This book relates events in the last year of the life of Ah Q, a village idler and odd-jobber in the Chinese village of Weichuang. The unnamed narrator gives the reader a satirical first-person perspective on the shortcomings of the Chinese national character as mirrored in Ah Q and his fellow villagers. The story also provides a commentary on the state of the revolution which had occurred in 1911 and had supposedly done away with the feudal elements of society.
After confessing himself to be unable to ascertain Ah Q’s surname, personal name (thus he is called Ah Q in lieu of a correct name), or place of origin, the narrator gives a series of vignettes showing Ah Q and his relations with his fellow villagers. It is immediately apparent that Ah Q lives in a world of self-deception. He frequently gets into quarrels with village idlers and is invariably bested by them, the disputes ending with Ah Q having his head knocked against a wall five or six times. He additionally obliges his enemies by calling himself an insect and a beast. Ah Q nevertheless manages to rationalize these defeats into victories by claiming moral or psychological superiority over his opponents.
His relations with the more influential villagers are no more amicable. Mr. Chao, whose son has just taken his bachelor’s degree, despises Ah Q as a no-good and slaps his face upon learning that Ah Q has been bragging that he is related to the Chao clan. Ah Q himself hates the “Imitation Foreign Devil,” a student who has just returned from Japan and wears foreign dress. Apparently, Ah Q is even more disturbed by the fact that this person is wearing a false pigtail than he is about the young man’s selling out to foreign ways.
One day, Ah Q encounters a young Buddhist nun in the street and proceeds to tease her unmercifully, pinching her cheek and taunting her about monk-nun...
(The entire section is 771 words.)