“Regret for the Past” is set in the 1920’s, when Chinese youth felt lost in their quest for free love. Cohabitation, the boldest gesture of free love, often resulted in the lovers’ being disowned by their relatives and in general ostracism. On December 26, 1923, Lu Xun gave a talk titled “Nala zouhou zenyang” (“What Happens After Nora Leaves Home?”) at the Beijing Women’s Normal College. His message, resembling Virginia Woolf’s in A Room of One’s Own, is that women must have economic rights. Without economic power, Nora, after leaving home, will either be a puppet in the hands of her sympathizers, die in poverty, or become a prostitute. Lu Xun’s desire for radical social and political reform led him to consider the practical steps and basic obstacles between Chinese society as it was and how he would have it.
“Regret for the Past” tells of Zijun, the woman, and Juansheng, the man. Zijun experiences romantic love with “a childlike look of wonder.” This naïve love, which enables the heroine, temporarily, to become her own mistress and defy her society, cannot survive long. Zijun escapes the fate of traditional marriage, but she falls into the cage of traditional married life. She becomes dependent on her man. She reduces herself to a housewife, devoting herself to waiting on him. Her fight with neighbors for her chickens and dog indicates how trivial her life has become. The dog, whose name means “Follow,”...
(The entire section is 544 words.)