The female body in love in a fallen city

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Thefemale body in love in a fallen city

Womenplay a vital role in every society. Their enduring spirit has helpedmany communities create a bond that was essential for survival.However, in her journey, a woman is faced with many challenges mostof which are as a result of beliefs and practices implemented by thesociety. Eileen Chang (1920–1995) was a scholar that introduced theplight of the Chinese woman and her role in a contemporary Chinesesetting to the western world. Born in an era of war and revolution,she uses her writing prowess to bring to light the struggles of aChinese woman struggling to find her place in a society heavilydominated by men. Unlike other works by experienced writers thatshowed revolutionary women taking their rightful place in society,Chang’s book provided a blend of cultural capital and beautypresented in an old-fashioned manner that is able to explore afeminine consciousness which had been overlooked by many. The paperevaluates how the book lovein a fallen cityrepresent the female body. It seeks to show the struggles undertakenby women trying to create their space in a society dominated by themale gender.

Lovein a fallen city

Insummary, love in a fallen city is a tale that revolves around thelife of Liusu, a lady who is recently single following the death ofher husband. In an unprecedented move, she returns to her family, theBai home, and this stirs controversy. On one end, there are those whoargue that she should return to her marital home while othersencourage her to remarry. In this Confucian society, marriage isimportant as women are traditionally given an identity while in thematrimonial institution. Liusu is introduced to a wealthy bachelor,and she takes advantage of the situation by making an unprecedenteddecision to join him in Hong Kong as the opportunity allows her toextricate herself from the bondage that is her family. The fact thatshe is divorced makes her an untraditional woman to her people andshe uses the platform to redefine the concept of femininity. In HongKong, Liusu begins by accepting to be Luiyuan (the suitor introducedto her by her keen) mistress, but with time they learn to love andappreciate each other (Chang, p 150). The change occurs during aperiod when the city of Hong Kong fall and is liberated from Japaneseoccupation.

Representationof the female body

Femininityhas been represented in various forms throughout the book and thissection evaluates some of the ways this has been achieved. Firstly, awoman is showed and as a highly emotional being who uses bodygestures to communicate. Gestures and facial expression are used astools for communicating a woman’s feelings. In this society, thisform of passing information is highly priced. In the text, Liusu usesthese non-verbal techniques after being caught in a cluster phobicsituation with her family. The myriad of expressions from her face toher body shows the frustration that she is going through (Chang, p205). The author is able to showcase the limited space for a woman asociety that is trying to hold on to its practises in an era of warand foreign invasion. Body expressions allow her to speak her mind onthe issues affecting her without uttering a word as this would makeher appear rebellious.

Secondly,the woman has been represented as a passionate being. In thetraditional Confucian society marriage was viewed as a vitalcomponent of a person’s life. The notion led to people being forcedinto marriage to be able to fit into the community. However, the taleof Liusu offers a preview of a changing reality where women are moreinvolved and are willing to risk societal backlash to attainhappiness. In a typical setting, the beauty of a woman is viewed inaccessories, dresses, gardens and other objects of art (Chang, p134). These tools are used to mask the inadequacy that she faces inthe community. Liusu breaks from this bondage when she decides tofollow Liuyuan to Hong Kong, and even agree to be his mistress.

Whenshe dresses in traditional clothing, her suitor sees a true Chinesewoman who has not been influenced modern civilisation cultures. Herprowess in making a conversation in any setting coupled with refinedmannerism is evidence of the potential she holds but is unable toexplore because of the social box where women have been placed by thecommunity (Chang, p 144). The passion displayed by Liusu shows theintensity of a desire for females to express their passion withoutbeing labelled rebellious or untraditional. This is an exodus fromthe norm where female sexuality was based on her matrimonial status.

Thebook also presents the female body as an object of constant sociallack. As mentioned earlier, feminist objects like dresses,accessories and gardens are tools that are used to mask thechallenges being faced by a woman in this Confucian society. The lackof education, money and power over her destiny makes her sociallydisadvantaged. She is expected to confine herself to the limiteddomestic space. Her refusal to go back to her matrimonial home makesLiusu a subject of spite to her in-laws who consider her a worthlessburden to the family (Chang, p 126). In their view, a woman needs thefinancial security provided by a man to be able to survive.

Aneconomically empowered lady is non-existence, and this is visiblewith the denial of inheritance to Liusu by both her matrimonial andparental home. Her decision to break away from the repressive socialenvironment exposes the weakness of her gender and the struggles thatwomen go through to reclaim some power for themselves and stop thecultural poisoning that has disadvantaged them. The social lack isalso visible when Liusu first arrives in Japan’s besieged HongKong. Her refusal to attend a cultural festival with Liuyuan is takenas a rejection of marriage, and he uses this assumption to bend herto her will (Chang, p 149). When struggling to maintain her status inthe new city, Liusu agrees to become Liuyuan’s mistress without thepromise of marriage. Her lack of power makes it difficult ask formore than just being a lover to Liuyuan.

Inessence, the society has rendered her second to her male counterpart.While making the decision to lower herself to a mistress, she is tornbetween her quest to find happiness and her fear of being too late.All these issues put her at a disadvantage as a woman because she hasto fight and get space to ensure that her plight is heard by thecommunity. The push leaves her in a situation where she feels lost.Though her reflection in a mirror shows that she still maintains herbeauty, she is aware of her social weakness that makes it difficultfor her to venture out and experience her dreams and desires.

Thebook also presents a woman as an enduring being. It is throughendurance that she has been able to survive the many challenges thatthe society presents. In the case of Liusu, she endures thetribulation that she faced from her in-laws. She also had to livethrough the backlash that followed as a result of her decision tojoin Liuyuan in Hong Kong. When she returns from the war-torn cityunder Japanese rule, she is haunted by circulating tales of heraffair with a man that is not her husband. She faces similarchallenges in Hong Kong with continued criticism at every juncture.However, it is through endurance that she was able to break from thefamily and societal constrains that had continued to derail herprogress (Chang, p167). The benefits of the trait are also seen whenafter a significant period she receives a marriage proposal fromLiuyuan. Additionally, she emerges as a figure of admiration havingachieved so much within the limited space in this Confucian society.

Lastly,the female character appears as transformative. The setting of thebook is a period where the world was undergoing a revolution. It wasa time when the traditional Confucian society was being introduced tomodern civilization. In the second setting, Hong Kong is in turmoilas the country fights Japanese control over the city. The characterof Liusu lives through this transformation and witnesses as the pastcollides with the present. The changes in her life allow her to doaway with social lacks that denied women a chance for education,economic independence and a voice to air their needs. This is asignificant achievement for the female body as it shows thepossibilities that lie ahead for those that are willing to take thechallenge. The falling of the city is symbolic as it ushers in a newera, at least for Liusu, where traditional bounds are being broken.

Conclusion

Fromthe analysis above, it is evident that there is a lot happening inthis society and especially in regards to the female body. Thestruggles being experienced by Liusu as she tries to find her spaceshow various forms in which the woman has been represented in thiscommunity. In the end, the achievements made makes it possible forone to appreciate the journey and what the new fate means for womenhailing from this society. Reading this book allows one to understandthe importance of guaranteeing equal rights for the female genderespecially in communities that are considered conservative.

Workcited

Chang,Eileen. Love in a Fallen City. Trans. Karen S. Kingsbury. New York:New York Review of Books, 2007. Print.

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