Abstract

Readers of histories of twentieth-century Chinese literature might search in vain for Ho Ro-se's name. Yet she was very well known in China in the 1920s and 1930s, mainly for her book Love and Duty (戀愛與義務, Lianai yu yiwu), which she published in 1923 under the pen name of Luo Chen. In 1931, the appearance of a film based on the novel added to its popularity. Widely read among Chinese intellectuals and seen by many large audiences, the novel and the film dealt with a crucial May Fourth issue: arranged marriages. Although she had grown up not in China but in eastern Europe, the book's Jewish author approached the topic with remarkable sensitivity. Avoiding pat solutions, she regarded the marriage question as integral to larger social issues that needed attention, including early childhood education, the assigning of a different role to women within the family structure, and, consequently, male awareness of male and female roles. A second and equally important message of the novel is that things take time. While love, marriage and other issues are interrelated, they cannot all be solved at once. One by one, each will be taken care of in its own way.

Luo Chen's Love and Duty, a work of great importance in the May Fourth period, should be included in courses on modern Chinese history and literature. Most Chinese intellectuals believed in the importance of social change, and doing away with arranged marriage was one such change. This age-old custom was taken as a joining of families rather than a union of two individuals. Just how revolutionary the change from arranged marriage to individual agreement could be was demonstrated very well in Luo Chen's novel, adding a personal note to the history. It is important to lead students to understand the differing cultural implications of marriage. Luo Chen's book fills a vital gap.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1565-5288
Print ISSN
0793-8934
Pages
pp. 169-179
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-17
Open Access
No
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