Selected Stories of Xiao Hong Summary
Xiao Hong was one of the best writers in modern Chinese literature. Her short stories, which are related to her novels in theme, characterization, and style, are essential to understanding both Xiao Hong as a Chinese woman writer and her creative development. This collection contains nine of her most representative short stories arranged in chronological order.
“The Death of Wang Asao” was Xiao Hong’s first attempt at fiction and was a collaboration with her common-law husband Xiao Jun. It actually appeared in their self-bound anthology of short stories and essays, Trudging, in 1933. The story is lyrical as well as class-conscious. It portrays the tragic death of Wang Asao under the cruelty of Landlord Zhang. Wang Asao has three children, but they all die. She adopts the homeless waif Little Huan as her daughter. Her husband, Big Brother Wang, is docked a year’s pay by Landlord Zhang because the horse he is using to work for the landlord breaks its leg. He is driven crazy by anger and burns to death in a haystack fire set at the order of Landlord Zhang. Then the pregnant Wang Asao is kicked by Landlord Zhang and dies in childbirth. The story ends with Little Huan, again homeless, rolling on the ground and bawling like a baby. Despite their sympathy for the dead, the other farmhands never come to see the cause of their deaths, and they even praise Landlord Zhang for his compassion.
“The Bridge” (1936) shows Xiao Hong’s unmistakable feminine style. Through poetic fluidity and musical refrains, Xiao Hong recaptures the tragic fate of a Chinese woman who is called by her husband’s name, Huang Liang, adding the diminutive “zi.” Huang Liangzi is married to a poor man and bears a child on the eastern side of the bridge, but she has to nurse a rich man’s child on the western side of the bridge. The callings from the both sides torture her, split her personality, and confuse her mind. In the end, her own child falls from the bridge into the ditch and drowns. By using expressionistic images, the author subtly questions the inequality between the rich and poor without didacticism.
“Hands” (1936) is Xiao Hong’s best-known story. The story reminds the reader of Jane Eyre’s tough experience at boarding school. Its heroine, Wang Yaming, who comes from a family of dyers with blackened hands, is not rebellious, however, but all-forgiving and self-effacing. Although she is treated as a laughingstock by the headmistress as well as her classmates, is forced to sleep in the hallway, and is forbidden to join the morning drill, she accepts her fate bravely. By caricaturing Wang Yaming, the author skillfully satirizes elitist cruelty as well as the slavish mentality of its victims.
“On the Oxcart” (1937) is also one of Xiao Hong’s best stories. The first-person narrator functions as a sympathetic listener. Through Aunt Wuyun’s sad but touching tale, told in an oxcart on a peaceful ride in the country, the story indicts the evils of war, which not only make men desert their wives but also turn them into deserters who are fated to be executed.
“The Family Outsider” (1937) is an autobiographical tale. Although the seven-year-old narrator is the spoiled insider of the family, she forms an intimate tie with the family black sheep, Second Uncle Yu. Her honest voice constantly seduces the reader back to his or her own childhood.
“Flight from Danger” (1939) portrays a sham revolutionary called He Nansheng, who encourages his students and colleagues to resist the Japanese invasion while he himself flees with his family. The story shows the influence of Lu Xun and Lao She in probing the diseased psychology of its protagonist. The story was later developed into the comic novel Mabole.
“Vague Expectation” (1939) captures the maid Li Ma’s love longings for Liu Lizhi, a bodyguard who joins the army to fight for the nation. It is the only tale in the collection that has an optimistic ending: In Li Ma’s dream, Liu Lizhi wins...
(The entire section is 1,186 words.)