The famous and world widely recognized short story by well-known Chinese writer Lu Xun, the New Year Sacrifice conveys the distressing but touching story of a young woman with a heart-breaking life ultimately compels her to the outer reaches of the societal ethical standards. The story is neither a radical means nor an artistic inclined piece, but a way for encouraging social modification (eNotes.com). It has a special consideration to the dilemma of women in his time by incorporating in the story significant concepts regarding women’s liberty. The story transpired in the period earlier the Revolution of 1911, a poor Chinese woman is sold as very young bride. This paper is a discussion about the various interpretations of the meaning of the story through forms of socio-historical and literary framework.
In the story, Mrs. Hsiang Lin, the leading female character, is a usual poor provincial woman who agonizes from the cruelty of the feudal moral standards. At the time her husband died, he had to run away foe she heard that her cruel mother in law opted or decided to make her a servant in Luzhen town under the control of Master Lu the Fourth. This poor woman had to endure an ill-treatment, discrimination and scorn. After a short period, she is taken and sold into marrying to an honest peasant named He Laoliu. She somehow is able to accept her destiny and had a son. However, undesirable circumstances transpired as her husband is offended to death by resident landowner. Her son A’mao was also killed and devoured by a wolf. As a result of the two unfortunate happenings, Mrs. Hsiang Lin lost her sensible mind and became a crazy woman. People around the town unpityingly claim that she has made a wrongdoing by getting married two times, and they told her to offer money at the shrine's threshold to recompense or make amends for her offense. She is convinced that what she did is a crime and so she obeys and contributes her hard-gotten money. However, even after doing so, she still suffered discrimination from the people around. Eventually, she turned out to be a drifter in the street and unluckily dies on New Year's Eve’s firecracker’s blast. The story blames the feudal moral standards that brought many blood and suffering of the poor working people from the past society.
The narrator signifies the problem of an logical thinker wanting for social transformation but sensing that he is powerless to provide help for suffering people like Hsiang Lin who endure under cruel control that of the husband, the society, and of religion. The story’s setting is simply demonstrating how women are treated during the period of Confucian China (eNotes.com). The traditional principles are seriously followed by the society. These are three obedience commandments such as, a daughter must obey her father, the wife should obey her husband, and if one is widowed, the woman should obey her son. The leading female character is depicted as someone who has suffered a wretched existence on the concept that she is branded by the society as someone who is immoral because she married two men. Even in death, she condemned compelling to the belief that a good woman should not have more than one man in her life. Therefore the society claimed that her soul will still be troubled in the afterlife. A certain Buddhist belief embodying a karmic payback relates that Hsiang Lin soul will be split in halves by her two husbands fighting over her in hell.
The stages she is forced to instigate in life help show approaches directed to women that are in point of fact deceptions into which several females in Chinese social command constantly fall (eNotes.com). Hsiang Lin tried to be moral as best as she could in the story but he the continued troubles with the people around her like her first husband, mother in law and surrogate patriarch. She tried to kill herself when she was sold to another man but she had a son and again another unfortunate happened as his son was killed. Instead of empathy and profound understanding of her situation, she was branded as bad symbol and social shame. The readers with modern principles would definitely feel some sense of aversion for the kind of thinking the people in the traditional society. This notion in obviously what the narrator of the story wanted to impart.
The story can be described as compacted with well-ordered and made in a reflective style. It has this decorous manner and tragic temperament that pervades all throughout the content of the book. The readers could easily imagine the images of each of the characters because of the descriptions presented in the lines of the book. The speaker of the story evidently refuses the ways of tradition as the concept of doubt emanates in reply to old-fashioned beliefs and to imagery. The concept of doubt correspondingly plays the same part with regards to the characters exemplifying tradition. The speaker in the story clearly recognizes the empty and pointless progression of Hsiang Lin’s wife, but the character did not in anyways displayed any form of denigration pertaining to the traditional arrangements of the judicious society that brought atrocities in the leading character’s life. The readers would somehow notice that the narrator or speaker of the story is unsuccessful to challenge the concerns of tradition that instigated the misery and pain of the lead characters in the story. Readers would be able to easily identify or discern that scarcity and patriarchy brought intense sorrow to the Hsiang Lin’s life. This particular notion reveals doubt in mention of the adversities that happened to the heroine in the story. The heroine encountered being married and widowed twice, bereaved of her son, raped and suicidal tendencies. Hsiang Lin’s tragic has to be justified by the narrators elucidation on the determining the purpose of her life. The narrator further reflected the following line, “in the current realm when a pointless life finishes, so that individual whom the other people are weary of watching is not anymore seen, it is better for both for the person referred to and for those others” (Lu Xun, 17) This particular notion is an evident attempt to justify the insignificant setting of Hsiang Lin’s life. And that her death, although tragic as it seems, still is a form of relief. It is certain that the speaker of the story believed in the essential value of her life. The progression of the story identified the society’s cruelty to Hsiang Lin by means of ostracizing her and further leading her to death.
