The Diary of a Madman

by Lu Xun

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Student Question

In "The Diary of a Madman," what does the character believe will end cannibalism?

Quick answer:

In "The Diary of a Madman," the character in the story believes that the children must save themselves from practicing cannibalism by breaking away from their parents, or, alternatively, the parents must not teach cannibalism to their children, leading by example.

Expert Answers

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He seems to believe that not being taught to be cannibals will prevent children from becoming cannibals; they must be prevented from growing up to be like their parents, as the narrator believes that pretty much all of the adults he comes into contact with are cannibals that would like to eat him. Only the children can end this practice by either breaking away from their parents or by being raised by parents who do not teach them to be cannibals.

In the second entry, the narrator expresses his belief that even children who were not yet born when he wronged another person years ago, a man called Mr. Ku, have been

eye[ing] [him] strangely [...] as if they were afraid of [him], as if they wanted to murder [him].

He hears a woman in the marketplace threaten to take a few bites out of her child in order to get out her frustration with the boy. In the eighth entry, he meets a young man who he believes to be a cannibal, and he fears that this man

has already taught his son: that is why even the children look at me so fiercely.

In the eleventh and twelfth entries, the speaker describes his fear that his brother actually killed and ate his sister when she was a child, and, moreover, he worries that his brother may actually have fed pieces of her to him and their mother as well so that they would have eaten her "unwittingly." In the thirteenth entry, the narrator says,

Perhaps there are still children who have not eaten men? Save the children. ...

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