The stories in Love Must Not Be Forgotten explore the social problems and the role of the individual in China in the early period of revisionism after Chairman Mao’s final, corrosive campaign to institutionalize revolution. Although the Cultural Revolution is questioned, it is not repudiated outright as it would be a few years later. Instead, both “The Emerald” and “The Ark” end with a clear expression of support for socialism, as the heroines vow to work for their country and contribute to the perfection of socialism. In this way, the author demonstrates the constrictions of China’s authoritarian political system in that the writer must meet certain criteria in order to be published.
China’s turning away from certain traditions such as arranged marriage has made marrying for love a political issue, as seen in the controversy over Zhang’s title story, which was criticized in China as being too Western in its idealization of love. The theme of love makes Zhang Jie’s stories reminiscent of eighteenth century English novels, but with a postexistential twist—that a life lived without love is an unlived life. Zhang, however, believes that the lived life does not depend on the longevity or mutuality of love. As Zeng tells a young widow in “The Emerald,” even one day of deeply felt, reciprocated love is enough, for it is more than is accorded many people.
The deeply sentimental tone of Zhang’s stories, combined with their critique of social problems, echoes Victorian works, which, by her own admission, have influenced the author. Yet Zhang’s stories reinvent the mode. Unlike her Victorian prototypes, Zhang’s social problem stories focus not on the lowest classes of society but on middle-level...
(The entire section is 716 words.)