The Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal

A Premier Humanities Research Journal at the University of California, Berkeley

Two Men, One Sky: Understanding the Cosmos in the Early Works of James Joyce and Lu Xun

by Gina Elia

This paper examines the function of the cosmos in the early short stories of Lu Xun and James Joyce, arguing that both authors use the cosmos, in differing ways, in order to reflect the current state of their respective countries’ relationships with other countries. They also use the cosmos to suggest the possibility–or lack thereof–of their respective countries to find cultural salvation through an exchange of ideas with other nations.


In his History of Modern Chinese Fiction, Hsia Chih-tsing remarks, “One may indeed compare the best stories of Lu Hsün to Dubliners. Shaken by the sloth, superstition, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the rural and town people, whom new ideas could not change, Lu Hsün repudiates his home town and, symbolically, the old Chinese way of life; yet, as in the case of Joyce, this town and these people remain the stuff and substance of his creation” (32). Hsia is by no means the only critic to have noted a similarity in the works of Lu Xun (1881-1936) and James Joyce (1882-1941), contemporaries of the same era who had strangely similar biographies, but most likely never knew of one another [1]. There is little explicit evidence of either author ever having encountered the other’s works [2]. Still, the citation above indicates that, to Hsia at least, the content and motivation of their writing is comparable. These similarities, as well as others in the tone and style of their work, may be due in part to the fact that they were influenced by many of the same authors, as evidenced by the names mentioned throughout Joyce’s letters and Lu Xun’s essays, as well as in a Chinese translation of western short stories that Lu Xun recommended for an award [3]. One of the similarities of the early work of the two authors, particularly Joyce’s Dubliners and Lu Xun’s Call to Arms (Nahan,呐喊) and Wandering (Panghuang,彷徨), is the importance they place upon the cosmos [4].
For Joyce, nature takes on primarily two functions—first, it represents an unreliable bearer of truth to the Irish people, which in turn characterizes it as a symbol of the Catholic Church in Ireland. In this role, the cosmos of his stories also implies that, contrary to the teachings of the Church, there is no inherent meaning in the universe. The second purpose of the cosmos, at odds with the first, is to signify a space apart from the paralyzing jaws of Dublin culture, a refuge where characters can think and act freely, therefore achieving an enlightened state and awareness of the issues of their country that is virtually impossible to obtain from within the restrictions of society.
Lu Xun’s cosmos, besides serving this function, also defies the tradition that the weather somehow acts in response to and represents the universe’s judgments of events within the human realm; this is another sharp criticism of the notion that the universe contains any inherent meaning. However, Lu Xun’s representation of the cosmos does not share the other, more positive association of Joyce’s, as a place of refuge and safety from the rigid structure of civilization. This indicates a key difference in the ways in which the authors envision a resolution for the problems they write about within their societies. Joyce’s representation of the cosmos suggests that the best way to end cultural stagnation within his society is for Ireland to engage in intellectual movements with continental Europe. Lu Xun’s vision of the cosmos, however, while implying the backwards nature of traditional Chinese society, says very little about hope for his nation. What hopeful moments can be gleaned from his stories tend to be those that involve children. Hope for his society therefore lies with the children of his era; in other words, it is up to future generations to modernize China.

I. The Role of the Cosmos in Joyce’s Dubliners (1914)
The cosmos has two functions within the short stories of Dubliners. One is to represent a conveyor of truth, albeit an unreliable one, to the characters who populate the stories. However, it becomes evident that rather than revealing to the characters an objective, inherent truth of the universe, the cosmos acts as a mirror, portraying only what the characters themselves believe or expect to see. Because they perceive that their beliefs are confirmed by the cosmos, the characters then continue to adhere to them, despite the fact that it is often these beliefs that have kept them trapped in their stagnated lives in the first place. Therefore, the cosmos does not provide true epiphanies that save the characters from themselves, but rather serves as a bearer of false truth that keeps them trapped within their positions. The cosmos can thus be compared to the Catholic Church in Ireland, which claimed to provide inherent truths of the universe to its members, but fell short of this promise in reality. The second purpose that the cosmos in Joyce’s short stories serves is as a refuge to the stories’ characters from rigidly structured and paralyzing Dublin society, which represents Joyce’s belief in the necessity for Ireland to avoid isolationism in order to free itself of its stagnated state.

