The True Story of Ah Q Characters

Lu Xun

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ah Q

Ah Q, an impoverished, homeless man in his late twenties who loafs around the village where he lives and earns his living by working at various odd jobs. Lean and weak, he has a bald spot on his head, a physical blemish caused by scabies that often makes him the butt of jokes among the people of the village of Wei. Whenever he suffers humiliation, however, he is always able to find solace and even triumph through his imagination. He leads a relatively quiet, though obscure and insignificant, life in the countryside until one day when the entire village rejects him as a result of his proposition to a maidservant, Wu Ma. Because of this incident, people avoid him and refuse to give him any work. To continue his livelihood, he leaves for the city. After returning to the village, he is later falsely accused of robbery and eventually is executed.

Chao T’ai-yeh

Chao T’ai-yeh, an influential country squire. Somewhat educated and in middle age, he is greedy and unkind, especially in his treatment of Ah Q, whom he sometimes employs for odd jobs. When the revolution of 1911 breaks out, he safeguards the money of Pai Chü-jen, a gentleman from the city. In the end, some people break into Chao’s house and steal Pai’s money. Chao has to pay a small fortune to the local official to clear his name so as to avoid being accused by Pai of swindling his money.

Pai Chü-jen

Pai Chü-jen, a well-educated man of the gentry class living in the city. After leaving the village of Wei, Ah Q serves in his house for a short period of time. Because of his uncertainty about the revolution, Pai sends some of his property to the Chao family for safekeeping when the revolutionaries enter the city. He...

(The entire section is 721 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Lu Hsun has placed his protagonist, Ah Q, in a fictional village modeled on his own hometown of Shaohsing. Ah Q certainly represents the outcasts of society that Lu Hsun saw there. Yet the author also intends that his character be more broadly based. In not giving him a surname, personal name, or place of origin, and in not giving a concrete description of his facial features, Lu Hsun has universalized Ah Q into the Chinese Everyman.

Ah Q does not think about the significance of what he sees or the consequences of what he does. When he causes Amah Wu to run screaming from him after his indecent proposal, he does not see how this is connected with Mr. Chao’s ensuing anger. When he teases the Buddhist nun, he is only aware that it is causing the village idlers to laugh and approve. He is totally in the dark as to the meaning of the revolution, and understands only that it is a means of redressing old grievances and settling the score with his various enemies.

Ah Q also embodies other traits which Lu Hsun believed were injurious to the welfare of a nation struggling to enter the twentieth century. Ah Q adheres to old-fashioned prejudices, such as the feeling that women are inferior creatures, which have been the downfall of men throughout Chinese history. Especially damaging is Ah Q’s habit of accepting defeat and rationalizing it as moral victory. At one point, the narrator satirically refers to Ah Q’s “victories” as proof of China’s...

(The entire section is 594 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Fokkema, Douwe. “Lu Xun: The Impact of Russian Literature,” in Modern Chinese Literature in the May Fourth Era, 1977.

Hanan, Patrick. “The Technique of Lu Hsun’s Fiction,” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. XXXIV (1974), pp. 53-96.

Hsia, T.A. “Aspects of the Power of Darkness in Lu Hsun,” in The Gate of Darkness: Studies in the Leftist Literary Movement in China, 1968.

Lee, Leo Ou-fan, ed. Lu Xun and His Legacy, 1985.

Lyell, William A., Jr. Lu Hsun’s Vision of Reality, 1976.