What are some symbols in Saboteur?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some symbols in Saboteur are:

1)The statue of Chairman Mao, the peasants, and the pigeons.

The statue sits in the middle of the square before the Muji Train Station. In the story, peasants nap 'with their backs on the warm granite and with their faces toward the sunny sky' at the foot of the statue. The statue, situated in a prominent place, symbolizes the pervasiveness of communism in every aspect of Chinese society. Nowhere is this illustrated more fully than in Ha Jin's description of Mr. Chiu's experience with the policemen. The police control over the populace is absolute; they may arrest anyone, anywhere in the country, for the flimsiest of excuses. The peasants at the foot of the statue symbolize what the citizens are reduced to under Mao's communist tyranny.

The flock of pigeons perched on the statue's raised hand and forearm symbolizes the dictator's incorporation of peace symbols into his communist rhetoric. Interestingly, after the Communist Chinese Revolution of 1949, Flying Pigeon bicycles were approved for public use as the main mode of transportation. China became known as the kingdom of bicycles, Zixingche Wang Guo. These bicycles were viewed as a symbol of equality, promising 'little comfort but a reliable ride through life' for the average citizen.

2)Mr. Chiu's hepatitis.

Mr. Chiu's creative revenge highlights the corruption average Chinese citizens have to face and the lack of options available to them in the battle against oppression; it is only by stealth (as Mr. Chiu's actions shows) that he can best a tyrannical regime intent on his debasement and submission. In this case, however, Mr. Chiu's revenge also ends up hurting those who may be innocent.

Thus, Mr. Chiu's hepatitis is a symbol of the sickness which pervades China during Mao's tenure. Communism has reduced the country to a weak and ineffective shell propped up through tyrannical measures. Any attempt at relief must only result in further suffering and degradation.

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short story "Saboteur" by Ha Jin, Mr. Chiu, a lecturer at Harbin University, finds himself arrested for a crime he didn't commit. In this short story, examples of symbolism are prevalent. At the onset of the story, "the air smelled of rotten melon. A few flies kept buzzing above the couple's lunch" (paragraph 3). The rotten melon can symbolize the rottenness of the situation that is about to unfold as well as the rottenness that exists in communism. This device also sets the scene for Mr. Chiu's arrest. The buzzing flies, like the policemen, are waiting for the opportunity to interrupt Mr. Chiu's lunch with his bride.

Fenjin, the recent graduate from the Law Department at Harbin University, becomes a symbol himself, illustrating the powerlessness of the law to intervene in a country where there is no recourse to fight against injustice. Fenjin is literally handcuffed to a tree, just as the law is bound by the shackles of communism. When tyranny exists, a country becomes lawless.