The Cosmos as Representing False Epiphanies
One of the first examples of the role of the cosmos as supposed bearer of truth occurs in “Eveline.” At the very end of the short story, when the titular character stands on dock ready to elope from Ireland with her lover, “all the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her” (Joyce 48). Although the narrator never explicitly states that Eveline is observing the sea, this much can be gathered from the fact that she is currently standing at a dock, wavering between boarding or not boarding the ship bound for Buenos Aires upon which her lover Frank eagerly awaits her. In the above phrase, the narrator fuses Eveline’s external and internal with the description of the “seas of the world” as “tumbling about her heart.” Eveline then imagines that Frank is drawing her into not only the sea but everything beyond–the overwhelmingly dangerous and unknown, forces which have the potential to ultimately hurt or even destroy her. With this realization, she understands that she must remain in Ireland. The cosmos has apparently aided her in coming to this epiphany; the fusion of her internal turmoil with her external perception emphasizes the role of the ocean in precipitating her realization of the danger of the mysterious world beyond Ireland. Despite the fact that the ocean seems to be the principal agent influencing Eveline to stay behind, however, her thoughts throughout the story leading up to this point showcase her hesitation and unwillingness to leave her familiar environment (42-47).
Perhaps, then, she has actually imposed upon her vision of the waves her own paralyzing fear of the world beyond her familiar Ireland. In the passage immediately preceding her decision to stay behind, she prays to God to direct her (48). She therefore must see the tumultuous ocean’s effect upon her as guidance from the cosmos to stay behind, even though the connection of the ocean waves to her heart makes clear that this decision comes from her, not from any external force. She thus rationalizes her decision as mandated by the very cosmos itself, convinced of its rightness.
The placement of this realization at the very end of the short story is also important. Daniel Schwarz of Cornell University notes that the structure of Dubliners consists of a sequence of stories involving characters who experience epiphanies as a result of many little incidents that have led up to that moment in time. However, as Schwarz indicates in his work, the epiphanies that the characters experience are often false in nature; though the character has one revelation, the reader has another. Often, the reader’s revelation entails realizing that characters’ epiphanies are not accurate, and that rather than helping them to overcome their paralysis, their “realization” only perpetuates it (66-67). The reader thus realizes that Eveline has just refused what will probably be her only chance to escape from the monotony of the life she leads in Dublin caring for her father. Her “epiphany” has not freed her, but rather condemned her to continue to wile her days away in banality when she could have escaped to the freedom and fresh start that such an undertaking as moving across the ocean to Buenos Aires would imply.
The next example of this kind of interaction with the cosmos appears in the short story “After the Race.” After a long night of drinking and merriment, the main character Jimmy “knew that he would regret in the morning but at present was glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that covered up his folly.” Just at that moment, one of his colleagues throws open the doors of the boat cabin and shouts “ ‘Daybreak, gentleman!’” as he stands in a shaft of grey light (Joyce 57). It at first appears that the daylight of the morning leads to Jimmy’s recognition of his foolishness of the night before and consequent regret—the daylight washes away the “dark stupor” that he was using as a cloak to “cover up his folly”. However, this realization falls short of a true revelation. The daybreak helps him to become aware of his foolish behavior, but the story gives no indication that he has learned to change his habits of drinking, merriment, and preoccupation with what his “friends” think of him, traits that all contribute to preventing him from rising above his petty life to achieve his full potential (49-56). The only feature which he has seen in the cosmos, therefore, is what he already knew—his recognition of his foolish behavior, which he explicitly admits “he knew he would regret in the morning.”
The most apparent example of the cosmos as simply a mirror of what the spectator wishes to see or believe occurs in “A Little Cloud.” In this short story, the main character Little Chandler mentions that he enjoys turning from the “tiresome writing” of his desk job to gaze out the window. Outside, “the glow of a late autumn sunset covered the grass plots… He watched the scene and thought of life… He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him” (Joyce 86). It seems to be the way that the sunset flickers “on everyone who passed through the gardens” that causes Little Chandler’s thoughts to turn to this inscrutable force of ‘fortune’ that he thinks acts upon all human beings (86). Just as the people outside the window cannot avoid the sunset’s glow, they also cannot prevent ‘fortune’ from carrying out whatever it has planned for them. The image of this wisdom “bequeathed” to him by the ages themselves lends an air of not only definitiveness but also timelessness to this fragment of “truth,” and indicates the reverence with which Little Chandler regards it as an unavoidable part of all people’s lives.
