“Saboteur” by Ha Jin is the short story I chose to do my literary analysis on. It is a story about a man, recently married, sitting and having a meal with his new wife while waiting for their train to arrive. Next to the couple, a couple of police officers acting rowdy splash tea onto Mr. and Mrs. Chiu’s feet. Mr. Chiu stands to reprimand and complain about their inappropriate behavior, only to be taken to jail. While in jail, he is pressured to make a false confession blaming himself for being arrested due to public disruption. He refuses and is placed back in his cell. He wakes up to find he Fenjin, a former student and lawyer in the jail, and realizes that his wife is probably the one who send him to rescue Mr. Chiu. The authorities end up holding Fenjin, the lawyer, under arrest as well. This forces Mr. Chiu to falsely admit guilt as his only option out of jail; meanwhile the pain from his diseased liver is getting worse. As Fenjin and Mr. Chiu are released, Mr. Chiu does a strange thing and purchases meals from various locations only to have a few bites and then move on without finishing. Ironically, within the same month, an outbreak of hepatitis occurs in this town that Mr.Chiu was arrested.
The assumption of the reader (me) is that Mr. Chiu used his illness of hepatitis as a weapon in retaliation of those who made him suffer. Considering Mr. Chiu was wrongly captured and resentful for the lack of justice in the way the officers abused their power, including the false statements by witnesses in the area, the payback for revenge was hepatitis. One could claim that the hepatitis outbreak was only a coincidence, but it does not seem so simple. For example, as Fenjin and Mr. Chiu head off to catch the train, why is Mr. Chiu ordering so many items of food from numerous places having only taken a few bites of each? Is it perhaps in hopes that others would eat out of those contagious bowls and plates? Then there is also the statement he makes to Fenjin saying, “If only I could kill all the bastards!” (Ha, p.940).
It seems that he knew that what he was doing was going to transmit the hepatitis to other individuals by eating his leftovers, and that his only regret is that he could not kill them all. My guess would be that he evidently knew that the hepatitis would kill a handful of citizens in the city, and hopefully those police men and their families may have been victims. The readers will never learn who suffered the death from the contracted hepatitis, but it seems fair to say that this was a deliberate attempt by Mr. Chiu to feel a sense of getting even for all of his own suffering that was unnecessarily caused by the city of corrupt individuals. Maybe he viewed his actions as less harmful because he believed these individuals were clearly amoral and deserve to have bad things happen for being bad people.
Despite the short length, author Ha did an extraordinary job of writing a simple yet titillating piece of work in his short story “Saboteur.” I am not sure that I agree with Mr. Chiu’s response to the unfair abuse he suffered at the hands of the police, but did find that last segment to make a big impression on my opinion of the story. It may have been a cruel method of revenge, however I find that it made the finale of the short story very powerful and shocking leaving me wanting more. When stories are really well done, the reader is discouraged in the end because they do not want the experience of reading that book to end, which is basically what I felt towards the end of Ha’s “Saboteur”. It was a unique and entertaining piece of writing.
Please place the text book for the story here. I could not because I did not have the information necessary to create a citation for the reference.