Essay Sample: The Condition of Chinese Women in "The Field of Life and Death"

Published: 2022-12-01
Essay Sample: The Condition of Chinese Women in "The Field of Life and Death"
Type of paper:  Argumentative essay
Categories:  Women Gender in literature
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1955 words
17 min read

The "Field of Life and Death" is a Chinese story written by Xiao Hong in the year 1935. The narrative features a setting in a village near the Harbin city and examines the difficulties that people in China experienced in the 1920s and 1930s. Specifically, Xiao-Hong uses peasants as an ironical representation of the low-class women in modern China by how they oppressed the landlord. Throughout the novel, the persistence of survival, as well as resistance from oppression dominates the main focus of the author when describing women experiences in modern China. Xiao Hong carefully uses the woman condition when representing life and death in rural China including the description of the peasants' tolerance, resistance, and fatality. Xiao Hong does give information about the male characters, but the main focus of the novel seems to be on the female characters that have more struggles and suffrage. Through the feminist and anti-male chauvinist attitude, Xiao-Hong describes the condition of Chinese women in the "Field of Life and Death." The feminist perspective, symbolism, female tenacity, resistance, and fatality deserve a detailed investigation to expound on the Chinese women condition that conflict with the traditional norms, not caring of their children, courageous and able to make better decisions than men and oppression among other attributes.

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The feminist perspective is the meaning behind the story as the author seems to present an internal conflict of the traditional male-centered approach and the female character regarding the old-styled norms and the situations they endure in their families. Based on the analysis of Wang's female character as well as the related plots, the feminist perspective describes the Chinese women condition as unsupportive of the traditional norms that required women's role in the family as a wife, daughter, and mother. The woman's activity should only revolve around the house and family. Chow (91) states that the patriarchal organization in traditional China consigns women to domesticity and their thinking should only revolve around home chores. In the traditional norm, the world of a woman is to submit and remain subjective to the male gender within the family setting. While women in the novel are described as facing hardships, it is evident that the author' intention is to explain the logic of fear that Chinese women were expected to have towards the men, and adhere to domesticity. However, Xiao Hong's story subverts the traditional patriarchal norm and gives the feminist perspective more voice to represent women changing their roles in the family.

To expound on the feminist perspective in the story, Xiao Hong breaks the old-style family rules that made women remain stuck behind for many years. Wang is a woman character used to demonstrate the feminist perspective in the "Field of Life and Death." Xiao Hong presents Wang as an independent lady with the ability to make choices in life. Wang married different men and did not care much about the children from previous marriages. This is evident during the conversation between Wang and the widowed woman who asked: "Is your first husband still alive?" (Hong 19). The context of this conversation helps the reader to learn about the several marriages of Wang. The statement gives the thesis statement a different meaning of the feminist perspective that women in China were doing things differently from the requirements of the traditional norms.

In support of the changing roles of women in modern China, Xiao Hong compares their condition with animals as a symbol of assumed parental duties, a behavior that is worse than that of beasts. Such an incident is evident when Wang narrated about leaving a three-year-old child to die as a way of demonstrating the uncaring attitude of the modern Chinese woman. Mother Wang was addressing the two neighbor women by saying that "The Child was three when I let her fall to her death" (Hong 10). Leaving children not attended and getting married several times are behaviors not acceptable in the traditional patriarchal norm. However, the behavior of mother want shows the Chinese woman trying to escape from the male-dominated world where oppression surpassed the obedience to human and spiritual values by requiring females to stay with the first husband or get married only once. The sought of freedom seems to be an emerging aspect of the Chinese women condition whereby a female like mother Wang was able to make own choices in life.

Still, on the feminist perspective, Wang's behavior of leaving the child to fall and die in her absence reveals the condition of the Chinese women in the novel not caring much about their children when compared to the traditional role of women to care for their families and kids. The author refers to the women as animal-like in their habits and characteristics. Animals got greater care and compassion than the children as the earlier were considered profitable. Such an instance is evident when Wang was narrating her story to the two neighbor women by stating that "I left her on the haystack when I went to feed the cow" (Hong 10). When Wang returned to check on the child, the baby had fallen from the top of the haystack and died. Wang does not care about the situation as "The death of a child is nothing. Do you think I'd moan and wail over that?" (Hong 11). From the above aspects, the Chinese women are ignorant and devalue humanity just like the men who devalue the females. It seems that the material aspects provided their sustenance and assumed the spiritual aspect of life. Therefore, the authors' description of the modern Chinese woman condition focuses more on other things such as the farm/vegetable garden and not the children. From these scenarios, the author wants to present the Chinese woman condition as changing from the caring mothers in the patriarchal organization to a less caring parent who can leave their children unattended.

