Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Love Must Not Be Forgotten is a collection of five short stories and two novellas set in China in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. The stories are connected by explorations of two general subjects: the elusiveness of romantic love and the meaning of friendship. The title story uses the device of a daughter’s discovery of her dead mother’s diaries to show the devastating impact of sacrificing individual needs for the greater good. The diaries reveal that the mother had spent the better part of a lifetime devoted to a man she rarely saw, a man who had married a worker’s daughter out of allegiance to the ideal of a classless society. This notion of unfulfilled but undying love inspires Shanshan to reject her handsome, not-too-bright suitor. The story’s insistent didactic message—that it is better not to marry at all than to marry without love—takes aim at societal pressure to marry as well as at arranged marriage, a lingering ghost of China’s past.
Self-sacrifice is added to the theme of unfulfilled love in the novella “The Emerald.” Zeng Linger, a brilliant mathematician, has repeatedly put herself in harm’s way, even suffered persecution, to protect her feckless lover, Zuo Wei. Now she is asked to be the brains behind a computer group to be formally headed by him. The request is complicated by two factors: first, that it is made by his wife, who is a Communist Party leader; second, and more sensationally, that Zuo Wei...
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Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
The equality of women has been an avowed goal of the communist movement in China since the 1920’s. Although Chinese women enjoy a large degree of empowerment, traditions developed over thousands of years impede the effort to reach an ideal of equality. Hence, Chairman Mao’s assertion that “women hold up half the sky” has been promoted with numerous hagiographical stories of superwomen. Zeng Linger of “The Emerald” fits this mold in being a woman with boundless energy and courage, enormous intelligence, beauty, femininity, strong maternal instincts, self-confidence, and unflagging patriotism. This didactic story offers a saint as role model.
The women’s issues and feminist themes of “The Ark” are similar to those discussed in the West in recent decades. In some ways, women in China, for whom International Women’s Day is a public holiday, are more attuned to global feminism than are their Western sisters. As depicted in “The Ark,” however, Chinese women suffer under a composite of local social and political obligations that make mere survival seem to be a feat. The sorrow of woman’s life, so frequent a theme in prerevolutionary China, seems changed in kind rather than lessened by degree in this story. Even so, there is a celebratory note. Friendship enables the three women to survive. They pool their economic resources and give one another substantive help in dealing with family and professional problems. Salvation is found in the...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Dillard, Annie. Encounters with Chinese Writers. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1984. The chapter recounts a meeting between Dillard and Zhang in California. It both gives personal insight into Zhang and discusses the controversy surrounding her work.
Duke, Michael S., ed. Modern Chinese Women Writers. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1989. The essay on Zhang Jie analyzes narrative techniques in “The Ark.” The book includes a bibliography and an index.
Knapp, Bettina. “The New Era for Women Writers in China.” World Literature Today 65 (Summer, 1991): 433-439. Profiles several prominent writers. The section on Zhang focuses on her controversial treatment of love and the Western influences on her work.
Larson, Wendy. Literary Authority and the Modern Chinese Writer: Ambivalence and Autobiography. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991. This scholarly work provides essential information and analysis of the role of the writer in an era of greater artistic freedom in China. It includes complete documentation, a bibliography, and an index.
McLeod, Russell. Review of Love Must Not Be Forgotten. World Literature Today 61 (Summer, 1987): 490. Offers incisive comments on the themes of the stories.
Roberts, Rosemary A....
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