However, it becomes quite apparent throughout the course of the short story that Little Chandler’s lack of progress and satisfaction with his present state of life is due to nothing but his own inaction. His ardent daydreaming as he walks to his dinner appointment with his old friend Gallaher makes clear that Little Chandler possesses great ambition to become an established poet; indeed, he is so busy imagining the accolades he will receive as a writer that he initially misses the street of the restaurant where his friend waits (89-90). Though the very existence of these daydreams suggests that Little Chandler has never realized his literary ambitions, his dissatisfaction with his “sober inartistic life” becomes evident from his reaction to Gallaher’s stories of travels throughout continental Europe (89). He is angry at what he views as injustice; his “inferior” friend who works in “tawdry journalism” has been more successful in life than he. He asks himself, “What was it that stood in his way? His unfortunate timidity!” (99). In his excitement, he experiences a moment of clarity in which he is cognizant of the fact that it is his own aversion to taking action, and not some inherent truth of the universe, that prevents him from living his life to its fullest potential.
At the end of the story, Little Chandler sits in his living room holding his child and looks around with disdain at every object in the room that reminds him of his wife. Looking at a photograph of her, he thinks of the sensuous foreign women Gallaher had described in his stories and broods, “Those dark Oriental eyes…how full they are of passion, of voluptuous longing!…Why had he married the eyes in the photograph?” (102). Little Chandler’s reduction of the women in his thoughts to eyes, traditionally vehicles of emotion and strong sentiment, suggests that rather than simply lusting after women other than his wife, he lusts after the very sentiment of passion itself, in contrast to his secure but dull existence. He continues in a flight of fancy, “Could he not escape from his little house? Was it too late for him to try to live bravely like Gallaher?” (103). His use of the word ‘escape’ makes clear his vision of his home, and by extension his family life, as nothing more than a prison preventing him from achieving his dreams. Furthermore, the fact that he describes Gallaher’s lifestyle as “brave” reveals much about his mindset. In contrast to Gallaher, he refers to himself throughout the story as “timid” and “shy.” This contrast between “braveness” and “shyness” does more than distinguish a difference in character. It indicates that it is not the achievements Gallaher has made compared to Little Chandler’s lack of accomplishments that frustrates him, so much as it is the fact that Gallaher possesses the determination and drive to thrust himself whole-heartedly into his pursuits, while Little Chandler has never been daring enough to indulge any of his passions. Little Chandler begins to immerse himself once more in fantasies of travel, passion, and literary success, until he is awakened by his baby’s cry, which reminds him of the reality of his enclosed life (103).
He grows so upset that he shouts at and scares the child, who is taken from him by his angry wife. “Little Chandler felt his cheeks suffused with shame…and tears of remorse started to his eyes” (105). This, the last sentence of the story, represents Little Chandler’s false epiphany. He is upset at the disruption in his family life that he has caused by taking out his frustration on his child. However, the reader realizes that in once more feeling these emotions of “shame” and “remorse” that have haunted him throughout the story, Little Chandler has not conquered his inhibitions at all. In fact, the tears caused by remorse for briefly breaking out of the social system in which he is placed act directly upon his eyes, ‘starting to’ them. They are maliciously and deliberately blurring and clogging his own vehicle for passion, reducing him once more to the timid creature that fears disrupting the conventional social order to pursue the lifestyle of which he dreams.
The behavior of Little Chandler throughout the story illustrates not that “to struggle against one’s destiny is fruitless” but that, in fact, it is his own inhibition and lack of courageousness to pursue an unknown course that keeps him from achieving true contentment. Therefore, the daylight that he witnessed earlier in the day did not gently remind him of some eternal universal truth, but rather only served as a mirror reflecting back to him what he already believed in order to justify his own inaction. Ultimately, then, the cosmos does not provide him with an epiphany to save him from himself, but actually perpetuates his paralysis. It does so by presenting to him his own self-paralyzing beliefs as though they are inherently true and unchangeable, so that he does not attempt to alter them.
Perhaps the most revealing interaction with the cosmos occurs in the first short story, “The Sisters.” The young narrator of this story laments the death of a priest whom he had admired and visited frequently. However, he remarks, “I found it strange that neither I nor the day seemed in a mourning mood and I felt even annoyed at discovering in myself a sensation of freedom as if I had been freed from something by his death” (11). His awareness that both his and the day’s mood seem inappropriate for a period of mourning leads to his “discovery” within himself of freedom from constraint. He therefore explicitly states the relationship of the cosmos as aiding him in coming to a realization of himself. However, unlike in other examples, this narrator makes clear with his admission of annoyance that he is actively resisting the realization that the cosmos has helped him to perceive. In continuing to consider the cosmos as revealing to the characters only a reflection of exactly what they believe already, this narrator’s reaction to the cosmos can be viewed as an attempt to refuse to acknowledge a belief he holds that is so contrary to his upbringing and society that he hides it even from himself. This epiphany is clearly the realization of the oppressiveness of the Catholic Church, symbolized in the priest. This is perhaps the one true epiphany of all the “epiphanies” mentioned in the above section, although unfortunately the narrator refuses to acknowledge it as such because of how radical it seems to him. This is one of the first suggestions in the novel that the Church is one of the institutions in Ireland that perpetuates its social paralysis, a role that is mimicked by the cosmos in the stories.

