Fighting Fate in Dream of the Red Chamber

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Dream of the Red Chamber is one of the classics of Chinese literature and is considered by some to be eminent example of classic Chinese writing. Written in the middle of the eighteenth century, is serves as one of the last great tableaus of China prior to influence from the West. Its central story is that of boy, Jia Baoyu, growing up in feudal China. He lives a privileged life — the Jia family is by no means impoverished — and is attended on by maids as he spends his days with his cousins and friends. Throughout the novel, however, there exists a thread of rebellion on Baoyu’s part. He spurns many of the societal norms of his culture and parents through his acceptance of taboo subjects and rejection of what’s expected of him. Baoyu even attempts to fight his fate throughout the narrative; to put off the inevitable and live a life not predestined for him. Yet all his rebellions ultimately prove futile; Baoyu is eventually forced to play out his assigned role and live with the tragedy it brings.
Baoyu is introduced to both the readers and Black Jade — one of Baoyu’s cousins — through Madame Wang. She describes him as “a good deal with the girls and maids. He behaves tolerably well if left alone but, if any of the girls encourage him in the least, he becomes quite impossible and may say all sorts of wild things” (Cao 32). Already Baoyu’s rejection of norms can be seen. He doesn’t participate in the homosociality usually expected of him, instead spending a lot of time with members of the opposite sex: girls and maids. Furthermore her assessment that he says ‘all sorts of wild things’ implies that he is unorthodox in his behavior and opinions. He doesn’t abide by the norms of the culture and wants to have his own voice in the socie...

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...te’s way; Lotus died in childbirth within a year of her marriage. (329)
Characters like Baoyu may attempt to fight fate, but destiny cannot be defeated. Tragedy befalls those who would stand in its way. After all, “for what follows the way of Heaven prospers, and what goes against it perishes” (290).

Works Cited

Cao Xueqin. Dream of the Red Chamber. Trans. Chi-Chen Wang. New York: Twayne, 1958. Print.

Wakeman, Frederic, Jr. "The Genius of the Red Chamber by Frederic Wakeman Jr." The Genius of the Red Chamber by Frederic Wakeman Jr. The New York Book Review, 12 June 1980. Web. 11 May 2014. .

HB Staff. "The Twelve Beauties of Jinling – Xue Baochai." CultureInCart. 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 May 2014. .
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