In this novel, depicting the aborted Communist Revolution in China in 1927, André Malraux presents three types of revolutionaries. Each is attracted to the revolution for different reasons and reacts to the events in a distinctive manner. Ch’en, the terrorist, is shown in the opening scene of the novel in the process of committing his first murder. This experience is so intense that he feels himself separated from those who have been killed. His sense of isolation leads him to believe that individual acts of terrorism are superior to any other form of revolutionary action. He ultimately comes to the conclusion that the only way to have the revolution is to kill Chiang. He initially attempts to perform this act with the aid of two comrades, but the attempt fails. He then decides to perform the deed alone. Ironically, he is killed while throwing himself with a grenade on a car he believes to be occupied by Chiang. Although Chiang is not in the car, Ch’en has died a death consistent with his beliefs, a death that has given his life meaning.
Kyo is the theorist who finds it difficult to reconcile his belief in Marxist theory with the realities of the revolution. For example, although he theoretically believes that no person can be the property of another and that love is free, he is jealous when his wife, May, tells him that she has slept with another man. Kyo is drawn to the revolution because of his belief in the need for human dignity. He loses faith...
(The entire section is 530 words.)