Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
by Sekou Russell
Sun Yue, the main character, was most harmed by the persecution but at the same time she is the strongest in the novel. Xi Liu praises her for being "as brave and optimistic as any man." She sees the shortcomings in the system, but she has not given up faith in it. However, she is changing in this regard, especially since the Little Xie incident. There is a feeling of having been contaminated by the "dirty water" which is everywhere -- hypocrisy and injustice of the system.
Her admirer, He Jingfu, is the academic dreamer. He is an archetypal character who, with outstanding scholarly knowledge, plunges into the lower classes of society to discover himself. He is the closest to the author's ideal, or what the author would like to be if she were in this situation. The Little Xie incident has changed He Jingfu's life because his diary was seized, distorted, and read in public, making him a social outcast. He then retreats from his friends to work as a manual laborer. He is, however, in love with Sun Yue. His disappearing act is as much an attempt at erasing the socio-political past as forgetting Sun Yue.
The plight of He Jingfu attests to Xi Liu's cruelty. He is the kind of person one finds in every country, the spineless bureaucrat with the appearance of drive and talent, but is weak and hypocritical. Xi Wang, Xi Liu's son, sees his father for what he is and bluntly chastises him. He asks his father if he feels "some sense of responsibility" for the "pretty crazy" measures executed by the government.
The younger Xi, however, is too bitter to be able to accomplish much in terms of real dialogue with his father and is bound to leave the family. Xi Wang is typical of the kind of extremism that founded the Communist system, which is based on revolution. He seems to care about people, but perhaps only on an abstract level. Xi Wang deserves the "world heavyweight revolutionary person" title.
Xu Hengzhong, Xi Liu's former aide, is somewhat bitter and quite sardonic and pessimistic in his statements, but he seems to harbor amorous feelings for Sun Yue. He is aware that in his world "crooked times seem more natural than straight ones." He tries to avoid thinking about it and concentrates on his own welfare. He knows he has "become a hypocrite," but he also knows "honest people suffer." At the prompting of Xi Liu, he wrote an emotional poster to attack He Jingfu during the Anti-Rightist Campaign. Xu tends to avoid putting himself in a minority, for he believes that "the tree that stands out in the forest will be blown over." That is his philosophy of life. In short, he is a mere shadow of a man.
Dai Houying. Stones of the Wall. Translated by Frances Wood. London: Michael Joseph, 1985.