restricted access 1. Thunderstorm: Its Source and Form
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I Thunderstorm Its Source and Form IT I S small wonder that Thunderstorm shoul d hav e remained a favourit e with th e Chines e sinc e it s firs t publi c performanc e b y th e Chin a Travelling Dramati c Troup e i n Shangha i i n th e sprin g o f 1936 . Fo r the play, despite its artistic flaws, touches upon two of the most sensitiv e issues involve d i n th e Ma y Fourt h Movement : a socialis t concer n fo r the plight of the workers under capitalis t exploitation, and an individua l effort t o asser t persona l freedo m an d happines s unde r th e cripplin g weight o f patriarcha l society. 1 In brief , Thunderstorm wa s so ruthless in its attacks upon traditional Chinese morals and the social system that the government fel t impelled , on,thre e occasions , to place it under a ban. 1 But it was not Ts'ao Yii's desire to be regarded merely as a writer o n social problems . Whe n aske d abou t th e purpos e o f th e play , h e said : But strangely , no w tha t I recal l th e stat e o f m y min d whe n I wa s writin g th e pla y three years ago, I did not think I should resort to deceit and make my ideas sound bette r than the y reall y were. I didn' t the n distinctl y fee l tha t I intended t o correct , criticize , or satirize anything. Quite possibly, when I came close to finishing th e play, it might b e that I wa s seize d b y a sudde n passio n s o overwhelmin g tha t I coul d no t bu t see k t o release i t i n vilifyin g th e Chines e famil y syste m an d society . Yet, a t th e ver y outset , when I first conceive d th e idea of Thunderstorm, wha t fascinated m e most was no mor e than one or two episodes, a few characters, and a complex and ye t primitive sentiment. 2 His obsession, ostensibly, then, i s of a classic order: passion and fate , and fo r thi s h e wishe s t o b e reckone d a s a tragic writer. Thus , instea d of pointin g t o th e sociologica l problem s hi s pla y raises , h e direct s ou r special attention to the deaths of Ssu-fen g 0 1 an d Cho u Ch'un g JtW , to hi m a n indisputabl e evidenc e o f capriciou s fate , an d t o the comple x character of Chou Fan-yi JS H3S, a victim of unrul y passion . What wit h 1 Se e A. C . Scott , op. cit. p . 42. 2 Ts'a o Yii , Preface , Thunderstorm, p . iii . (I n renderin g thi s Prefac e int o English , I hav e made liberal use of the existin g translation b y Yao Hsin-nung S&^J j publishe d in th e T y ien Hsia Monthly 3:370-28 3 (1936) . Tsy ao Yii: a Study in Literary Influence 7 his understanding of man's helplessness in an indifferent universe , and what with his relative restraint fro m usin g abrasiv e language to indict the 'bad guys', Ts'ao Yii has attained in Thunderstorm some measure of compassion fo r hi s character s no t t o b e recalle d unti l Peh-ching jen du^A (Pekin g man, 1940). For at least he is able to observe: What pitifu l creature s huma n beings are : self-satisfied, a s if they are masters o f thei r own destinies, an d yet how frequently differen t fro m reality! Made fools by their ow n conduct (emotiona l and rational) and by an unknown power (casual or circumstantial), and livin g i n a crampe d cag e wit h ostentatiou s conceit , i n th e belie f tha t the y ar e roaming in a world o f freedom, ar e not the so-called 'wisest of all creatures* doing th e most stupi d things ? I...