The Cosmos as a Representation of the Catholic Church in Ireland
It is clear that the cosmos of Joyce’s Dubliners acts as a mirror, reflecting the characters’ beliefs and worldviews, which are in most cases responsible for their social and cultural paralysis, back to them. However, because these beliefs are masked as inherent truths of the universe—in other words, a form of communication from the heavens—the characters justify their beliefs as part of an unavoidable greater universal truth and continue to live unfulfilling lives. This paradigm is important for several reasons. First, it implies that there is no inherent meaning in the universe or guiding cosmic force, since every incident in the story where the character seems to learn from the cosmos can be interpreted as the character simply reading his or her own pre-existing beliefs and worldviews in the movement of the universe. As a result, it shifts the burden of responsibility for the stagnated cultural lives of the characters from the immutable cosmos to the characters themselves. This seems to be a pointed attack on the beliefs of the Church, whose central claim is that there is a greater universal force, God, who is largely, if not wholly, responsible for the direction that the lives of the characters take. In fact, the relationship between the characters and the cosmos could be said to imply the oppressiveness of the Catholic Church, to some degree. The characters obviously believe that the cosmos has the power to guide them to universal truths; this is a mark of their religious upbringing. Because this belief clearly does not actually lead to their becoming enlightened, but rather only perpetuates their paralysis, it suggests that the Church actively encourages the pursuit of empty truths.
In fact, if the relationship between the characters and the cosmos implies the manner in which the Church perpetuates Ireland’s paralysis, it is not a stretch to suggest that the cosmos represents the Church itself. The characters look to the universe seeking answers, unaware or unwilling to believe that it actually contains none. The Church, meanwhile, is an institution to which they also look to become enlightened. However, the Church emphasizes the superficial elements of its faith to distract from the fact that it actually has no knowledge of the universal truths it claims to promote. In “The Sisters,” the narrator explains of the priest’s lessons, “…He had explained to me the meaning of the different ceremonies of the Mass and of the different vestments worn by the priest. Sometimes he had amused himself by putting difficult questions to me, asking me whether such and such sins were mortal or venial or only imperfections” (12). The priest’s lessons for his student focus primarily on the intricacies of the ceremony and ritual of the Mass, rather than on the underlying principles that serve as the foundation of Catholicism. The fact that the Church seems to be caught up in the ritual of their belief more than the belief itself is further demonstrated when the cause of the priest’s descent from a respectable position in life is eventually revealed—he broke a chalice, thus disrupting the ceremony of transubstantiation that forms the backbone of not only the Mass but of the ritual of the Catholic Church itself (18). It is obvious that the ritual and ceremony of Catholic rites are emphasized far more than the beliefs that underlie them.
Meanwhile, the narrator highlights the fact that the Church emphasizes this intricate system of rules and regulations in order to distract from its empty core by demonstrating the ineffectiveness of prayer and religious belief in bringing about change. In a pitiful scene at the end of the short story “Counterparts” in Dubliners, the little boy cries out “Don’t beat me, pa! And I’ll…I’ll say a Hail Mary for you…I’ll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don’t beat me…I’ll say a Hail Mary…” (122). He repeats that he will pray a Hail Mary for his father three times, emphasizing the earnestness of his assertion. This, coupled with the diminutive “pa” that he uses twice to address his father, creates an impression both of his innocent youth and of pity for his current situation. The frequent repetition of ellipses indicates an incompletion, a kind of emptiness. Perhaps this emptiness is the lack of protection the little boy receives. He is evidently religious, and promises to pray for his father, and yet, no divine force saves him from his father’s brutal beating. This suggests that there is nobody in the greater universe to listen to the child’s prayer [5].
The cosmos represents the Church in that both are bodies to which characters look for enlightenment and guidance, but which are in fact devoid of meaning. Both of these institutions also perpetuate the characters’ paralysis in remarkably similar ways, further suggesting that the cosmos represents the Church. In the paradigm of the cosmos that has been established, the characters themselves bear full responsibility for their own paralysis. The cosmos itself cannot be responsible, since it does not actually possess any agency. Characters see their own pre-existing beliefs as universal truths, and therefore justify the choices they have made that prevent them from leading fulfilling lives.
This can be equated to the manner in which followers of the Catholic Church often manipulate the scripture upon which the faith is based to reflect whatever is most convenient, safe, or easy for them to believe at any given time. This is proven by the second-to-last short story in the collection, “Grace.” The text is littered with examples of the characters twisting the history and doctrine of the Church to reflect what they want to believe. For instance, in their small talk, they glorify the Jesuits, claiming that “‘Every other order of the Church had to be reformed at some time or other but the Jesuit Order was never once reformed. It never fell away’” (208). This is incorrect—the Jesuits in fact encountered immense disfavor and were suppressed for a time in all but two countries in 1773 (“History”). These men therefore demonstrate their ignorance of the Church, and willingness to basically invent history in order to justify the heroic perceptions of their faith that they have developed. Some might argue that the above example reflects only ignorance, and not a conscious attempt to twist the nature of the Church to fit what is most comfortable to believe. This point is invalid because it is not the fact that the men are ignorant itself that indicates this conscious twisting of their faith, but rather the fact that they eagerly propound a myth the truth of which they themselves have obviously not researched. This indicates their great desire, and even need, to believe what they want to without regard for the facts.
Even if this incident is not enough to prove their faith of self-delusion, the end of the story certainly is. At a service for businesspeople, the priest interprets a difficult Bible passage in his sermon as reflecting Jesus’ understanding that the majority of people in the real world could not realistically be expected to be pious in the traditional sense of the word, and that it was understandable to have little failings. Continuing the metaphor, the priest compares being religious to managing accounts—men of business have only to check their accounts, to make sure they have settled all of their affairs with God, and they are guaranteed to be saved (221-223). This interpretation of the words of Jesus caters to the interests of the typical businessman, comparing the salvation of one’s soul with a mere business transaction. The priest is deliberately manipulating the scripture so that the particular audience to which he is speaking will feel comfortable and safe in the notion that their faith works very much like their careers. In this way, the central tenets of the Church are simplified and twisted to reflect the pre-existing beliefs of the faithful, just as the cosmos reveals to the characters only what they already know. The metaphor is not perfect—in the relationship between the cosmos and the people, the people are wholly responsible for their own paralysis. In the relationship between the Church and the people, the Church still holds partial responsibility for Ireland’s stagnation, due to the reasons stated above. However, such must be the case, since the Church is composed of human beings, who do possess agency and are, after all, responsible for their own paralysis. The cosmos can never be accused of such, because it has no agency, despite the characters’ and the Church’s beliefs to the contrary.
The short story “A Painful Case” aptly demonstrates the relationship between the cosmos and humanity, and by metaphorical extension the Church and Ireland. Upon first hearing the news of his close friend’s death, everything John Duffy sees and hears reminds him of her, but eventually, it seems that he is repressing her memory because the pain of losing her is too much for him to bear. “He began to doubt the reality of what memory told him. He could not feel her near him in the darkness nor her voice touch his ear” (147). Two of the five senses are invoked separately, indicating the way in which Duffy is by degrees losing every trace of his friend that he once held in his memory. Because of this, there is no meaning left for him; he returns to indifference, this time in order to protect himself from the pain of this affair. “He waited for some minutes listening. He could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone” (147). Because this thought immediately follows his lamentation about no longer hearing her voice in the air, it is evident that he is listening for some trace of it to return to him. Figuratively, he is turning his ear to the cosmos, in the hopes that it will whisper to him in return some indicator, a reminder, of what once gave his life meaning. However, the repetition of the phrase “perfectly silent” emphasizes his sensation of being utterly alone in the universe. All four of these short sentences begin with the pronoun “he,” also highlighting that the present consists of him alone—his friend is gone, and there is nothing left in the universe for him. He has admitted earlier in the story that he has no faith, but simply follows Catholic ritual for the sake of keeping up appearances (135). Because he does not attempt to twist Catholic tenets to reflect his own beliefs, but rather plainly admits that he does not believe them, there is no place for his thoughts to take refuge. The cosmos has no more power than to reflect back to him what he already believes. He believes in nothing, after this great sorrow of his life; the cosmos has no answers to give because he has no answers for himself. The silent cosmos in this story reveals a universe, and a Church, stripped of its disguise in the wake of inexplicable tragedy, a universe in which there are no universal guiding truths, and each person is truly alone.

