Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Despite the risks involved, he continued to lecture at the universities across the U.S. he also visited France and Germany. All this time he was thinking about China. Student demonstrators were active in China when Liu and his wife wanted to return home. Due to the Tiananmen incident on June 4, 1989, the couple ended up as exiles in the U.S. Liu has no regrets at what he has done with his life. "I have received much more from life than what I lost or had to give up," he says. But he regrets the people of China as a whole have not lived life to its fullest. He wants them to take action as the Tiananmen incident marks "their initiation into political maturity."
The narrator in "A Girl Like Me," however, is filled with regrets. Although she does not accept what fate has bestowed upon her, she does not take control of her life or make any effort to improve it. Anything that goes wrong is blamed on fate. Instead of celebrating her relationship with Xia, she frets at her attachment to him.
As a make-up artist for the deceased, she believes her profession is the root of her sorrow. She dreads the possibility of losing Xia once he sees her workplace. She is afraid because she sees herself as "an extension" of her aunt, who has no friends except for the dead bodies she "embellishes." The narrator's own friends desert her when they learn about her job. Although she has toyed with the idea of changing her profession, she is not determined enough to do so. Self-imposed alienation plays a part in her apprehension. The narrator has no one to confide in or to advise her. This is her responsibility. If she wants friends, she has to go out there and find them or change jobs. Besides, Xia may be an understanding person if she frankly explains her predicament to him. But she chooses to indulge in worries and unhappiness.
By and large, Liu Binyan has chosen the right path and takes advantage of whatever is bestowed upon him. He is pleased with what he has achieved in life. The narrator in Xi Xi's "A Girl Like Me," on the other hand, admits that she has abandoned herself to fate in the choice of profession and has only herself to blame. She chooses the wrong path and spends her life in regrets.
While the narrator in Xi Xi's story "A Girl Like Me" says she is "powerless to fight against fate," Liu Binyan thinks "my fate would be repeated." They both seem to overlook the obvious fact that they themselves alone are in charge of their own destiny. They attribute everything that is going wrong in their lives to fate--a force they are powerless to control. After all, did they not choose their job, or did fate dictate it to them? In Xi Xi's story, the narrator believes she has become "an extension" and a "carbon copy" of her aunt. She does not reflect on the obvious; she was never forced to "embellish" the dead rather than the brides. So the reader questions why she has chosen her line of work.
She chose this job because she wanted to. She will also end up alone because she wants to. She has little faith in the loyalty of her friends, including Xia, her boyfriend. She has no way of knowing that every single one of her friends has deserted her because of her job as a make-up artist for the deceased. She anticipates desertion and believes so strongly it will happen that she does scare them. True friends would stay, but she has given up trying because she believes "happiness is quickly over."
Liu Binyan in A Higher Kind of Loyalty attributes his exile in North America also to fate. He is "pushed to it by the tide." He claims to be "a dreamer" and this is true because he is not a doer. He seems convinced that he will be happy only when China is free and when the Chinese no longer stay in "their individual shells of security." He should listen to his own advice. He must break his shell of security in America and fight for himself before he can fight for China as a whole.
Liu might not "have lived as life should be lived," yet he does have the chance to start living now. And the flowers in "A Girl Like Me" do not have to be a last goodbye. They can be the sign of a fresh start and a new life.
Liu Binyan. A Higher Kind of Loyalty. Translated by Zhu Hong. New York: Patheon Books, 1990.
Xi Xi. "A Girl Like Me." Trees on the Mountain. Ed. Stephen Soong and John Minford.