Saboteur Questions and Answers
by Ha Jin

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What are some symbols in Saboteur?

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Three concepts dominate this starkly matter-of-fact story: deterioration, authority, and human warmth. Deterioration comes early in "Saboteur." We see it in the pigeons roosting on the statue of Chairman Mao. This august symbol of the People's Republic has been infested by a common, urban pest. This is reinforced by description of the smell of rotting melons. In both instances, the positive (the cultural reverence associated with Mao and the sweetness of melons) has been broken down by the ordinary and inevitable hand of time. Chiu's sickness has broken him down as well.

Authority is an ironic element throughout the story. The police act out a corrupt authority over Chiu when they intentionally throw tea on his feet, tossing the dregs of their consumption onto the bottom of his being, and arrest him when he complains about it. His stay at the local jail has him completely under the authority of the petty, brutal police, and though he tries to establish his own authority as a scholar, it...

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