The King of Trees

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To what extent do the belief systems in The King of Trees act as a means of enforcing societal norms?
Social norms are a natural part of any society and influence the course of human behavior. Societal culture is based generally on the interrelationships of fairly like-minded people with a shared belief system of accepted norms which leads to trust and predictability, and a stable community. The novellas in The King of Trees by Ah Cheng set in Communist China explores the expectation of conforming to societal rules with stories told from the perspective of characters who question why people are blindly following the expected social norms of the culture. When various characters throughout the novellas challenge the accepted belief system they are outcast, ridiculed, or punished as a deterrent. The King of Trees uses compelling stories to illustrate how a belief system, whether imposed or implied, enforces social norms.
Very different belief systems can result in stable cultures and communities. The King of Trees novella, focuses on how a powerful government can demand what is socially acceptable. The novellas are set in revolutionary China in the midst of major culture changes dictated by the government as necessary for people to live together successfully. The social norms are set by a popular government leader, Mao Zedong. The imposed belief system from his radical change to society, from a free-thinking population to one focused on the collective good, was the foundation of the what was sociably acceptable. The new social norm of working hard for the good of all is emphasized when in the first novella in The King of Trees, also titled The King of Trees, many characters are introduced including LiLi, a high spirited educ...

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...non-conformist attitudes, and in The King of Chess the chess fool defeating the old chess master symbolizes the act of the old culture being defeated by the new. The King of Trees depicts how the belief systems in revolutionary China enforced new social norms on the population. Understanding the power of the social norms that were imposed in China at this time helps the reader understand how individuality in the citizens might have been expressed as well as why the government felt threatened by such behavior. One theme in The King of Trees is that individuality is persistent despite what is socially acceptable, and understanding the concept of social norms allows one to appreciate both sides of the difficulty conforming to social norms.
Word Count: 1303

Work Cited
Cheng, Ah. The King of Trees. Trans. Bonnie S. McDougall. New York: New Directions, 2010. Print.
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