Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
by Sarah Tan
The present disallows Sun to forget her past, of which she is "tired." At work, Xu Hengzhong and Xi Liu constantly talk about the political purges during the Anti-Rightist campaign in 1957 and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. At home her daughter reminds Sun of Zhao Zhenhuan, her former husband. Memories of a happy marriage make her sad. Although the girl's name has been changed to Hanhan from Huanhuan, she remains a legacy to the couple's love relationship.
While Sun Yue does not indulge in self-pity, Xi Xi's narrator blames everything that happens to her on fate, and does not make an effort to change her situation. She has become a "carbon copy" of Aunt Yifen, but seems willing to follow in the older woman's footsteps which may even lead to a better life.
Hope does bring cheer to both Sun and the narrator. If it weren't for Hanhan, Sun says she "wouldn't want to go on living." As for the narrator, she lives for the chance of "embellishing" Aunt Yifen and making her a "sleeping beauty" in death.
Yet both women live in self-imposed isolation. The narrator's self-doubt is an impediment to verbalizing her feelings and to making friends or keeping them. How can others comprehend her thoughts if she does not express them? Xia may not leave her if she frankly tells him about her line of work. -- a make-up artist for the deceased.
Sun Yue also locks up herself in her own world as Xi Xi's narrator does. Even Hanhan, the dearest to Sun, cannot understand her mother. "Fine, if you're going to lock things up, I'll lock things up too," Hanhan thinks. As well, Sun is reluctant to express her amorous feeling for anyone, and keeps a distance between herself and He Jingfu, her admirer.
Ironically, both women long for someone to love them. The narrator, who lives among the "sleeping friends" of hers, craves for human warmth. Although Sun has many friends, she needs a man who loves her and gives her a sense of security. She compares herself to "a feather tossed in the east and west winds," looking for a place she can call home. In a dream, she is a lonely individual in a cold wasteland filled with people, and a man in this crowd is looking for her, but she does not know his identity.
If Sun Yue and the narrator ever meet, they can be good friends. Despite their different experiences, they can console each other. The bond may even stimulate them to take bolder moves in life.
Dai Houying. Stones of the Wall. Translated by Frances Wood. London: Michael Joseph, 1985.
Xi Xi. "A Girl Like Me." Trees on the Mountain. Ed. Stephen Soong and John Minford.