Author: Tsui, Yuk-ho
Title: Cold nights and the disintegration of everyday life in Chongqing during the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Authors, Chinese -- 20th century
Department: Department of Chinese Culture
Pages: vi, 100 pages : color illustrations
Abstract: Ba Jin (巴金, 1904.11.25 - 2005.10.17) completed his final novel, Cold Nights (寒夜), in 1947. Ba Jin's earlier works are known for their sentimentality. However, during the Sino-Japanese War, he turned to depictions of the everyday life of ordinary people. Critics such as C. T. Hsia and Nathan Mao deem this change in Ba Jin's style an improvement over that of his earlier works and regard Cold Nights as a better work than his Turbulent Stream trilogy (激流三部曲). They also note that the everyday life depicted in Cold Nights is heavily based on Ba Jin's experiences in wartime Chongqing—an observation that seems to have escaped the attention of most researchers of his work. This thesis focuses on the dreary side of the everyday life depicted in the novel. In Chapter 2, I compare the everyday life of hawkers, rickshaw pullers, and domestic servants to that of the hero of the novel, Wang Wenxuan (汪文宣), and to that of his mother. I argue that Wenxuan is poorer than the above-mentioned lower-class people because he can neither perform heavy manual labor nor afford the services that the lower-class people provide. In Chapter 3, I discuss the everyday life of Wenxuan. He fails to fulfill his dreams through his everyday life, and despairs over his future. I term Wenxuan's psychological state the "disintegration of everyday life". When Wenxuan suppresses the negative emotions caused by this disintegration of his everyday life, the suppressed emotions only further interrupt his peace of mind, causing the emergence of four cases of Freudian parapraxis in the story. In Chapter 4, the focus of my analysis turns to Wenxuan's physical disease. I compare Wenxuan from various perspectives with Du Daxin (杜大心), the hero of Ba Jin's first novella, Destruction. I argue that Wenxuan is not a typical tubercular character,and explain that, in addition to presenting pulmonary tuberculosis as a disease of passion and poverty, Ba Jin depicts Wenxuan's disease in terms of war, which was an uncommon metaphorical comparison at the time of the novel's publication.
Access: open access

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