The Cosmos as a Refuge from Civilization
Despite the role of the cosmos in Dubliners as a tool used to perpetuate the stagnated lives of the novel’s troubled characters, its portrayal seems to frequently shift to a near opposite, a place of refuge for the characters from their overly-rigid societal structure. The cosmos is portrayed throughout the stories as an “other,” a mysterious, little-understood opposition to the bright lights and buildings of civilization. Initially, characters seem to be wary of its presence just beyond the borders of society, but as the novel develops, they seem to actually seek it out as a refuge from said society, whose system of rules and moral codes serve as figurative chains preventing them from achieving their ambitions and living lives of personal fulfillment. They seem to recognize the natural as an outlet for their creative and innovative energies that have been stifled by society, and they see hope for their own futures reflected in the freedom they find in unadulterated nature. The cosmos thus at once represents both the institution perhaps most responsible for their lives of stagnation—the Catholic Church—and the potential savior of their lives.
At first, the cosmos is portrayed as something foreign and strange that the characters are wary of because they do not thoroughly understand it. This may seem strange, in light of the previous argument that the characters look to the cosmos to find some kind of truth for their lives. However, the two are not mutually exclusive—in fact, the cosmos is made more unnatural and different by this perceived ability to convey universal truths. In the very first story, “The Sisters,” the main character is resistant to the feeling of freedom the sunny weather seems to invoke in him after the priest’s death. I have already explained that this is indicative of the boy’s refusal to acknowledge the misgivings about the Church that he has allowed to develop at a sub-conscious level. However, even though the truths he and the other characters obtain from the cosmos represent only their own beliefs, it is important to realize that they perceive the feelings and intuitions they gather from interactions with nature as actual communications with the cosmos. This means that, from his perspective, the narrator in “The Sisters” is resisting not his own belief but that which he thinks the cosmos is trying to impose upon him. He is wary of the influence of this strange force, unadulterated by human civilization.
“Clay” also contains an incident in which the intrusion of the cosmos into civilized life is not only questioned but actually fear-inducing. At one point during a game, the children lead blindfolded Maria to a particular table, on which “She felt a soft wet substance with her fingers…there was a pause for a few seconds…somebody said something about the garden, and at last Mrs. Donnelly said something very cross to one of the next-door girls and told her to throw it out at once: that was no play” (131). It is obvious from the words used to describe the soft, damp clay from outside, as well as from the hushed and solemn atmosphere that suddenly smothers the good-humored air of the game, that in bringing this unnamed object from outside into the home, the children have brought an element of the unknown into the midst of this warm, happy room. In doing so, they have committed a grave error. According to Padraic Colum, a close friend of Joyce’s, in a preface to a fairly early edition of Dubliners, “The omen that is concealed from Maria is the omen of her death” (xii). Such a reminder is not welcome in the presence of this lively get-together, and is quickly banished back to where it belongs. This emphasizes that, though all human beings must eventually become a part of the environment that surrounds them, this group of people does not welcome or encourage such thoughts. Nature makes them uncomfortable because it is a reminder to them of the unknown that comes after their brief existence within the realm of society, and therefore they encourage separation and distinction between nature and civilization, rather than a meeting of the two. In fact, the real object of the blindfold game Maria is praying is to find a prayer-book (131). This contrast of the safe and welcome prayer-book, representing civilization and the comforting Catholic notion of salvation, to the clammy and upsetting clay, representing the natural component of human beings, reiterates the divide between civilization and the wilderness.
“Clay” occurs roughly halfway through the novel, when the progression of the overall character of the book experiences a transition from youth to middle-age. Other examples that occur in stories located in close proximity to “Clay” indicate a changing perspective toward the presence of the cosmos. In the example from “A Little Cloud” mentioned in the previous section, Little Chandler first looks to the cosmos to get away from the monotony of his writing (86). His mediocre middle-level desk job represents his unfulfilled life bound by the constraints of the society in which he lives. By comparison, the cosmos seems like a haven, an escape from the monotony of his everyday life. In “A Painful Case,” Mr. John Duffy deliberately stops and listens to the cosmos for some kind of sign. This indicates an absence of any fear on his part regarding the unknown. Rather, he is looking to it for some kind of advice or guidance, as so many of the other characters have, although his quest is ultimately to result in disappointment.
The strongest examples of nature as a refuge from structured society occur in the final, longest, and arguably most important short story of the novel, “The Dead.” When Gabriel feels uncomfortable and out-of-place in the stodgy Christmas party he is attending, he looks with longing through the windows of his aunts’ apartment, seeing there the falling, quiet snow. “How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk out alone…How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table!” (246). Each sentence begins with a wistful exclamation beginning with “how.” These, along with the two exclamation points, indicate the intensity of his desire to be away from the crowds in the quiet snow. This, in turn, indicates the restlessness Gabriel feels as the result of being confined to the rigid convention of the society represented by the party he is attending. At the end of the story, the cosmos seems to lead Gabriel to a true epiphany. “Snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves…his soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (288). The narrator induces the poetic quality of these lines by the repetition of the word “falling,” and the reversal of “falling faintly” and “faintly falling,” along with the alliteration of the soft “s” sound in “soul swooned slowly.”
Despite the revelatory tone of this passage, Schwarz in a critical overview of “The Dead,” has cited multiple critics who argue that this ending represents yet another false epiphany. Vincent Pecora, for instance, argues that “in fact…Gabriel in no way overcomes or transcends the conditions of his existence. Rather, he merely recapitulates them unconsciously in this self-pitying fantasy…” (qtd. in Schwarz 78). However, aside from the soft, melodious sounds of this passage, Gabriel’s former resistance to the artificiality of social interaction suggests that he may be more open to true epiphany than the characters of the former stories, who have shown no such conscious recognition of the superficiality of the societal limits that restrain them. In this moment, Gabriel becomes cognizant of the humanity that ties him and his fellow members of civilization together. The swooning of his soul seems to be an indication of a new frame of thought; a glimmer of hope, perhaps, in the power of the latent potential of this unifying humanity to transform stagnated existences (the “dead” by another name) into lives of progress and fulfillment. His experience is the ultimate example in the novel of finding solace and hope in the cosmos [6].

