Read "Regarding the Problem of Newborn Piglets in Winter" by Chen Rong. Discuss how one theme related to the Cultural Revolution and one theme about a more universal topic (such as love, family...
Read "Regarding the Problem of Newborn Piglets in Winter" by Chen Rong. Discuss how one theme related to the Cultural Revolution and one theme about a more universal topic (such as love, family relationships, identity) is developed in the story. Discuss how the themes are developed and do not merely state them.
Set in post-revolutionary China, Chen Rong's short story "Regarding the Problem of Newborn Piglets in Winter" offers a satirical critique of the vestiges of communist bureaucracy through the theme of blind obedience to orders. In the case of the communist leaders and cadres depicted in the story, obedience correlates with ego gratification as they struggle to find personal and professional meaning amidst a failed political system. The fictitious problem of saving piglets from dying in the winter initially stems from the impulsive idea of Secretary Zhang Dingfan, and by the end of the story, it turns into a nation-wide mandate as the order is transmitted from the top levels of hierarchy downwards. Naturally, each level of bureaucracy feels momentarily important as it is entrusted with the responsibility of enacting the directive, in spite of recognizing its emptiness and absurdity. The blind obedience of each committee leader and cadre reflects the similar soullessness of the communist bureaucratic system. Significant time, energy and resources are fueled into a fruitless task as Mammy Guo, an experienced pig farmer, inherently knows how to protect her piglets in cold weather without the "help" of government orders.
Rong also comments on personal and family identity in the short story through the theme of selfishness. Many of the older generation of comrades, such as Zheng Dingfan and Xu Quan, care more about appearing important than about listening to the needs and wants of their families. For example, at the outset of the story, Dingfan doesn't engage with his granddaughter, Babe, at all, and only rouses himself from a nap in order to self-importantly issue the directive to save piglets. Similarly, when Xu Quan receives the order to check on the piglets, he worries he will be blamed if he doesn't obey, in spite of his wife's chastisement that he only thinks about his needs and not those of his family. She states that Xu Quan could be making much more money to support his family by working in the rice fields, but he dismisses her by saying that he's too busy with meetings. His selfish behavior and personal identification with Maoist ideals has crippled his family's prospects.