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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 360

Hsiang-tzu dreams of owning a rickshaw so that he can be economically successful in the city. The price of a rickshaw is so high that it is difficult for him to afford it. Still, the novel introduces him as a thoughtful, dynamic young man who is willing to sacrifice to achieve his dreams. This is in contrast to the men he works with in the city; each of them are more interested in spending their money than planning for the future.

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Once he owns his own rickshaw, Hsiang-tzu still is not able to completely achieve his dreams. Things out of his control keep getting in the way. For example, he is forced to work for soldiers. He has to run a rickshaw for them after they take the one he saved to purchase. Though he steals camels from them—earning the nickname Camel Hsiang-tzu in the process—he still does not make enough to purchase the new conveyance.

As he works toward purchasing a new rickshaw, he abandons the ideals he had when he first came to the city. He is no longer the kind and respectful young man he used to be. Instead, he is willing to do whatever it takes to make enough money to get back to where he was before he was kidnapped. He loses his savings when his employer's house is raided by the police but still manages to buy another rickshaw with his wife's money.

That rickshaw is sold once Hsiang-tzu's wife dies in childbirth. The only way he can afford to bury her and their child is to sell it and use the money. He slides deeper into depression and does not live the positive kind of life that he hoped to live when he first came into the city. When he finally feels like attempting to be positive again, he secures jobs for himself and his former neighbor—a woman he loved—with his old boss. Unfortunately, that neighbor was forced into prostitution, and she killed herself. This is the final straw for Hsiang-tzu. He abandons the ideals he used to hold dear and lives out his life shiftless, irresponsible, and dishonest.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 848

After Xiangzi’s parents die, he goes to the city of Beijing, bringing with him a country boy’s sturdiness and simplicity. He rents a rickshaw from Fourth Master Liu, who owns the Harmony Rickshaw-renting Yard, to make a living. Unlike the other rickshaw pullers, who are addicted to smoking, drinking, and visiting prostitutes, Xiangzi leads a decent, frugal life. His only dream is to have a rickshaw of his own. After three or four years of struggle and hardship, he saves enough money to buy a rickshaw, believing that the rickshaw will bring him freedom and independence. No sooner does he buy the rickshaw than he is drafted into the army, and his rickshaw is confiscated. Later Xiangzi escapes from the barracks during a night attack, taking with him three army camels. He sells the camels and gets back to Beijing, starting another round of saving money to buy himself a rickshaw. For his theft of the camels, he becomes known as Camel Xiangzi.

Xiangzi deposits the money he made from the sale of the camels at Fourth Master Liu’s place and works even harder. One night Fourth Master Liu’s daughter Tigress seduces him. Ashamed of himself, he leaves Liu’s place to work as a private rickshaw puller for Mr. Cao. Even so, he is repeatedly bothered by Tigress, who pretends to be pregnant. Around the same time, Ruan Ming informs the police of Mr. Cao’s socialist ideas as a revenge for Ruan Ming’s academic failure under Mr. Cao. During the police raid of Mr. Cao’s home, Xiangzi surrenders all his savings, including the camel-sale money he just got back from Tigress, to a secret policeman who is the former lieutenant Xiangzi waited on in the barracks. Tigress then takes advantage of Xiangzi’s misfortune, tricking him into marriage. As a...

(The entire section contains 1208 words.)

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