The Cosmos as a Representation of Continental Europe
It is doubtful that Joyce would have assigned nature such a positive role because of his great respect for the natural and unaffected over the civilized. In a later work, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), he makes clear his belief in the superiority of the artificial and man-made over the natural [7]. He has used nature as a symbolic contrast to what he sees as an oppressive society, but this nature must mean something else—something rooted in mankind’s creation and innovation, since this is where Joyce envisioned the salvation of mankind to exist. The cosmos signifies not only that which is beyond the civilized, human world, but also simply that which is beyond, surrounding, encompassing. It is not unreasonable, then, to suggest that the cosmos served as a representation of the world outside of and encompassing Ireland. This may at first appear unreasonable because, while the cosmos in the story provides a natural, unstructured alternative to the rigidity of civilization, continental Europe is just yet another example of the latter. In response to this protest, it is important to remember that Joyce is not arguing that all of mankind’s civilization is unduly rigid and restricting—indeed, he is not calling for a return to the wild. As noted above, his works make clear his belief in the superiority of the man-made to the natural. Therefore, the opposition created of the cosmos to society is specifically of the larger, unrestricted world to the smaller, restricted world that is Dublin, and by extension all of Ireland.
Through letters and other documents, Joyce has made clear his belief that in order to truly modernize, Ireland must embrace the cultural legacy of continental Europe [8]. He resents the Irish Nationalist movement propounded by such intellectuals as Yeats calling for a return to a culture that is purely Irish [9]. While proponents of this movement demanded a return to use of the Gaelic language in Ireland and wrote poetry and prose in which images and stories of Irish folklore and mythology dominated, Joyce firmly believed that the only way for Irish culture to flourish was for it to allow itself to communicate with, rather than close itself off from, the outside world. In his stories, therefore, his characters find solace and hope in the world beyond their own because it is also there, as far as Joyce is concerned, where his culture will finally be saved from its stagnation by the inspiration and positive influence it obtains through cultural exchange with the nations in Europe that Joyce viewed as more culturally accomplished.
It may seem at this point contradictory to argue that the cosmos represents one institution that perpetuates paralysis in Dublin, while at the same time also representing one that could potentially save it from such stagnation. However, this is clearly rooted in the fact that both Ireland’s potential demise and potential salvation are rooted in continental Europe [10]. Joyce notes the meaninglessness and emptiness of these presences in Ireland with his depiction of the cosmos as a false conveyor of truth. Despite these unwelcome intrusions, however, Joyce still finds that cultural salvation will come not from isolation, but from cultural exchange with continental Europe.

