Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The tone of this story is as humorous as it is somber. When Lee Mun tempts Fong Wing to go to the House of Ten-Thousand Delights with him, the latter, after a long period of hesitation and deliberation, finally admits: “If I lose all my money again in fan tan game, old woman will nag me without rest.” Lee Mun’s inquiry about his daughter’s age makes Fong Wing suspicious; he looks sharply at Lee Mun and rebukes him: “Too young for you.” When the police raid the gambling house, Lee Mun refuses to run and hide, telling Fong Wing with a shrug of his shoulder: “I wait for police. They always wait at back door anyway—and I am too fat for closet door.”

The story is, however, a comic-tragedy, using humor to create comic relief as the story pushes its conflicts to a tragic ending. It is tragic not in the sense of experiencing physical death but in an emotional one. For Fong Wing life without hope is like “a hollow gourd, there was left only the shell of the past.” It is true that one must know one’s past before determining where one is going. In Fong Wing’s case, however, the memory of the past serves only to confirm the meaninglessness of the present and the hopelessness of the future. This tragic undertone of the story is accentuated by the fact that the beginning of a new year does not bring Fong Wing hope, but only agony; it does not bring him change, but only reminders of the emptiness of his life. Fong Wing ends where he starts,...

(The entire section is 465 words.)