Based on "The Kite Streamers" by Wang Meng, discuss one theme that is related to the Cultural Revolution and one theme about a more universal topic such as love, family relationships, or identity....

Based on "The Kite Streamers" by Wang Meng, discuss one theme that is related to the Cultural Revolution and one theme about a more universal topic such as love, family relationships, or identity. Also discuss how these two themes are developed throughout the story.

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kjtracy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wang Meng is a prolific author who faced exile and censorship during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. His story "The Kite Streamers" explores a variety of themes within this context, but personal identity and love are perhaps the strongest.

The Cultural Revolution and Identity

"The Kite Streamers" is a tale about the turmoil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The main characters struggle to come to terms with the various ways in which their beloved country has changed after the political revolution. While Mao promised progress at the beginning of the revolution, they soon feel the effects of violence, censorship and authoritarianism. Through the lens of the main characters, Wang explores the nature of the Chinese Cultural Revolution as it relates to personal identity. The author himself was exiled as a result of the revolution and forbidden to write during most of this time, which gives the story an intensely personal feel. Set against the backdrop of a nation in which the government places tight restrictions on all expressions of personal identity, including creative endeavors, "The Kite Streamers" offers a powerful examination of the self. Despite the tumultuous nature of the times, Wang explores the idea that it is possible to find your identity even in the face of great censorship and oppression.

The Theme of Love and Relationships

"The Kite Streamers" focuses primarily on a young couple caught in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. They face not only political upheaval in the outside world but significant pressure in their private relationship as well. The young couple begins the story with a sense of idealism and, as they grow both as individuals and as lovers, that naive optimism is tempered by the reality of their situation. The couple is constantly torn between their dreams for the future and the societal expectations that threaten to consume them. This story is told in the stream of consciousness style through an omniscient observer, which allows the reader to gain a unique understanding of how the characters see each other. The theme of love in the Cultural Revolution is also explored through the concept of restriction. The oppression they experience is so severe that they feel there is nowhere safe for them to go together.

melodyhml eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Kite Streamers" tells the love story between a young couple named Susu and Jiayuan. It is set in Beijing in the late 1970s at the end of the Cultural Revolution. Although their relationship faces challenges from their society, family, and economic conditions, they strive to support each other in the pursuit of their dreams.

The Cultural Revolution advances the major themes in this story. The upheaval has not only crushed the dreams of the younger generation, it has also indoctrinated certain social views among the general public, such as knowledge is useless, love should serve the communist ideal, and humanity is evil in nature. Most things the couple do in this story, however, are against these views. They learn foreign languages, fall in love without investigating each other’s political background, and believe in helping others even if doing so may harm their own interests. This makes life a lot harder for them, but they have conviction that they are doing the right thing.

Another important theme in this story is the power of dreams, which is what the title, “The Kite Streamers,” symbolizes. Susu and Jiayuan share the similar experience of being sent to the rural area to serve the communist cause and returning after many years through great endeavors. Not given the chance to receive a good education, they have been forced to take very basic positions, as Susu is a waitress and Jiayuan is an umbrella mender. Initially, Susu is disappointed and foresees dim prospects, but Jiayuan’s perseverance awakens her desire to chase her dream. This is how the story turns romantic. They come together and encourage each other to study hard and work hard for their dreams, whatever the results may be.