In “Eveline,” the looming danger of the great unknown cosmos about her causes the titular character to choose her mundane, monotonous life in Dublin over the both exciting and terrifying possibility of the unknown. The choice she makes between Ireland and the world outside of it is one that Joyce asks all of his Irish countrymen to take. Though the safety of the status quo may appear more appealing than the risk of embracing the mysterious and unknown in order to revitalize Irish culture, Joyce believes in its necessity. He uses the cosmos in Dubliners to represent both facets of Ireland’s relationship with continental Europe—the hate that comes from its colonization and oppression, as well as the potential for salvation that comes from embracing its culture.

II. The Role of the Cosmos in Lu Xun’s Call to Arms (1922)[11] and Wandering (1925)[12]

The cosmos in the early short stories of Lu Xun also fails to convey any sort of true enlightenment to the characters, in which respect it is similar to the cosmos in Joyce’s work. However, although the characters in Lu Xun’s stories do project their own hopes and viewpoints onto the cosmos much in the same way that Joyce’s characters do, there also seems to be a criticism of the tradition that events in the cosmos can be somehow influenced by, or in other words serve as a reaction to, the behaviors of human beings. His cosmos can also be construed as representing traditional Chinese society, which continued to influence the lives of people in a frustrating manner even after the initial success of the May Fourth movement and other attempts to cast aside old manners of thought, such as those inspired by Confucianism, in favor of new ideologies [13]. Indeed, this is commonly regarded as the principal motivation behind Lu Xun’s desire to write literature in the first place. He says as much in his preface to Call to Arms (35) [14]. According to Pablo Sze-pang Tsoi of Hong Kong Baptist University, “…he [Lu Xun] succeeded in arousing a nationwide cultural awareness of the stereotype of China’s feudalistic backwardness…modernity was propelled by a radical attempt to eliminate such stereotypical backwardness which is regarded as hindering national salvation” (1-2). The force of traditional Chinese society therefore serves as the parallel in Lu Xun’s short stories to the oppressive Catholic Church in Joyce’s.
It is more difficult, however, to find a parallel in Lu Xun’s short stories to the positive attributes of Joyce’s cosmos. Although the cosmos is occasionally welcomed by Lu Xun’s characters as a comforting force, it is often either false comfort bought on by their own self-delusions, as the analogy of the cosmos to a mirror explains, or else it is an unsettled comfort, that which has as its source confidence that struggles to overthrow the oppressive forces of traditional Chinese society will continue. It does not, in other words, provide any kind of refuge or alternative to the rigidity of Chinese society that suggests that it is realistic to hope for a realistic chance of the success of these struggles leading to the eventual downfall of “feudalistic” Chinese customs. This does not mean that Lu Xun’s work is devoid of hope; rather, this hope is to be found elsewhere. Every instance of true hope for the future in his early short stories stems from encounters with children. The narrator of Lu Xun’s stories therefore does not conceive of China’s hope for revitalization as stemming from the external world, but rather from change that must occur within the new generation of Chinese people. Lu Xun was highly in favor of adapting many western ideologies (Chow 309). However, it is clear from his literature that he felt the introduction of western philosophies into Chinese education would be fruitless if the people themselves did not undergo a crucial transformation in the way they perceived themselves, as well as their relations to each other and the world.

The Inability of the Characters to Communicate with the Cosmos or of the Cosmos to Reflect the Human Realm
At the same time that Lu Xun’s characters tend to project their own beliefs onto the cosmos and then interpret them as divine truth, they also tend to believe that the behavior of the cosmos somehow reflects occurrences within the human realm. The fallacy of both of these actions is highlighted throughout Lu Xun’s stories. This first instance of this occurs in the short story “Medicine” [15], in which a father makes his way down a road to retrieve some traditional medicine he has heard will cure his young son, who is dying from tuberculosis. “…Old Shuan’s spirits rose, as if he had grown suddenly younger…he had lengthened his stride. And the road became increasingly clear, the sky increasingly bright” (59). The second sentence begins with an “and,” suggesting that the cosmos becoming “increasingly clear” and “bright” is a natural extension of the optimism Old Shuan clearly indicates in his newfound feeling of youthfulness and powerful stride. In addition, the narrator uses the word “increasingly” to delineate an almost mathematical direct relationship between the two. Thus does Old Shuan unwittingly mistake his own hope for a sign from the cosmos that his optimism is justified. The death of Old Shuan’s son later in the story proves, however, that the “brightening” of the sky mentioned here is no reliable indicator of future events, but rather the result of Old Shuan projecting his own desperate hope onto the cosmos.
At the end of “Medicine,” the mother of the revolutionary killed in the novel, Xia Yu, sees a mysterious wreath of red and white flowers lying on her son’s unmarked grave, strange to behold in a cemetery where no other grave has received such attention. Feeling that her son’s spirit must be present, she calls out for him to send a crow resting in a nearby tree to her grave as a sign that he hears her. After waiting breathlessly for the crow to move from its spot, however, she finally starts to leave, dejected, only to hear the crow caw at that moment and turn back to see it fly, not onto the grave, but off into the air (66-67). In this instance, the mother has without doubt projected her own viewpoint and hope onto the meaning she tries to read within the cosmos. She explicitly says after she sees the wreath of flowers, “Son, they all wronged you, and you do not forget. Is your grief still so great that today you worked this wonder to let me know?” After she sees the crow, she continues, “‘I know…they murdered you. But a day of reckoning will come, Heaven will see to it” (67). She obviously speaks her own opinion regarding her son’s untimely death, and her exclamation that ‘Heaven will see to’ retribution for the grave wrong her son has suffered indicates that already, she has interpreted the wreath of flowers based on what she already believes, rather than as an indicator of some kind of genuine enlightenment. The uncertainty of what happens next demonstrates, however, that the cosmos does not necessarily reflect her own desire, or that the cosmos is even capable of listening to her pleas. The crow flying away from her could be a sign, but it could just as easily be a random occurrence that happened to coincide with her waiting for some indication that the cosmos has heard her words [16]. Although the meaning behind the incident, if there is any, remains ambiguous, it at the very least questions the traditional notion that some kind of knowledge of fate or the pattern of the universe can be discerned from signs in nature.
Similar disparities between the reality of a given situation within the realm of human beings and the behavior of the cosmos occur in “Tomorrow.” [17] Although Fourth Shan’s Wife’s tiny son Bao’er lies in bed gasping for breath due to his sickness, the “…sky grew bright in the east; and presently through the cracks in the window filtered the silvery light of dawn” (69). The brightness and “silvery” quality of the sky directly contrasted with Bao’er’s struggle even to breathe reinforces the disparity between the behavior of the cosmos and the occurrences of the human realm, a disparity that the narrator reinforces when the phrase is repeated verbatim after Bao’er’s death (73). Later, at the end of Bao’er’s funeral, “…the sun made it clear that it was about to set, and the guests unwittingly made it clear that they were about to leave—home they all went” (74). The narrator gives the sun agency here, but given the facetious tone of “made it clear that it was about to set,” it seems unlikely that any profound conclusion about the driving force of the cosmos can or should be made from this statement. Rather, this moment of bathos further demonstrates the disjuncture in the movement of the cosmos and human actions. To Bao’er’s distraught mother, it seems as though time itself should stop in order to mourn her deceased son. However, the sun “makes it clear” that, in the scheme of the universe, her son’s death is insignificant; it will continue to set and time will continue to progress, despite the fact that her mourning has not ended yet. This is demonstrated by the fact that the setting of the sun apparently abruptly ends the funeral ceremony before it has come to a natural conclusion. The final moment of this story emphasizes time’s ruthless desire to march incessantly on, ignoring all human sorrows. “…Luzhen was sunk in utter silence. Only the night, eager to change into the morrow, was journeying on in the silence; and, hidden in the darkness, a few dogs were barking” (75). Although not directly related to the cosmos, the fact that the short story ends with the casual observation that “a few dogs were barking” implies that Bao’er’s death and funeral are not important enough even to merit a final word or concluding statement; rather, the narrator has already returned to describing the events of ordinary life, much in the way that the cosmos has returned to, or rather never veered from, its continuing progression of time. Thus, the narrator lessens the significance of Bao’er’s death to demonstrate that human occurrences do not determine the movements of the cosmos; indeed, their significance is so slight as to hardly merit mention in the scheme of the universe.

