Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Readers familiar with the literary tradition will see parallels between this story and the work of European writer Franz Kafka, especially Der Prozess (1925; The Trial, 1937), a novel in which a man is arrested and tried for a crime he did not commit. In Ha Jin’s story, as in Kafka’s work, the power of the state to deal summarily with its citizens is revealed as arbitrary and frightening. In “Saboteur,” the individual who has been wronged is able to achieve some measure of revenge. In doing so, however, he merely stoops to the level of those who have perpetrated injustice on him; there is no sense that retribution is justified.

The central literary device used in “Saboteur” is irony. Readers sense from the beginning that actions and consequences are disconnected and arbitrary. The arrest of Chiu is ironic, because he has committed no crime. The willingness of the citizens of Muji to come forward to give testimony against a visitor to their city is ironic because they do not know him. The arrest and torture of Fenjin is ironic because he had come to Muji as Chiu’s savior. Chiu’s intent to infect the citizens of Muji with hepatitis is ironic because by doing so he has become like his captors, a person who inflicts punishment on the innocent simply because he can.

Ha Jin is particularly effective in conveying this irony because he uses a controlled, understated style of writing that relies on simple sentences to...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Saboteur Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Banks, Russell. “View from the Prison Camp.” New York Times Book Review, October 10, 2004, 1.

Garner, Dwight. “Ha Jin’s Cultural Revolution.” New York Times Magazine, February 6, 2000, 38.

Geyh, Paula E. “An Interview with Ha Jin.” Boulevard 51 (2000): 127-140.

“Individualism Arrives in China.” New Perspectives Quarterly 20 (Winter, 2003): 13-21.

Moore, John N. “The Landscape of Divorce: When Worlds Collide.” English Journal 92, no. 2 (November, 2004): 124-127.

Nelson, Liza. “Ha Jin.” Five Points 5, no. 1 (Fall, 2000): 52-67.

Schwartz, Lynne S. “Emigres Looking Homeward.” New Leader 85, no. 5 (September/October, 2002): 26-28.

Stimpson, Catharine R. “Academics in Literature.” Academe 90 (May/June, 2004): 51.

Werner, Arnold. “Waiting”/“The Crazed.” American Journal of Psychiatry 160, no. 12 (December, 2003): 2249.