During the period from 1912 to 1949, rickshaw was a common and necessary vehicle in Chinese ordinary life. Although now it has been eliminated from transportation, as a characteristic object, it still exists in present tourist market. If people mean to realize the rickshaw puller’s life, the novel Camel Xiangzi (骆驼祥子) that elaborates a rickshaw puller’s tragic life in the 1920s is a best choice.
Xiangzi was born in a small village. Naughty destiny always played a trick on him.
When he was eighteen year old, his parents died. Then he came to the prosperous city Beijing to earn a living. His wish was simple-buy an exclusive rickshaw belonging to himself. At that time, buying a rickshaw was too expensive, so the majority rickshaw puller could not but rent it. However, heartless fate broke his best wish again and again. He was cheated to lose all savings; he was forced to join in the army; he was compelled to marry a termagant woman. At first, even though facing difficulties, Xiangzi was still in high spirits at the prospect-he firmly believed that one day he would be able to buy a new rickshaw and married a beautiful wife. However, being hit by a triple whammy, Xiangzi gave up struggle, and chose falling from honesty to craftiness.
Is Xiangzi’s tragedy really caused by so-called fate? The writer Laoshe (pen name) gives his answer in the book: No. The arch-criminal is the dark society. In that corrupted circumstance, it was merely an illusion that the lower classes wanted to enrich themselves by self-struggle. No matter how hard they struggle, their efforts would be deprived by rich and powerful people.
Meanwhile, Xiangzi’s character bears some responsibilities to his tragedy. Indeed, Xiangzi is kind, but he is coward, too. Most of the time, he did not dare to fight against the darkness, and was willing to be at the mercy of the evil. This novel, created from 1936 to 1937, embodies Laoshe’s sympathy for lower class and anger for their cowardice.
Review: Before we criticize Xiangzi, could we suppose if we were Xiangzi, did we have the courage to fight against that corruption society at that time? The book has abundant Beijing dialect, adding more fun for the story.