Literary “Analysis” 2: Blind Man and the Sun |T.O.A.

A/N: Final share! I really find this piece heart-warming and mind provoking. The analysis is very rough, I admit. But I hope the message still comes through! 🙂 Peace!

BLIND MAN AND THE SUN

Short Story, by Su Shi (Su Dong Po) of the Song Dynasty

 

Once upon a time, there was a blind man who did not know what the Sun is. So he asks other people to explain.

One man said, “The Sun is shaped like a copper plate.” So the blind man banged on a copper plate, and listened to its clanging sound. Later when he heard the sound of a temple bell, he thought that must be the Sun.

Another man said, “The Sun gives out light just like a candle.” So the blind man picked up a candle to feel its shape. Later when he picked up a flute, he thought this must be the Sun.

And yet we know that the Sun is vastly different from a bell or a flute; but the blind man does not understand the differences, because he has never seen the Sun and only heard it described.

Analysis:

From the first intake, it would seem most fitting to approach this piece of literature using the Imitative Theory primarily, and the Affective theory secondarily.

Su’s use of the two characters can be immediately construed to mean more than their literal sense. What the Blind Man and the Sun represent exactly, however, would entail proper study of the exact timeframe when it was written and the state wherein the author was when he wrote it.

Taking from the personal background that is noted of the author, one can deduce that this short story is another expression of the values of that he stood for being raised and educated through his highly-educated mother and his town’s Taoist priest. Whatever are the values aimed to be addressed in the piece are surely addressed through the story of the blind man trying to grasp something that he had never seen.

A probable answer to the true identity of the Blind Man could be Wang Anshi, a political figure who, along with this faction, was the common subject of criticism by Su. Or could the Blind Man be an imitative depiction of himself, written during his time of exile and poverty in Huizhou/Huangzhou? Was this short story a depiction of an inner realization? It was in Huangzhou that Su had reached his literary zenith.

With all the questions, one lesson drives the whole story. Perhaps the ambiguity of the true identity of the Blind Man and the Sun was the intention Su had when he penned this story. Perhaps the author left the answer relatively limitless so that the lesson he tried to communicate would make a more effective impact to the heart of the reader. For the lesson answers the questions, “How do we expect to find something we cannot grasp? With our limitations, how must we approach the understanding of things?”

Us…Strangers|T.O.A. |World Lit. Reflect. “Mulan” (FIN)

(A/N: First part here)

The story of Mulan begins with Imperial China being at a state of emergency following the Huns’ breach of the Great Wall.  Despite being faced with an enemy whose reputation of ruthlessness and brutality preceded them, it was a time when the Chinese so strongly believed that to cower in fear of the enemy or to decline the Emperor’s summon would equate to having no sense of honour. Defending China meant defending their villages, their livelihood, and most of all their homes.

But what could Mulan do? Her ailing father, determined to honor and protect his family, had strongly forbidden her protests and commanded her “to finally know her place”. It was these final words of reprimand that only aggravated Mulan’s already broken heart. Earlier that same day, their people’s matchmaker had publicly declared her to be nothing but a harbinger of shame to her family- a word that was almost as absolute as a Prophet’s speech.

But despite her sorrow from the “verdict” on her fate, Mulan’s determination to protect her family in whatever way she could was unwavering. Her “shame” only drove her to work with whatever she had. And work she did, with all her best.

Yet at the same time, Mulan could not make it alone. And this is where the beloved character of Mushu, the once-guardian-dragon came in! (Plus a very “lucky” cricket, if you may!)

Mushu was himself an outcast, a familiar made stranger due to the one mistake he made that lead to the untimely demise of one of Mulan’s ancestors. From guardian to virtually the spirits’ alarm clock, Mushu in the beginning seemed to be sealed to his fate. However, in ingenious ways, Mushu came and indeed acted as a true guardian, but one whose character fit very well to the overly eager Fa Mulan.

Mushu gave Mulan the redirection when she needed it and the “invisible” hand that worked behind some very pivotal scenes that if they had happened otherwise, the story may have worked out very, very differently. Perhaps through his mistakes, his concern for Mulan’s safety slowly and evidently came before any self-interest he had in bringing Mulan back in ribbons and medals. The storyline welds these similar, yet at the same time starkly different characters in a very interesting way. And as it closed, the outcome was, for sure, the opposite of what was “written” as their fate.

Perhaps, it was their situation of being individuals whose minds ran differently than those around them that pushed them to work not to assimilate themselves completely, but to stand firm on their own and all the while being in harmony with the society they call home. Others would probably resign to their fate, but here we have two people struggling against the flow whenever they see it going on the wrong direction. Indeed people like Mulan, are people that you won’t just meet in every dynasty!

Perhaps, we can then surmise that our fate isn’t completely absolute in being unchangeable. Perhaps we could start to see “fate”, through the story of Mulan, in associative manner? The type of fate that awaits as a consequence of the direction of life that we chose, and the actions and choices that we take within the limits we’ve been given. Perhaps by first utilizing what we are given, we could find the purpose we should be fulfilling.

Perhaps amidst the hardships, we should start seeing these dark events that unfold in our lives as something that redirects us or shifts our footing in case we had taken the wrong steps? Or maybe these adversities are meant to unravel or strengthen traits we have, but may not have given value?  Perhaps these are the imbued lessons when the Emperor told Captain Shang, “The flower that blooms in adversity, is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

Perhaps these thoughts are what the writers, who adapted the legend of Fa (Hua) Mulan, intended to stir into their viewers- that it were “strangers” that strove for principle and selfless dreams that have always moved the mountains throughout history, despite the “norms” set about by the times and places they lived in.

Us…Strangers | T.O.A| World Lit Reflection: “Mulan”

A/N: YES..! I’m back 🙂 Pretty busy. But found my assignment in my  “World Literature” class as a reason for me to get into writing again! I really didn’t know that one of my childhood favorites was actually based off a Chinese literary classic , “The Ballad of Mulan”…! Literature is really exciting, if you take it from a much more different and deeper perspective! So here’s the first part. Working on the rest ^_^

“…So blessed are the strangers.”


It’s been years since I first saw the animated film, “Mulan.” And ever since then, I was always captivated and inspired by her story. However, I just realized how I’ve never given much thought as to why…

What is it about Mulan that has many people enamoured to her account up until today? What of its essence has enriched me?

Is it her almost reckless courage and passion that drove her to the measures she took in order to protect her family? Is it the image of a woman, so different from her time and that broke the societal boundaries set upon her?

Many stories like Mulan’s have been written, but they speak about different times and places. However, they also tell of the same type of person- a “stranger” within his/her own people, well ahead of his/her time and doing the “unthinkable.” But each story is still arguably unique, just as how the Brenda Chapman’s story of Princess Merida of Dunbroch* is different from Walt Disney’s adaptation of China’s  “Mulan”.

Looking in retrospect, stories that have been endearing to us aren’t really because of their face-value facts that we can often pick-up in the first go. Usually, these “special things” come after returning to them for the umpteenth time. Some stories even take years in pages just for the main gist to be unravelled! The same thing  goes for “Mulan”- I believe that its “gem” (at least for me) lies beyond the just your popular “tale of the empowered female” storyline.

I believe Mulan’s gem, lies in the themes of “purpose” and “destiny”.


A/N: How about you? Share below 🙂

 *Brave, 2012