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Wild Swans Written By Jung Chang English Literature Essay

Part I

Chapter 6: “Talk About Love”

In this chapter Jung Chang explains in great detail how her parents met and the troubles they had when trying to get married. She explains where they met, how they fell in love and all the troubles they experienced in their relationship because of the lack of privacy people were permitted to have under the Communist revolution in China during this time. Her mother met her father as she was walking into the courtyard of the new provincial government headquarters. She requested that he come and give the students some lectures on Marxist philosophy and history. He offered to bring a select few of the students on a trip to Harbin, which was the Communists temporary capital in the North of Manchuria. Xia-De Hong, her mother was one of the students selected to go on the trip and this is where the two fell in love. Soon after that her father wrote to Jinzhou City Party Committee asking permission to “talk about love”. This just goes to demonstrate how much privacy is taken from citizens in a Communist rule; permission is needed to discuss marriage. There were also certain criteria for people to meet, who had joined the revolution, in order to be eligible to wed. “28-7 regiment-1” is what it was called. This meant that men had to be at least 27 years old and a Party member for at least 7 years, with a rank equivalent to that of a regimental commander. The 1 simply meant that women only had to meet one qualification, and that was to have worked for the Party for a minimum of 1 year. The purpose of this chapter is to express just how much of your life is taken away when you join the revolution. The idea was that everything personal was political. Jung Chang distinguished an important difference between her parents which is her father’s devotion to communism, she describes it as lute, she goes on to say he felt he even had to speak the same language in private as he did in public to his wife. She describes her mother as much more flexible; her commitment tempered by both reason and emotion. Her mother made room for the private; however, her father did not.

Chapter 7: “My Mother’s Long March”

In this chapter Jung Chang describes her parents’ journey to Sichuan and the hardship her mother experiences as she tries to gain membership in the Communist Party. She knew that if she wanted to “join the revolution” she would have to go through “the five mountain passes” which meant adopting a completely new attitude to family, love, profession, life-style and manual labour through embracing hardship and trauma. This is exactly what the purpose of this chapter was. Embracing hardship and proving you are worthy enough for membership in Communism. Her mothers’ group had to walk excruciating long distances everyday covering hundreds of miles through rain, incredible heat, rivers and slippery mud to reach their destination before sleeping in whatever shelter they could find for the night for a few hours, and then starting all over again in the early hours of the morning. Jung Chang describes her mother seeing a man carrying his wife through the river as she was struggling to get through it, and she later learns that that man had given up his drive, which was a right he had earned because he was a part of the Party for a certain amount of time, just so he could walk with his wife. She was envious of this gesture as she watched her husband drive alongside the march in a jeep and never once offered to transport her some of the way or take her bedroll even. As she eventually broke down and cried about this to her husband he reminded her of a very important point, one which even she understood. He told her the hardship was for her own good and she had a simple choice. She could either get into the car or get into the party, but she could not do both. She later miss-carries her first child, of which neither she nor her husband knew she was carrying in the first place, and then is hospitalized for months before getting on a boat and returning to Jinzhou to be with her husband. This goes to show just how important becoming a member of the Party is, and the extremes these people would take to gain this membership, even when it comes down to life or death.

Chapter 8: The Family and Bandits

In this chapter Xia De Hong meets her husband, Wang Yu’s (nom de guerre), family for the first time in Yibin. She meets his mother and his sister Jun- ying and she feels at home, welcomed and loved by the women in the Chang family. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss Chinese family traditions and how they were to change with the adaptation to Communism, it also demonstrates how Communism was unfolding in Yibin and the scatter for enough food to feed everyone. In Chinese tradition when meeting someone or greeting someone new, it was ritual to kneel down and kowtow three times. The Communists said they were planning to get rid of kowtowing because it was considered an “insult to human dignity”. She goes on to explain her mother’s new job assignment in the Public Affairs Department of the government of Yibin County. She did not spend a lot of time in the office because her first priority was to feed the population, which was becoming exceedingly more and more difficult. The Communists needed to supply food to these cities, a few days after Xia De Hong reached Yibin there was a full scale uprising launched in south Sichuan, and this meant that Yibin was in great danger of starvation. Her mother went on many expeditions which took her away for days at a time, what they did on these expeditions was try and build rapport with the extremely poor peasants and convince them that the communists would give them their own land, food and happy life. Most of these peasants had already learned to be afraid and suspicious of any kind of officials. Only few of them had ever heard of the term Communists, and the few things they had heard were all negative. The teams’ goal was to gather information about the landlords and if they got enough they would go and try to persuade them to sell at designated collection points where they would be paid on delivery. This chapter just demonstrates how things are changing drastically in China because of the Communist Party, including traditions and food supply, and that they are not changing for the better.