The idea of doubt never steadily accepts a distinct tone in reference to the leading character of the story, Hsiang Lin. There are clear illustrations that seem, however, with reference to tradition. Correspondingly coming home again after several years, the speaker of The New Year’s Sacrifice as well declines to ascertain with the ways of tradition. This notion id clearly shown at the instance the narrator of the story meets his “Fourth Uncle”. It is further related that his uncle upon seeing him, instantly appeals his assessments to the flawed philosophies of reform intellectuals (Lu Xun, 19) The speaker or narrator of the story had a hard time in mustering the appropriate way on how to take part on this matter to his uncle. This situation clearly suggests that the narrator has a hard time relating to certain persons still accustomed by the old-fashioned moral arrangements. The seeming irrationality of narrator family’s connection to tradition obviously influences him to be uncertain of tradition and ultimately detached him from its ethical perspective. Lu Xun divulges even more understandable facts concerning the speaker’s doubt of old-fashioned practices. In his uncle’s study, the narrator sees the traditional Chinese character “Shòu” representing prolonged existence. Lu Xun applies this traditional Chinese character for instance a scheme to indicate an association between the classical character for prolonged existence as a signifier and the real situation or feature of the part, which, conferring to the speaker, suggests the contradictory implication of short-lived character “Yāo”. As the narrator stayed in that room, he observed closely the images around him with his doubter’s frame of mind. On particular scroll caught his view that expresses the line, ‘By considering reason one will attain serenity of thoughts.’ The speaker went around the room with pointless direction and further notice more things exemplifying or embodying traditional belief and principles (Lu Xun, 20). The overall effects of old-fashioned values prompted by the things surrounding his uncle’s study overwhelmed the narrator. The sort of survey of his uncle’s accounts prompts him that the philosophical paces of tradition give the impression to obtain no essential consistency in his existence to any further extent. Therefore, the narrator intentionally chooses to do away from such circumstances, dreading then that his new ethical placement will be somehow affected. The absence of empathy with a definite moral condition is a creation of moral choices. It is apparent that the speaker of the story and his uncle basically think and believed in different philosophies in life. Furthermore, it is implied that the speaker is radically questioning what his uncle’s ethical understanding actually contributes himself, as a contemporary thinker. This notion is further explained in the succeeding line, “to distinguish who you are as a person is to be adapted to in ethical condition, a condition in which queries derive over determining what is moral or wicked, what should be done or not, what has sense and significance for a person and what is unimportant and subordinate” (Lu Xun, 21). As the speaker doubts the effectiveness of traditional philosophies so insistently, he detaches from those he thinks that suppresses his thought and personality.
The narrator’s detachment is first apparent in his incapability to apply the language to involve with other characters. An intense example of this incapability befalls at the point when Hsiang Lin asks the speaker condescending existential queries concerning the difference between her present and the life after death. The speaker is unsuccessful to answer the questions unlike the traditional society where Hsiang Line lives of which have more than prepared answers for her although most of them are undoubtedly undesirable ones. As a result of the speaker’s incapability to answer the question, reveals more of his detachment of the traditional beliefs. Although he identifies himself as clearly different from those men who are still connected to the old-fashioned beliefs of tradition, in the same way, he knows and fears that he could not provide answers and resolutions for the poor woman, Hsiang Lin. The speaker, nevertheless, exhibits a direction in plain difference to those of the ways of the Chinese tradition of the past. The efforts to compare the speaker of the story to other individuals in his former community, thus, divulge the concrete features of his detachment and estrangement to the Confucian tradition.
Moral creativity offers the speaker of the story of Hsiang Lin with a new ethical visualization of actuality that encourages two actual distinctive nevertheless, interconnected categories of reflection. Conversely, it guides the speaker through a reconsideration of the past accounts and escorts them through the development of reasonably confronting and assessing the value of tradition. Furthermore, the notion similarly inspires the speaker’s thoughts of an upcoming generation that is different from the old fashioned ways along with the resolution to positively anticipate that upcoming generation will be more complimentary. Therefore, moral creativity not simply detects the speaker’s ethical reinterpretation of the ways of tradition, but moreover the speaker’s principled resolutions to anticipate that the forthcoming years or times will be experienced well for everybody. Moral creativity undertakes the most essential and dynamic part in the speaker’s existential schemes of conveying new, completely incorporated distinctiveness even if some attempts falls inadequate at some points. The idea of moral creativity, although inadequate to offer the speaker with the an all-inclusive moral influences to culture that fastened them inside the ethical materials of the past accounts, still functions as the groundwork for every speaker’s sensible effort to form and validate a new identity (eNotes.com). Doubt, detachment, and moral creativity are the definite features of identity and its development in the consideration of the narrator of the story. On the other hand, it is moral creativeness that most precisely outlines the emerging perception of the narrator’s identity within this perspective. Lu Xun creates the budding phases of identity development a heart in this particular story. Lu Xun’s speaker in the story is merely revealing the oozing advent of moral creativity, perhaps the most significant part of what would turn out to be later incorporations of present Chinese identity.
Hsiang Lin met her death in the New Year ’s Eve, and the narrator’s Fourth Uncle relates about her as a wicked person. This concept is exactly what Lu detests thoughtfully. The narrator claims that the society where she lives in only treats her well when she is able to offer them something beneficial. Women are referred to as mere objects of which will bring riches to whoever thinks own them. It is a kind of society which is uncaring and cold even to the death of the poor Hsiang Lin. This particular patriarchal arrangement works like a destructive force to women. In terms of modern thinkers, one would even wonder on the reasons that this traditional thinkers even talks of women’s ethics and chastity. It is because one would clearly notice that the traditional society misinterpreted her and disregarded true state of her situation. Readers would easily determine the fact that Hsiang Lin is just imprisoned to a society that diminishes her to an object of exploitation. A sad note is infused in the lines of the narrator’s understanding of the traditional society. Hsiang Lin is just one of the victims of the many others who suffered and endured the cruelty of the Chinese morality of the past. The narrator accepts the fact that tradition has reduced poor women like Hsiang Lin as mere objects of sacrifices.
Lu Xun. “The New Year's Sacrifice”. Marxists Internet Archive. 2006. < www.marxists.org/archive/lu-xun/1924/02/07.htm
Kellman, Steven. "Lu Xun World Literature Analysis" Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition Ed. eNotes.com, Inc. 2009 eNotes.com 19 Apr, 2015 <http://www.enotes.com/topics/lu-xun/critical-essays/analysis-1>