Ha Jin's short story "Saboteur" How was irony used in the short story? What point was Ha Jin trying to make in this story also?

Irony was used in the short story "Saboteur" by Ha Jin. The Communist Party of China is one of the most brutal and oppressive party in the world. This fact is ironic since Mr. Chiu who is a communist, suffers at the hands of his own comrades. The word sabotage is ironic because while they accuse Mr. Chiu of committing sabotage, they are doing it to him! The whole story was an act of irony because even though he had nothing to do with the saboteurs, he becomes the saboteur in this story.

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"Saboteur"  by Ha Jin full of ironic events.The story takes place following the cultural revolution. Mr. Chiu is a communist in good standing which becomes ironic since it is the communist police who create the devastating problems for him.  He and his wife are returning from their honeymoon.  Both are anxious to get to their home.  Mr. Chiu has recently recovered from hepatitis and is still weak.

Irony is at the heart of the story:

  • Mr. Chiu is arrested for complaining
  • The police are the villains
  • The innocent man is charged with sabotage
  • His wife sends an amateur lawyer rather than the best that she could find to save her husband
  • The lawyer is saved by his client
  • The revenge is served at the expense of innocent victims

All of these incidences are ironic in the circumstances of the story.

Sitting quietly eating his lunch, Mr. Chiu is upset when a policeman purposefully spills his drink on Mr. Chiu's  new leather shoes. When he confronts the policeman, Mr. Chiu is arrested and taken to jail. He is charged with disorderly conduct and sabotage. 

Mr. Chiu will have to stay in jail over the weekend to see the magistrate on Monday.  He becomes ill and knows that his hepatitis is relapsing. The authorities tell him that they can do nothing for him.  He rests and fumes until Monday morning.

He is awakened by the sounds of moaning.  Mr. Chiu looks out the window and finds his lawyer tied to a tree after having been tortured. Mr. Chiu has to save his lawyer and himself by signing a false confession. 

After his release, Mr. Chiu feels terribly ill.

In his chest he felt as though there were a bomb.  If he were able to, he would have razed the entire police station and eliminated all their families.  Though he knew he could do nothing like that, he made up his mind to do something. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Chiu becomes the wrongful avenger. He visits several cafes and contaminates them with his hepatitis.  As a consequence, he exacts revenge but on innocent people: eight hundred people contract the disease with six people dying.

Mr. Chiu essentially lands in the role of the saboteur exacting  his vengeance in a public way. 

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The irony is that Chiu is not a saboteur until he is arrested for being one.  He is mistreated and his student is arrested and tortured.  Chiu is just innocently having a meal with his new bride.  There are signs that something is wrong.

The rice and cucumber tasted good and Mr. Chiu was eating unhurriedly.  His sallow face showed exhaustion.

This sentence foreshadows the ending because it tells us that Mr. Chiu is sick.  Hepatitis is a contagious disease.  The police arrest him for disturbing the peace, even though he did nothing wrong.  They refused to give him medical attention for his hepatitis.

In the end, Chiu becomes the thing he never would have been unless the police had mistreated him.  He uses his hepatitis as a weapon to create an epidemic to get back at the government for how they treated him.

The message is clear.  If you mistreat people because you think they are weak, they may surprise you.

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