The feminist perspective in Xiao Hong's story is evident in the relationship between the mother and children. The Chinese woman condition is not intimate as it is implied in the traditional role of a mother to love and remain close to the children. When reading through the experience of Golden Bough (Hong 19), the reader finds out that Boughs' mother, Wang is not close to the daughter. Even though the Wang loves Golden Bough, the narrator goes ahead to implicate that the mother's love is not intimate. In the scenario when Golden Bough ruined the vegetable, the mother was more concerned with the plants than the daughter. The author wants the audience to understand the change of times and concern of the modern Chinese woman who is more concerned about material things such as vegetables than children. Therefore, resistance from the bounds of the traditional rules is a major aspect that Xiao Hong wants the audience to learn regarding the Chinese woman.

Chapter 14 of the text expounds on Wang's uncaring behavior towards Golden Boughs. Mother Wang is presented as unwelcoming after Golden Bough came back from the city. Hong (73) states that "Mother Wang walked over. She hadn't seen Golden Bough for many days, yet she didn't stop to talk." When Wang stood to speak to Golden Bough, the only concern was Boughs' return to the city and never come back as life in the countryside is not good. Similar to the above statement, the above statement elaborates on the author's intension to provide the reader with a condition of the modern Chinese woman who cares less about the children but more on material things including money. The notion is to reveal the lack of motherhood in the Chinese woman by portraying the woman character of Wang as not caring and less concerned about appropriate parenting. The feminist perspective seems to influence the women away from their families and responsibilities as parents.

Female tenacity is an idea that revolves around the entire novel with the Chinese Woman presented as having more capability of achieving the intended goal than the males. Xiao Hong uses the character of Mother Wang to reveal the intelligence and suitability of the Chinese woman that surpasses that of men. In many of the roles taken by Wang in the novel, the success exceeds the males' capability of achievement. One of the instances that the reader encounters female tenacity of the Chinese woman in the story is when mother Wang conceals the action of revolutionary by hiding the guns owned by the men. Wang is also presented teaching the husband, Zhao on "how to put in the gun powder" and loading the buckshot (Hong 37). The incident reveals Wang as having more courage in leadership and creativity, an attribute that led to Zhao begin respecting his wife. Zhao did not imagine that Wang as a woman could possess such courage to get the husband a gun and load it. The author's intention here is to demonstrate how the men underestimated the ability of a woman in society. However, the modern Chinese woman seems to possess unusual power and courage to lead even the men in times of war. This idea supports the thesis on the notion of Chinese women as enduring challenges unlike the male expectations in the society.

Female tenacity of the Chinese woman is also evident in the story during the second anti-Japanese Revolt. In the earlier Chinese tradition, men were the only ones allowed to participate in war. Xiao Hong in the novel seems to differ with this view since the women including widows took their own with the gun and took part in the revolution. According to Hong (68), men had high respect for women in the Revolutionary Army because of the rules and regulations that were too harsh to meet. This scenario presents the Chinese woman condition as getting recognized in society and that the females can also perform men's jobs. The authors' intention here is to describe the revolution that subverted the traditional declaration that it is only men with the right of taking part in a war. The change brought about in the Revolutionary Army demonstrates female tenacity and the ability to persevere similar situations as men in modern China. In contrast, Zhao as a male character is labeled as old and useless. Being one of the male leaders in the revolutionary, Zhao is in self-denial of the old age, useless and "an old nationless slave" (Hong 73). When examining the description of the male's character to that of the females in the novel, a reader understands men's incapability in contrast to the female's abilities of tenacity as well as persistence to endure pain and soreness. While critiquing Xiao Hong's work, Liu (209) stated that the feminine character of the Chinese woman in the novel dispels the masculine stereotypical image of men. The author wants to show that the female superior capacity over men in the novel is changing the old-fashioned way of viewing women 'useless' in the society.

Bingying (52) supports Xiao Hong's view of female tenacity by explaining that the traditional picture of a woman the incapability of becoming a soldier because of the military life that was regarded as dry and mechanical as soldiers were subjected to absolute obedience. Women were considered to be not strong enough to endure the kind of hardship that the military was required to go through in the revolutionary. However, the thing was changing, and men began realizing the ability of the woman in entering the military during the revolution. For the Chinese woman, joining the military was one way of escaping early marriage. During the revolution, women in China entered the army as one way to avoid the fate of forced early marriage by their parents (Bingying 52). Based on the thesis statement, the argument expounds on the notion of resistance from the traditional Chinese lifestyle helped the females achieve their goals.

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