was oppressive and feudalistic. The elite fed off the labors of those below them thus destroying their souls. Those in leadership took advantage of the led that lived in abject poverty and without a political voice. The author seems to associate cannibalism with such prevalent social conditions. As much as the madman’s reasoning is flawed, his lunacy points at the social, economic as well as political reality of the time. First, the story begins with different mode where the narrator introduces the diary. It appears as though this is a preface and the point at which the narrator distances from the content of the diary. He goes further to elude that the story is an interesting case for “medical research” there by challenging the authenticity of the story, calling it what it really is a madman diary. It is ironical that the diary serves as evidence of insanity and moreover, despite the fact that the reader would think of madness as indicting Confucianism as a form of cannibalism, it still amounts to a madman’s diary. In the later sections, as in Section 9, the madman, points at want he thinks is the right direction. The right direction is getting rid of obsessions of man eat man society where they want to eat and at the same time afraid of being eaten. In section 8, his brother is reluctant to talk about it explaining that it is wrong for anyone to talk about it. In section 10, his brother fails to answer him and like everybody else looked at him as a madman. They would not change meaning that they would be unwilling to take “that little step.” This is symbolic as it refers to the move from tradition into new thinking; modernism and it only take that one little step, hence his cry to save the children from this mentality, this way of thinking.

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Question 6

The Irony Embodied in the Story

The main focus of Lu Xun’s New Year’s Sacrifice is Hsiang Lin’s Wife. She is described as living under three oppressive powers: that of her husband, her father, and that of religion. The story is representative of the lives of women and their role in Confucian China, it is indicative of their misery and lack of freedom even in death. The story, despite having a title synonymous with religious ritual, is a criticism of China’s traditional values. In the beginning and the end, it examines the failure of one intellectual in making an important decision and asserting himself. He is afraid of the consequences, he founders when faced with the forces he abhors and fails to put into practice what is on his mind. He understood the plight of Lin’s Wife; he narrates it all in details. The narrator’s major weakness is fear of causing disturbance, “things would rather be as they are” attitude, ineptness, middle ground, indicated by the “I am not sure is a must useful phrase” (p. 223). It is such attitude as well as the oppression from the masters that led to her death. The narrator says that “However, I continued to feel uncomfortable, and even after a night’s rest my mind kept running on this, as if I had a premonition of some untoward development” (p. 224). She is the New Year’s sacrifice meaning that her death seemed to be deliberate as much as it could be prevented no one did thereby referred to as a sacrifice. This is a society that is insensitive to the life and death of this poor woman oppressed by the patriarchal system.

Question 2

These remarks are quite in order and it is important to add that it is not only the woman beating his son and the incident at the Wolf Cub Village instill in him the idea of cannibalism, there was also Mr. Zhaos and his dog. It appears everything that was strange according to him had a connection with cannibalism. The madman was paranoid and all he wanted was confirmation that in deed these people he suspected ate human flesh. This led him to further research that did not yield much. He also suspected even his brother and confirmed his suspicion through past experiences and events such as his who died. Therefore, his is a grim past, a confusing present with a hope for better future. The fact that he cannot find tangible evidence on cannibalism from the history books is indicative of a society that is willing to move on, but held back with anti-reform forces manifested in Confucian virtue and morality.