Reading Review: “Souvenir” by Ch’ien Chung-shu
The short story, “Souvenir”, by Ch’ien Chung-shu is set within the context of Chungking during the wartime period. Based on the influences generated from China’s involvement in the second Sino-Japanese War, the story clearly possesses war-based influences as exemplified by representations such as “raiding enemy planes” (Chung-shu 435). Nonetheless, the story follows the climactic and complicated relationships that a youthful university graduate undergoes while attempting to “spice up” her life. Man-ch’ien is unhappy with her marriage to her spouse, Ts’ai-shu. Despite the constancy of her married life, Man-ch’ien feels the need to engage in an affair with a womanizing airforce pilot, Tien-chien, in an effort to reinvigorate her life as evidenced by the effect that his “lingering impressions” impose on her (Chung-shu 436). However, the intricate aspect of the narrative is based on the introduction of the “souvenir” which assumes a role in threatening the peaceful marriage that she is currently in with her kind yet ignorant husband (Chung-shu 452). Man-ch’ien’s involvement in an affair with Ts’ai-shu constitutes the main theme that the author explores in order to raise questions concerning the rationality of love and the resources that are required in order to ensure the strength of a marriage (Williams 752). For instance, using Man-ch’ien’s stream of consciousness, the author provides his reflection on the blindness of love and the efforts that one must put for the sake of enabling marital consistency despite the challenges imposed by hardships stemming from financial and emotional intricacies (Williams 752). The musings that Man-ch’ien asserts in respect to her marriage and her relationship with Tien-chien are clearly assertions made by the author regarding the negative implications of conventional marriage (Williams 752). Indeed, from “Souvenir”, it is evident that Chung-shu utilized the affair as a romantic way of discerning and exposing the hidden ills taking place in a customary oriental society (Hsia 322).
Chung-shu, Ch’ien. “Souvenir.” Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas 1919-1949, edited by Joseph S. M. Lau, C. T. Hsia, and Leo Ou-Fan Lee, Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 432-453.
Hsia, Chih-Tsing. C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, 2004.
Williams, Philip F. C. “Twentieth-Century Fiction.” The Columbia History of Chinese Literature, edited by Victor H. Mair, Columbia University Press, 2001, pp. 732-758.
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