Summary and Response to Lu Xun's "A Mad Man's Diary" and Yu Dafu's "Sinking"

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1344 Words
Date:  2022-04-04

Section 1

Summary and Response to Lu Xun's "A Mad Man's Diary"

In the preface, from a first-person narration,Lu Xun recalls some of the encounters that led him to take an interest in in his academic efforts, not as a physician as his profession was, but as a literary writer.He points out that his decision to shift his profession from medicine whose task is healing the body to literature which he says heals the mind. Mr. Lu Xun, as he narrates, is filled with doubt and disillusionment as he is afraid that his literary works would motivate people in China to desire change in their lives, while in the actual sense, they had no power over their fate.

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"A Madman's Diary" starts with a narrator who has two childhood friends who happen to be his two brothers. The younger brother, as narrated, has recently undergone treatment for madness. The narrator makes a visit to the elder brother, and in the course of this visit, he stumbles upon a copy of his younger brother's diary. The rest of the tale is narrated in a diary entry form, from the first-person point of view. The narrator is the younger brother who has recently been cured of madness. The younger brother, in the diary, is a self-proclaimed madman. The reader of the diary is told that the "madman" now hold "official post."

As the diary progresses in a numbered format, the narrator's paranoia deepens. He narrated that everybody around him is involved in some conspiracy against him. This, as he claims is clearly shown by their ominous stares and hushed discussions. Their nefarious glances initially did not affect the narrator, but with each entry of the diary, he becomes increasingly paranoid and cautious of all those around him. His fears are heightened when he realizes that his brother is part of the conspiracy. Eventually, the narrator concludes that everybody, including his brother and doctor, is on a mission to eat him. To confirm the fact that cannibalism was rampant but done behind closed doors, the narrator goes on to point out his recent encounters. He narrates how everybody, children included, gave him pale stares. He also delves into classic Chinese literature and cultural norms that encourage cannibalism. As the diary ends, the madman resigns to his diabolic fate and gives himself up to chances of being eaten. With anguish, the narrator links the untimely death of his 5-year-old sister to cannibalism. He fears that he might have unconsciously partaken of his sister's flesh. However, he exonerates his mother from wrongdoing since she might have possibly been powerless and oblivious to what was going on.In his closing remarks, the madman wonders that "perhaps there are still children who haven't eaten men?" He finally makes a plea to "Save children," (Lu Xun, "A Madman's Diary," 15)

This narration reveals the extent to which corruption is rampant among communities. The narrator, for example, claims that everybody knew that cannibalism was morally wrong, but they continued eating human flesh anyway. Every society has a corrupt and dark side. The narrator, who sees reality more clearly than everyone sees it, is labeled a madman for his views against the corruption in the society. It's very ironical that everyone who perpetrates corruption views narrator as a madman. This reveals the fact that even in our world today, those who continue to speak out against the corruption in the society are threatened and persecuted until they either give up their views on corruption, or they die. The fact that the madman is cured of his madness is likely to be an indicator that either he was inducted to be a cannibal or was killed and eaten by the community. This has been used figuratively to indicate the possibility that by the narrator taking "an official post," a position of power as a clerk. The chances are that he turned out to be a corrupt person who oppressed the general population. The world, especially governments, is filled with corruption. What we can only hope and fight for is a better and brighter future without corruption.

The narration also highlights the victimization of women in the Chinese society that was rampant between 1911 to 1949.According to the madman's description, women and children are portrayed as innocent victims of the society. For example, he concluded that his mother might have unwittingly taken part in the death of his sister and that she might have been powerless in the situation (Lu Xun, "A Madman's Diary," 14-15). His mother might, therefore, have suffered from abuse from the society which propelled her to participate in the murder of her daughter without full awareness of what was happening. The children, as the author narrates, are also being groomed to be cannibals by the society. The narrator also makes a plea "save the children," from corruption. (Lu Xun, "A Madman's Diary," 15)

Section 2

Summary and Response to Yu Dafu's "Sinking"

The narrator in this story is a Chinese young man who has been forced to study medicine in Japan. During this period, China is portrayed as having been an economically weak country as compared to Japan. Therefore, the protagonist sees China and the Chinese people as backward. He keeps thinking about this for a long time, and it begins to be part of his self. He, therefore, remains depressed with and has low self-esteem being a Chinese in Japan.

Throughout the tale, the protagonist is constantly paranoid and suspicious about the people around him. He also interprets every situation from a negative and victim perspective. For example, at school, he is always suspicious that his classmates are conspiring against him. He suspects that students talking in small groups talk about him and always stare at him. He feels homesick and stands in solidarity with this country against this foreign land. His disgust at the Japanese people was inspired by the first Japanese-Chinese war where hundreds of thousands of his people were killed in battle. Furthermore, his country experienced a humiliating defeat during the war since it was weak. He, therefore, has always felt inferior to his classmates. Sometimes, the narrator summons the courage to talk with his classmates, but as he claims, "perhaps discouraged by his sorrowful countenance, they all shunned his company and went in pursuit of their pleasure"(Yu Dafu, "Sinking," 2).The narrator is one sad man throughout the story and as his hatred for Japan deepens, so does his depression. The only peaceful times the protagonist experienced peace was when he turned to romance.

Depression is one of the main concerns of our society today. Just as in this tale, very few people speak out about their depression and end up living an unhappy and unfruitful life. Stigma is always one of the main culprits that exasperate depression. People often become depressed when they continuously find themselves unable to compete with the rest of the population. The protagonist in this short story is a depressed and unhappy man since his country is backward and inferior as compared to Japan. He finds himself feeling insecure whenever he interacts with the Japanese students. Depression should be dealt with as it can lead to acts of suicide. As in the story, the protagonist at one-time contemplated suicide.

There are undertones of nationalism throughout the story. The first Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 resulted in devastating consequences to the Chinese public. The protagonist stands in solidarity with China throughout this tale. He hated the Japanese ravaged him for having devastated his country during the first war. He would blame himself whenever he felt insecure about his classmates that "they are Japanese people and they don't have sympathy for you." At times, he said that "They are all Japanese, they are all my enemies. I'll have my revenge one day" (Yu Dafu, "Sinking," 2). After this war, during the 1911-1945 period, there were always small conflicts between China and Japan which resulted in the second Sino Japanese war of 1944-1945.China must have been a poor and militarily weak country during this time as compared to Japan.

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Summary and Response to Lu Xun's "A Mad Man's Diary" and Yu Dafu's "Sinking". (2022, Apr 04). Retrieved from

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