Ha Jin’s “Saboteur” in Nicola McAllister’s Critique

While reading the critical response on Ha Jin’s short story Saboteur, I’ve realized that the critic Nicola McAllister has a low opinion of the Chinese government and knows nothing about the policy of China. On the other hand, he is just ignorant of the historical changes that took place in China. For instance, the critic charges Chinese governmental authorities with tyranny: “It is a bleak, sour tale that conveys not only the reality of tyranny but also the brutality of revenge” (McAllister 1).

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First of all, this statement has caused a great deal of confusion as the political regime of China is socialism, but not tyranny, as the author states. The above-mentioned citation allows for no other explanation except the critic’s political commitment. Moreover, I’ve found the obvious contradiction in the following critic’s affirmation: “he is describing the stringent, harsh order of China’s socialist regime” (McAllister 1). So, what is the political regime in China? – The tyranny or socialism? The critics can’t identify the differences; for this reason, he can’t judge the basic idea of the short story. On the other hand, it is obvious that for the critic, the principle idea of the Communist Party that all people are equal before the law seems to be meaningless.

The critic speaks about the inequitable relations between the representatives of the governmental authorities and ordinary people. To his mind, the representatives of the supreme body are always got their own way and get off scot-free, while ordinary people are infringed on their legitimate rights.

To understand the concept of socialism in China, there is a need to analyze the plot. The short story of the Chinese author Ha Jim Saboteur describes the events which took place after the Cultural Revolution in China. The main character of the book is a professor at Harbin University, Mr. Chiu. He suffered from acute hepatitis. In accordance with the critic’s opinion, which is related to the plot of the story, the members of governmental authorities knew that they had a lot of relations with various institutions, and, therefore, their law violations would go unpunished.

It is obvious that the members of the governmental authorities are a representative cross-section of the police station. In critic’s opinion, their anti-social deed wasn’t casual:

To his right, at another table, two railroad policemen were drinking tea and

laughing; it seemed that the stout, middle-aged man was telling a joke to his

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young comrade, who was tall and of athletic build. Now and again, they would

steal a glance at Mr. Chiu’s table (Jin 1).

To my mind, this sentence can’t be used as the confirmation of the policeman premeditated deed as the policeman could look through Mr. Chiu.

Later, Mr. Chiu found himself in the police station. He was charged with sabotage (when the policeman threw a bowl of tea into Mr. Chiu and his bride and the professor confronted the policeman); however, it is not known whether Mr. Chiu was accused of committing sabotage to cover for the policeman’s immoral act or ex aequo et Bono: “Your crime is sabotage, although it hasn’t induced serious consequences yet. Because you are a Party member, you should be punished more” (Jin 1). The policemen sent him to prison for a weekend. When Mr. Chiu was released, he wanted to kill all the members of the police department. Later, 800 persons fell ill with hepatitis.

Some readers think that contagion is considered to be the so-called revenge. They rely on the following statement:

While eating, he kept saying through his teeth, “If only I could kill all the

bastards!” Fenjin was baffled by his teacher, who looked ferocious and

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muttered to himself mysteriously, and whose jaundiced face was covered

with dark puckers. For the first time, Fenjin thought of Mr. Chiu as an ugly

man (Jin 1).

So, on the one hand, it seems that the theme of revenge is to be right; however, if to analyze the reasons for Mr. Chiu’s anger deeper, it becomes evident that he wasn’t out for the revenge, but he said the above-mentioned words in the heat of passion. Thereby, the person who is racked by fury can’t think properly. For this reason, the words which were said so rashly mean nothing but deep mortification. Moreover, there is no wonder that hepatitis contagion started. It is not the way the cookie crumbles as the critic thinks, but it is just a banal case of contagion. So, there is no need to look for some mysterious issues.

The unjust accusation can make everybody angry. There are a lot of people who went through the same situation, and their attitude towards governmental authorities must not be considered the desire for revenge the way the critic thinks.

Moreover, the ability to judge the short story means to examine all the aspects. There are a lot of contradictions in the critic’s overview. The point I totally don’t understand is related to superficial knowledge or judging. While criticizing various books, one should find and point out the hidden meaning, but not to advocate for some simple reasons.

To my mind, the author never gives you a definite answer. You are to understand the meaning of intensive thinking. By the way, I would like to introduce you to one important issue. I’ve read the biography of the author carefully. In his opinion, the governmental got the blame for the tough policy of China. However, the author didn’t write about his own shame, when in 1985 the members of Communist Party sent him to America to learn English. Ha Jin didn’t come back to China. Do you know why? – He could not learn English for a year. He let the members of Communist Party down. For this reason, it was a considered decision to write Saboteur.

Works Cited

Jin, Ha. “Saboteur.” The Antioch Review Spring 2001: 271. Questia. Web.

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McAllister, Nicola. “Fighting the system Nicola McAllister sees China change.” The Daily Telegraph [London (UK)] 2001: 05. Print.

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