Chapter 9: Living with an Incorruptible Man

In this chapter the narrator Jung Chang explains her mothers’ new boss Mrs. Ting. She describes how different Mrs. Ting is from her mothers’ old boss in the sense that she gives her more freedom to do what she wants to do, things that being “with the revolution” did not allow her to do. The reason that Mrs. Ting was not afraid of breaking the communist rules was because her husband, Mr. Ting, was a very powerful man; he was head of the Party Organization department for the region of Yibin. The purpose of this chapter is to stress the importance of certain factors in Communism, these include the embarrassment of “criticism” and the distinction between Private vs. Political. Jung Chang describes an incident in this chapter that entails both of these factors well which is the news of Hui-ge, the young colonels’, death. Her mother was devastated to hear he died and on top of this, she was baffled by the fact that he had not been given a proper burial ceremony; which was one of the most terrible things that could have happened according to Chinese culture. Since there was no one from his family left Jung Chang’s grandmother decided to hire a professional undertaker to give him a proper burial. This angered her father so much that he had her “denounced”, which meant she had to attend meetings where she was criticized by other citizens in the revolution. Xia De Hong was very caught in between her husband and her mother’s disagreements; she was also caught between her personal feelings of grief and her political feelings toward her commitment to the revolution. During this chapter Jung Chang is born on March 25, 1952. Her delivery was complicated because while her mother was pregnant she till worked seven days a week and she developed a sickness called TB, which was the development of a two cavities in her lungs. Before she was born the director suggested to her father that her mother be moved to a hospital in a larger city because the facilities there were better and there were more specialists available to fit her case. However, her father refused and said her mother needed to have the same treatment as everyone else because the Communists’ were against privilege. As she thought of this scenario as possibly life or death for her and or her child, Jung Chang’s mother began to wonder whether her husband cared at all if she lived or died.

Part II

Communism is a social and political movement that aims to achieve a classless and stateless society. The way to attain this is to have common ownership of the means of production. Basically everybody in a society is equal, on every level possible. This is what Mao’s China strived to achieve in the twentieth century while he was ruling the country. Mao’s rule was a totalitarian rule, totalitarian coming from the root word “total”. It means exactly that, it is a political system in which the state is under the control of a single political person who sees absolutely no limits with its authority and focuses on regulating every aspect of the private lives of its people; everything becomes political, nothing is personal and privacy nearly does not even exist. Wild Swans is the perfect memoire to demonstrate the hardships of communism and the difficult life that comes with being under totalitarian rule. It was Mao that turned China into a complete totalitarian state. He did this by setting and enforcing many rules to ensure he would achieve the totalitarianism he strived for; these rules were to be followed by the people of China, who were convinced, by him and other propaganda that this was in their best interest.

This book shows the totalitarian nature as it demonstrates Mao’s attempt to remake society and the force of an all powerful leader. This is a memoire of a Chinese family over three generations that experience the “revolution” and the conversion to Communism in China in the nineteen hundreds. The most obvious of the eight features of totalitarianism that is demonstrated in this novel is the attempt to remake society. Mao tries to completely change society by promoting Communism, and forcing it on the people of the Country by making them believe it is what is best for them and their society, benefiting the peasants and poor people as well. “Communists were suppose to live and work among the workers and peasants, as my father was doing, and to know their needs” (175). He even makes them believe that they have to earn the right to be a part of the revolution by making them subject to violence and hardship, putting their lives in danger time and time again. Proving themselves worthy became all that mattered at all. “The decision meant that she could become a full member in one year’s time, if she deemed to have proved herself worthy” (142).

Jung Chang’s mother is a perfect example of this as she tries to earn the right and join the revolution, make her husband proud and carry her first child all at the same time. “She managed to drag herself to the bed and by the light of the lamp she saw that her trousers were soaked with blood. She fainted as soon as her head hit the bed. She had lost her first child. And there was nobody near her” (146). The hardship she experiences and her story is the same story that could be told my many Chinese people of the twentieth century, as everyone was put under the same pressure by Mao to conform to Communism and put under even more pressure if their family, be it their spouse or family, had already conformed. “Once you were with the revolution you could never leave” (146).

It was important to present yourself with pride under Mao’s rule; the Chinese were to be proud and take pride in themselves and protect their dignity. “Under Mao, as in the days of the Middle Kingdom, the Chinese placed great importance on holding themselves with “dignity” in front of foreigners, of which meant appearing aloof or inscrutable” (487).The second feature of totalitarianism that is very prominent throughout the novel is the force of an all powerful leader. The Communist Revolution, that had appeared to be such a good thing for China, had gone wrong. So many were trapped in the revolution by the persuasion of Mao, and now their lives were turned upside down by communism itself. “In 1969 my parents, my sister, my brother Jing – Ming, and I were expelled from Chengdu one after the other and were sent to distant parts of the Sichuan wilderness. We were among millions of urban dwellers to be exiled to the countryside” (379). This was all under the commandments of Mao himself, and no choice was given to the people, just the constant reassurance that it is what is best. “According to Mao’s rhetoric, we were sent to the country side to be reformed” (379). This meant that they were going to be reformed through labour.

The danger and the lives that were put at risk just to achieve“membership” or “rights” in Communism was shocking. As mentioned previously Jung Chang’s mother is a prime example of the near death experiences that occurred due to over labour and over excursion of energy regularly in China. The work hours were long and exhausting and the pay was hardly enough. Besides the excruciating long days, there was not time to strengthen relationships either, no time was made to see spouses or family members at all. “Officials were suppose to work from 8 am to 11 pm; seven days a week, and one or both of them usually came home so late they hardly had time to talk to each other. Their baby daughter did not live with them and they ate in the canteen, so there was almost nothing one could call a home life” (174). Relationships were even threatened in other ways because of Communism because not both members of the relationship always felt as passionate about the revolution as the other, and this caused many conflicts among spouses. “But my father refused; he said his wife had to be treated like anyone else, as the Communist had pledged themselves to combat privilege. When my mother heard this, she thought bitterly that he always seemed to act against her interest” (257).

To conclude, Wild Swans demonstrates the totalitarian nature of Mao’s China beautifully. This memoire pulls you in and makes you feel as though you are experiencing the violence and the frustration right along with the characters. It also brings a clear understanding of a Communist state and a totalitarian government. Many aspects of totalitarian features are demonstrated all throughout different parts of the novel, attempt to remake society is most prominent as it is centrally what is going on in the story. The force of an all powerful leader is also a main focus, as Mao is leading the Communist Revolution.

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