Writers are concerned with social problems. They employ a style that is delicate, sentimental, poetic, with a predilection for private diaries and letters written in the first person. The female characters wish to live differently. The subject here, in fact, is the conflict between love and revolution. A choice had to be made. It was impossible to have both at the same time, as Ding Ling clearly pointed out in her novel Spring in Shanghai nianchun Shanghai. The woman must choose. Either she sacrifices love to the revolution or else she sacrifices the revolution to love.
In this regard, she is no different from her male counterpart, who is also obliged to choose. The romantic style is succeeded by narrative that is realistic, objective and usually devoid of lyricism. Political and ideological consciousness prevails over literary consciousness. Men and women are alike in their revolutionary commitment.
During the s, in the big cities controlled by the Japanese, some women, such as Zhang Ailing and Su Qing in Shanghai, still took a passionate interest in the problems faced by men and women living together. The book was reprinted 11 times in a few months. One small detail is revealing: despite the revolution, problems between women and men are still the main subject for the Chinese reader.
She is constantly in flight, searching for a more ambitious life, for an ideal associated with the masses. This was the third period. It was an empty period, or almost. Zhang Jie, for example, defends the idea that women are not a sex, but human beings. And such writing raises a strong echo.
Writing adopts a strongly masculine xiongxinghua tone. Such women no longer live for the revolution, and they do not any longer commit themselves to ideological battles in the name of their homeland; if they commit themselves, it is to make their voices heard, to win their place in society. And the society they want is an egalitarian one.
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First, as early as , the novel by Zhang Jie 3 Love is Not Something You Forget Ai shi buneng wangji de had to face criticism that has still not died away. Paradoxically, in a country like China where divorce is traditionally frowned upon, divorce is seen to be on the increase. How does a Chinese woman view this change? How does she adjust to social conventions? It is true that this theme was also massively present in the literary output of the first half of the twentieth century.
But a new dimension has been added. The young woman portrayed in Fields of Life and Death Shengsi chang , , by Xiao Hong to is no longer a model. They claim not only the right to love but also the right to divorce as well as an equal place with men in society. This claim to an equal place strongly marks the writing of the past twenty years. But today, as women enter professional life, how can these duties to family, marriage and profession be combined? Do they not depend on an attitude of mind? The novel describes this conflict, which eventually breaks up the relationship.
The intellectual woman is crushed in the end by social and family restrictions. She can no longer breathe freely. The figure of this female intellectual represents an irony that reappears in her most recent novel, Weary of Divorce Lande lihun : the heroine is still an intellectual, but is unable to feel. She is impervious to emotion. We are far from a happy ending, and the reader cannot see what solution there could be. On the contrary, she is crushed by the need to maintain the other two roles, those of mother and daughter, as in Hunt the Stag in the Middle of the Street Zhulu zhongjie.
The story is told in Notes of poems for singing, yesterday and today Gujin yuelu , a work from the fifth century Nanchao Dynasty: a heroic woman full of common sense, loyalty and family honour. The writing expresses this wish for equality: it is neutral, or rather male. It is no longer the traditional image of the half-veiled face, or the face hidden in the sleeve. No longer will she measure herself by men, or dispute with them her social position.
Here, the most extreme solution is likely to be sought. When a woman is humiliated to the last degree, experiences an attempt to rob her of humanity, to reduce her to a thoughtless existence, has she the right to end her life, rather than fight the attempts to degrade her? Has she the right to decide her own destiny? Wo shi shei? We are at the start of the Cultural Revolution. The female character Wei Mi and her husband Meng Wen are dreadfully beaten by the revolutionaries.
They are forbidden to let their hair grow. Their heads are half shaved. Meng Wen cannot stand these humiliations any longer and kills himself. His wife, Wei Mi, is on the edge of madness. She too ends up committing suicide. At the start of the s, in Chinese literary circles, the protest expressed by the novel led to a debate on humanism. She is exclusively interested in the women of her own time. Employing a style both cold and keen, she paints conflicts that set tradition in opposition to the modern spirit, the civilised world to the animal world, the desire for independence to the dependent existence.
Like Rousseau, she is sensitive to the process of civilisation: in her view, this is the source of the suffering endured by women. A similar case is examined in Roses Round the Door Meiguimen. The female character, Si Qiwen, is ready to fit in with the family and society, cost what it may, but in the end her efforts only make her cruel.
This region in the north of China offers an immense territory for her fiction. Her novels recall the writing of Xiao Hong, a woman writer in the s. She uses the oral and popular style, full of humour and irony. Perhaps it allows the narrator to keep her distance. This detachment reminds us of Bertolt Brecht who sought to maintain an empty space between the actor and the spectators.
In her novel World-Weariness Shijibing , she tells of the lives of present-day students and explores their states of mind. In , with her novel Bottoms Up to the Past Yu wangshi ganbei , she turns her attention to the experience of women living in a great city. In a direct and detailed style she describes the interior lives of women intellectuals, living without men. The style is autobiographical; the communication becomes very intimate, a shared intimacy between the narrator and the writer.
The main character is Ni Aoao, a single girl, headstrong and over-sensitive, living only within her own mind. The narrator is immersed in her world of senses and desires, refusing the lies and concealments in her private life. Her novel A War of a Girl with Herself Yigeren de zhanzheng relates the emotional life of Duomi, a girl who, having suffered terribly in a world regulated by men, turns in upon herself. She is in love with herself.
This unusual kind of love, and the naturalist descriptions of her sexual experiences and of her psychological torments, came in for severe criticism. Yet, the writer says at the start of her novel:. A war of a girl by herself means that one hand fights with oneself, that oneself has only a wall to shelter against, that a flower destroys itself by itself. A war of a girl by herself means that a girl marries herself. This tragedy is grasped in all its immediacy and developed over the course of the narrative. The timescale is set within this interior space: this is a time outside time.
Memory becomes extremely subjective, which leads to a fragmented, dispersed style. In her work, there are no more women driven to the tomb by the suffering caused by an unfaithful lover, the traditional ending of novels.
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- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Work: A Research Companion.
A woman no longer believes in tears or promises: she lives for herself. She follows her feelings without allowing herself to be overwhelmed. All beauty is an encounter.
Women's literary feminism in twentieth-century China
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New Woman in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction | Purdue University Press
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