Short story writer, Yijun Li, is distinguished within the literary world for her attention to the element of madness and revenge in her work. Raised in China, Li also uses her traditional Chinese upbringing to portray China’s cultural aspects in her literature. One of her short stories, “Sweeping Past,” displays this detail of environmental influence through the intertwining of Chinese traditions into the narrative. “Sweeping Past” uncovers the tragic events of an arranged marriage that goes bad and results in the eradication of a sworn sisterhood. When the plan of an arranged marriage between character Mei’s son and Lan’s daughter results in the death of both children, the life-long friendship morphs into an unwanted connection filled with hatred and vengefulness. Another one of Li’s short stories that showcases cultural influence, “Love in a Marketplace,” describes how main character and spinster, Sansan, is stuck between keeping her standards for love, and giving into society’s expectations to marry. Ten years after being faced with the betrayal of her beloved boyfriend, Tu, Sansan hears about the failure of Tu’s forsaken marriage. When Sansan’s mother believes it is only a matter of time before Tu returns to ask Sansan for her hand in marriage, she is trapped trying to uphold her own requirements for love against society’s pressure to settle and marry. The cultural environment in “Sweeping Past” affects the story’s idea of revenge due to China’s arranged marriage tradition and Hammurabi Code of Law, whereas in “Love in the Marketplace”, the cultural environment affects a character’s sense of sanity due to China’s expectation of marriage and Sansan’s failure to comply.
In “Sweeping Past,” author Yijun Li writes arou...
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...f Li’s other works, “Love in the Marketplace,” shares the similarity of cultural influence by expressing the impact of social views on women and marriage. Main character, Sansan, cannot escape the reminder of the significance of tradition, as she is secluded from the community due to her failed love life. Regardless of her prominence in her profession, Sansan is seen as less than equal. In the town the story takes place in, reputation is based so highly off of marital status, even Sansan’s own mother carps about the disgrace and dishonor she feels for having “a daughter like (Sansan)” (Li Love in Marketplace 94). This stresses the importance of marriage in the Chinese society, and the level of shame Sansan and her family carry. Because of her unwillingness to settle into a passionless marriage, and her cling to find true love, Sansan is seen as mad in her community.
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