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On the Road at Eighteen

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Lacey Lung

on 28 October 2014

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Transcript of On the Road at Eighteen

Yu Hua (1960-present)
Author Bio. (cont.)
Completed secondary Education in 1978
Went on to work as a Dentist for 5 years
Started writing career in 1983
Pioneer of the Avante-Garde Literary movement
Early writings focused primarily on:
Cultural Revolution
The Reconstruction
Lurking presence of Mao/Maoism in society
He is currently 54 years old and resides in Beijing
Published a notable number of works, including 5 novels, 6 story collections, and 5 essay collections.
Won several coveted literary awards
Writing Style/Influences
1) Yu Hua began writing during the Reconstruction era (1976-1989) after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976

2) His works were a far cry from the trends of Cultural Revolution Maoist and socialist realism.

3) Older works reflected the personal and social struggles of those who lived during the era of Maoism

4)Works highly reflected the changing and evolving sociopolitical situation in China during the transition from the Cultural Revolution to the Restructuring of China's economic and political infrastructure.

5) He drew great influence from the struggles and hardships of his own youth.
Cont.
Historical Background
1) The "Great Leap Forward" - 1958-1963

2) The "Cultural Revolution" - 1966-1976

3) "Restructuring" - 1976-1989
"Great Leap Forward"
5 year plan by Mao Zedong to modernize China's economy (focused on industry and agriculture)
Eradication of private ownership in exchange for communal
Redistribution of wealth
Ultimately failed after 1st year
Resulted in starvation
Hastily built buildings and tools due to lack of skilled workers and bad working conditions
Caused reprehensible damage to already falling economy
Estimated over 20 million deaths attributed to starvation and terrible work conditions
Cultural Revolution
Social movement started by Mao Zedong in order to reassert authority over Communist party.
Lead to youth social movement and the formation of the "Red Guards"
Called for the purge of all social elements that were seen as "impure"
Destruction of the 4 Olds
Persecution of anybody who was seen as a threat to the movement and embodied the "impure"
Re-education of youths in the name of the party
Over 1.5 million people were estimated to have died during revolution either killed or by suicide.
Revolution ended in 1976 with death of Mao
Damaged the peoples' trust in government
Restructuring
Deng Xiao Ping comes to powers
China is still in a dilapidated state due to the "great leap forward" and cultural revolution"
People's lack in faith of Government lead to many revolts calling for democracy (Tiananmen Square)
Restructuring of political and economic system
Opening of China's doors to the foreign world
Encouragement of artists, writers and journalists to adopt more critical approaches
Repudiation of Cultural Revolution
Freedom of Press emerges from 1982-1989
Re-establishment of education system
Government offered incentives to people in order to encourage work, and gave offered autonomy in the work place.
On the Road at Eighteen Analysis
Lacey Lung and Allan Tang
Born on April 3, 1960
Hometown HangZhou, Zhejiang
Parents:
Hua ZiZhi - Surgeon
Yu PeiWen - Nurse
At age 3, family moved to Wuyuanzhen
Majority of youth was spent during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
Education was highly influenced with Maoist/pro-communist teaching
6) The lurking presence of Maoism in everyday life is noticed as a recurring theme

7) His avante-garde style of writing attacks the status quo of political,literary, and social norms in Chinese culture


Characters
Protagonist: An 18 year old man

People along the road

Car driver

Truck driver/owner

Peasants

Protagonist's father
Themes
Summary
Protagonist is enthusiastically walking down the highway, without an idea of where he is going.
Began in morning, it's getting dark: looking for Inn
He passes by people and asks where to find an Inn.
Everyone says "Keep walking. You'll see when you get there."
Looks to hitchhike. One car drives by, but didn't stop for him. It was the only car he had seen all day.
Finally, he sees a truck broken down on the side of the road with its owner under the hood.
Protagonist greats truck owner and offers a cigarette.
The owner fixes the truck attempts to drive away when the protagonist asks for a ride.
Protagonist jumps into the truck anyway.
The driver smiles and asks where he is going, protagonist responds, "Doesn't matter. Wherever." They are driving in the opposite direction he walked.
cont.
The bed of the truck is full of apples, the driver offers an apple to the protagonist.
He can't get it because the car is still moving. The owner says "go get one" and stares at the protagonist.
Protagonist tells him to stop.
Protagonist asks the driver where he is going. Driver responds, "I just keep driving and see when I get there."
They talk and talk and became the best of friends.
The protagonist wasn't worried.
The driver starts talking about his love life and the truck breaks down again.
Owner cannot repair it. The protagonist asks what they'd do now, the owner replies "Wait and see."
All the protagonist could think about was finding an Inn.
The truck's owner starts exercising.
5 peasants rode down to truck on bicycles and started stealing the apples out of the truck's bed.
The protagonist tried to get them to stop, they punched him in the face.
cont.
When the protagonist tells the truck owner what happened, the owner seems happier.
Another group of bicyclists come and steal more apples.
A few tractor-carts appear and steal more.
The protagonist yells at them, "Thieves!" so they beat him up and threw apples at his head.
More bikes and tractors come and take the truck's parts.
The truck owner hops onto the back of a tractor as it leaves, stealing the protagonist's backpack and laughing at him.
The protagonist is left alone, cold, and with no possessions.
All that remains is the battered truck and protagonist.
He lies down inside of the truck, as the wind gets stronger, he feels warmer.
He notes that though the truck is battered, its heart is still intact and still warm. His heart is warm too.
He remembers the beginning of his day when his dad sent him on his trip to see "a little of the outside world."
He remembers the beginning of his day when he "excitedly galloped out of the house, as happy as a horse."
1) The death of empathy
- Represented by the protagonist's relationship with the driver
2) The beauty and ugliness of human character
- Beauty, demonstrated by the friendliness shared between the driver and protagonist.
- Ugliness, demonstrated in the driver's betrayal of the protagonist and the attack of the country peasants.
Protagonist Themes
1) Naive

2) Leaving Home (entering unfamiliar world)

3) Vulnerability



Analysis Questions
1) What did the driver, protagonist, and truck
come to symbolize?

2) What did the brutal beating of the
protagonist symbolize? what was its
relation to history?

3) What did the stealing of the protagonist's
backpack mean?

4) What do you believe the author was trying
to tell with this story?

5) What do you believe that the protagonist is
feeling at the end of the story? Why?

Sources
1) http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/yu-hua-ten-words-china

2) http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/y/yu_hua/index.html

3) http://www.history.com/topics/cultural-revolution

4) http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/great_leap_forward.htm

5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China_(1976-89)
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