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Summary

When the story begins, Mr. Chiu and his new wife are just wrapping up their honeymoon with a lunch in a city called Muji; after this, they plan to return to Harbin, where Mr. Chiu is a university professor. He is happy to be headed home because he is afraid of a relapse of acute hepatitis (which afflicted him three months prior). During their meal, a police officer throws tea on Mr. Chiu and his wife. Mr. Chiu reprimands the officer and is promptly arrested for being "a saboteur." He is thrown in jail and then questioned by the chief of the bureau who wants him to write and sign a confession to his crime. When Mr. Chiu refuses, he is thrown back in his cell where he begins to feel more and more sick. He looks outside and sees a former student, Fenjin, who he assumes has been sent to help him; Fenjin is being tortured and held. Mr. Chiu is questioned again two days later and offered a written confession that all he need do is sign. Aware that his health is failing and Fenjin is being tortured, he signs, and they are released. Mr. Chiu had "made up his mind to do something" to retaliate against his unjust treatment, and so the pair walk around, eating and drinking in a half a dozen places, Mr. Chiu well aware that he is spreading his contagious disease. This results in an epidemic that sickens several hundred people.

Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Saboteur” is told through the consciousness of Chiu Muguang, a university professor who is arrested and briefly kept in captivity, although the final paragraphs of the story are narrated from the point of view of Fenjin, Chiu’s former student. In a brief epilogue, an unidentified narrator makes clear the motives for Chiu’s strange behavior after his imprisonment.

As the story opens, Chiu and his new bride are having lunch on the last day of their honeymoon in the city of Muji, China. Chiu is looking forward to returning to his job in Harbin, especially because he is worried about having a relapse of hepatitis, a disease that left him debilitated several months earlier. As he and his bride finish their lunch, a police officer at a nearby table tosses tea on the couple. Chiu finds this action inexplicable and lodges a complaint. Instead of apologizing, the police officer arrests Chiu for disturbing the peace. Manhandled when he resists, Chiu is outraged, and as he departs with the police officer he asks his wife to contact someone at the university to bail him out of jail.

Like the officer in the restaurant, the officers at the police station are unmoved by Chiu’s protests over what he believes has been a miscarriage of justice. They ignore his threats and toss him in a cell. Within hours, he is brought before the bureau chief, who possesses a thick dossier to support the police officer’s claim that Chiu has been disruptive and disrespectful. Chiu is astounded when he learns he is charged with sabotage and that his status as a Communist Party member makes his crime worse. The bureau chief shows him several statements from eyewitnesses who support the police officer’s side of the case, then asks Chiu to sign a confession. When Chiu refuses, he is dragged back to his cell.

As he lies in the cell, Chiu begins suffering what he is sure is a relapse of hepatitis. He appeals to one of the jailers for...

(The entire section is 884 words.)