Lu Xun writes about the impending doom for China because he hates to see the homeland he loves diminish. The Story of Ah Q and The Madman’s Diary are both scornful critiques of Chinese traditions, values, customs and ways of life. He is able to express his underlying text by the uses of irony and symbolism. The Story of Ah Q and The Madman’s Diary are both prime examples of Lu Xun’s work that forewarns the citizens of China that the traditional way of life will lead the entire nation to a impending doom. Each story written by Lu Xun delivers a different message to the readers, The Story of Ah Q attacks the bad attributes that Lu Xun thought every single Chinese had.
. The Madman’s Diary is a direct strike at the most popular ideology at the time, Confucius. Lu Xun brought about these issues because he believes they are the pieces that are holding China from becoming a world power. He has hopes that the Chinese citizens can take the themes from these stories and translate them into their own life’s. The Story of Ah Q was a depiction of a low class citizen in the village of Weichuang who embodied the distasteful traits of the traditional Chinese population. Ah Q was not a respectable man in the slightest; he did not possess any positive qualities and was not respected by anyone in the village.
Some of the attributes that made up his personality were close-minded, arrogant, selfish and disingenuous to himself. Lu Xun made this character so that he could showcase every bad characteristic that was possessed by most Chinese people. Lu Xun attempted to built the readers disgust for Ah Q so that the citizens of China may realize that they are Ah Q and work on reforming themselves. Through out the short story of Ah Q, Lu Xun makes references to distasteful Traditional Chinese attributes such as insubordination of Women, China being disingenuous to itself by riding too high on their pride, and mimics China for their poor coordination and direction during the revolution. The treatment of women as second-class citizens can go far back as the traditional Confucian ideals.
Lu Xun is bashing common practice and hopes that people can see that a problem is present. Ah Q thinks that he may need a wife to start a family, but then goes on to rant about how women have been the downfall of so many great empires. He considers them “a menace to mankind” and admits that they are naturally liars and whorish. Lu Xun must have realized that a true indicator of whether a country is “modern”, is by seeing how women are treated in the culture. The insubordinate Ah Q got into many fights, all of them resulted in him getting beaten senseless by people from a bar where Ah Q goes.
But he does not walk home a sore loser, he feels as though he walks home a champion. “It is as if being beaten by my own son,” says Ah Q. Ah Q views his attacker as his son, thus giving him a psychological victory. Ah Q can attain this psychological victory because of the Confucian teaching of respecting your elders and never to raise a fist. Ah Q views himself as the elder and demands respect from everyone he meets.
Ah Q feels more righteous and divine that he does have to use his fists in order to show his power over everyone. The deceitful intellect he views himself having makes him think he is far superior. Ah Q’s moral victories signify the habit of the Chinese of asserting their superiority even if it means ridiculing themselves. The revolution in the story bring upon two points of attack for Lu Xun. He first starts with the lack of revolutionary spirit that Ah Q possesses and goes on to criticize the hypocrisy of the revolution.
When Ah Q first hears about the revolution he is excited to join because he could finally gain power and steal other people’s stuff. This is mocking the often misguidedness of the Chinese population when it comes to large-scale movements, such as breaking away from the Qing Dynasty and the May 4th Movement. While Ah Q is trying to become involved in the revolutionary movements, he walks in on a affluent revolutionary group and the swiftly kick him out. The elite of the town who are in the revolution only want to include other high-class citizens thus making it an elitist movement. Ah Q represents the masses of people who were ignored during the May 4th revolution, thus making it unsuccessful since only a percentage of the population, the elites, were actually involved in the revolution.
No matter what happens to Ah Q he still tells himself that he is better than everyone around him. Much like China will always views itself as the superior no matter what flaws or defeat they encounter. As Ah Q is about to be publicly executed for committing revolutionary crimes, he noticed that the crowd watching wanted something more than him just to die, they wanted to eat his soul, cannibals. Ah Q believed that the traditional Chinese system could eat away at a human beings life. The story of A Madman’s Diary is a tale of a journal written by a man who is perceived to be mentally insane by everyone who knows him.
The subtext can tell the reader something different though; the diary written by the sick man is actually a scathing analysis of traditional Chinese customs. Lu Xun’s goal in writing this expose was to enlighten the Chinese population on how traditional values are holding them back from enjoying the perks of “modernism”, such as democracy and science. The madman in the story is engrossed in the possibility that every single person that he meets and or sees wants to eat him. He must deal with alienation and struggle in an era where individualism is not tolerated. As he is consumed by his paranoia, he wants to find the history of cannibalism.
While he is reading Confucian Virtue and morality, he can only read the words “Eat People. ” The lingering influences of Confucius on Chinese traditions are harmful to Chinese society and need reformed. The madman who is reading the text is the individual and the people who want to eat him represent society, and the acts of cannibalism seizes society’s common practice to tear down anyone who lives out side “normalcy” and shatter tradition. Lu Xun believes that societies should act like evolution by changing rapidly, if no changes occur then the society is just eating its self because it cannot progress forward. An illness is diagnosed by people who know the madman and the readers of the story, but the madman is the only one who can actually see the truth the other are hiding from.
The ugly truth that everyone in China is trying to hide from is something Lu Xun calls the “iron house. ” He claims that the people of china are being suffocated while they sleep. He writes this story to help wake them from their somber and make them realize they are trapping themselves in the “iron house” by conforming to traditional ideals. Lu Xun gives a creative ending to the story by having the madman be cured and ends up working for the government. This makes the reader wonder what government is the madman working for, did his hopes of a new government prevail or did he get trapped into the traditional government.
Lu Xun ends the story with hope that the children who have no yet be warped by Confucius ideals to save the future of the Chinese empire and bring about social change. But change is something that Lu Xun may not even feel is possible, he is sincerely writing this piece to wake people up in the somber of the “iron house”, not to necessarily motivate them to activate change. Lu Xun was an extremely brave writer at the time and provided the necessary sparks to light the fire called the May Fourth Movement. Lu Xun gave the masses a purpose of what to strive for and advice on how shed traditional ways. Even though Lu Xun gives great purpose behind each of his recommendations for bringing China to a better place, I do think that his goals are unrealistic.
Breaking out of a millennia old practice is going to take more than two short stories, but it’s a start. It is truly up to the new generations to decide the fate of China, whether its impending doom or a prosperous future.