Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no. 3, June-August, 1997
Zhao Zhenhuan, for example, has abandoned his first wife, Sun Yue, for another woman. After the Cultural Revolution, Zhao tells his second wife that they "were thrown together" and have "stayed together by chance: because of the upheaval, but he has never really given his heart to her. "The past is finished and a new era has begun," he says, hoping Sun Yue and Hanhan will welcome him back to their lives.
As for Sun Yue, Zhao is her past, which is to be forgotten. What she treasures is the bittersweet relationship she has with He Jingfu, whom she considers building a life together. He is the part of history she values; Sun Yue says, ". . . my love for you is the crystallization of all the suffering I went through before."
History is a record of regrets for most of the characters, and Hanhan is the product of the burden they carry, yet the girl symbolizes hope in the next generation. She has grown up without the guardianship of a father and worries if her existence is really a "regret," as suggested by her name, of what happened between her parents in the past. In the end, she mediates a settlement for the novel when her relationship with He Jingfu develops, and in her Zhao Zhenhuan finds his "soul" again.
Ironically, the torturer in Dai Houying's novel is not a particular person, but history itself. Each character in Stones of the Wall is a victim who has been swept away by history. The images of suffering also underscore their effort to rebuild their lives after a storm.
Dai Houying. Stones of the Wall. Translated by Frances Wood. London: Michael Joseph, 1985.
Illustration by Billy Lo