Analyze the style of writing for "Black Walls" by Liu Xin-Wu. Do you feel that the short story was simplistic or complicated in style? If so, explain why the author may have chosen to write the...

Analyze the style of writing for "Black Walls" by Liu Xin-Wu. Do you feel that the short story was simplistic or complicated in style? If so, explain why the author may have chosen to write the story in such a way and if it aided in your understanding of the theme in any way.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Liu Xinwu is best know for being "post-Maoist" in regard to his literature (and "Black Walls" is no exception).  The basic story is about a resident named Zhou in a Maoist tenement who paints the walls of his tenement black one morning.  (In fact, the entire story takes place during these mornings' events.)  As your question suggests, the style of the short story directly reflects the theme of the substantial shift away from Maoism.

In my opinion, it is a very simple aspect of style (the italicized timestamps) that reflect the genius of a complicated idea: the Maoist "judgmental social structure" is ending.  The organization of the short story is incredible (and even rigid).  This is purposeful in order to show the control of the past Maoist regime.  The morning when Zhou paints the walls of his tenement black is organized chronologically and in an exact format.  The expectations of Mao himself are echoed here!  Liu himself had very strict censors analyze his work almost on a daily basis.

Now let's look at one section of the short story as a specific example.  Note the following timestamp:

Five, no, four to eight

As a timestamp, these five words sound absolutely absurd!  The strict censors of Liu during the reign of Mao were totally unrealistic as to expectations of artists.  These five words are a satire in themselves!  They are a humorous depiction that an artist should not be asked to deal with himself/herself as some kind of statistical realist.  Why is this so?  Because the italicized timestamp records an author who is writing a fairly long sentence.  During the writing of this sentence, the time changes. 

Further, Liu uses this method during the entire short story, implementing the satire of this unrealistic expectation of artists during the time of Mao.  As a result, the short story progresses in a chronological line.  This style is an absolutely perfect reflection of his theme.  How can an artist, and specifically an author, remain true to himself and/or independent in his craft while forced into a collective, homogenous, strict environment? 

Thus, I must conclude by saying that the word "simplistic" would be a negative description of an ingenious idea!  To use timestamps to degrade the Maoist past is so very interesting!  Yet, the idea is also not necessarily "complicated."  Therefore, let's conclude by saying that a simple element of style led to an ingenious example of post-Maoist idealism.

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