The Cosmos as a Representation of the Oppressiveness of Traditional Chinese Society
The parallel between the cosmos in Lu Xun’s short stories and traditional Chinese society, which he found oppressive, first surfaces with a very short passage in the first short story of Call to Arms, entitled “A Madman’s Diary.”[18] The narrator writes, “A few days ago a tenant…came to report the failure of the crops and told my elder brother that a notorious character in their village had been beaten to death; then some people had taken out his heart and liver, fried them in oil, and eaten them as a means of increasing their courage” (41). It is evident from the use of the word “and” to link the death of the older brother to the report of the crop failure that these two seemingly independent incidents are related. The cosmos has demonstrated its disapproval of some behavior in the human realm by causing the crops to fail, so in order to gain its forgiveness, people feel they must kill their fellow man, a social outcast. They then eat two of this man’s organs, specifically two that are essential for maintaining vitality, allegedly in order to gain ‘courage.’ This linking of cannibalistic acts to traditional behavior is emphasized throughout the short story; at one point, the narrator in his delusional ravings explicitly traces the origins of this cannibalistic feature of Chinese society to ‘Confucian feudal thought’ (42). It is therefore clear that the cannibalism throughout the story is an extended metaphor to represent the manner in which ‘feudalistic’ Chinese society feeds off of its helpless prey, the people. By extension, killing and consuming a man in order to please the heavens is also an antiquated, meaningless custom. Although it is true that the narrator is clearly insane, and therefore interprets the manner in which society feeds off of its members as literal cannibalism, this actually makes his revelation all the more striking. In his delusions, he is still able to see the true effect of traditional Chinese society with greater clarity than any of the supposedly sane people who surround him.
The next instance in which the cosmos is explicitly linked to the manner in which traditional Chinese society feeds off of its members occurs in “The True Story of Ah Q.”[19] As Ah Q is led to the place where he will be executed, he describes the glittering eyes of the people who have gathered to watch his death, which remind him of those of a wolf who had once followed him back to town. “He had never forgotten that wolf’s eyes, fierce yet cowardly, gleaming like two will-o-the-wisps, as if boring into him from a distance. Now he saw eyes more terrible even than the wolf’s; dull yet penetrating eyes that having devoured his words still seemed eager to devour something beyond his flesh and blood” (153). The explicit comparison of the wolf’s eyes to those of the people who gather to watch Ah Q’s execution suggests the same analogy of people eating other people that forms so large a part of the narrative of “Diary of a Madman.” Ah Q believes that the eyes of those who watch him at the execution are ‘more terrible even than the wolf’s.’ While the wolf’s eyes were ‘fierce yet cowardly,’ the eyes of the people are ‘dull yet penetrating.’ Note the reversal of characteristics. Although the wolf’s eyes appeared terribly frightening, they were ultimately ‘cowardly.’ The eyes of the people, however, though they have a ‘dull’ appearance, ‘penetrate’ Ah Q’s entire being, such that Ah Q feels that they are looking to devour more of him than even his physical, flesh-and-blood appearance [20]. While their dullness highlights their total lack of feeling for the figure whose death they will watch, the fierceness of their penetration demonstrates that Ah Q’s death is more than merely entertainment for these them. Rather, his suffering is their very sustenance; they seek to devour his very essence.
The most detailed instance of the cosmos serving as a representation for the oppression of traditional Chinese society on the Chinese people occurs throughout the short story, “In the Wine Tavern.” [21] The representation of the cosmos in this short story occurs in three parts—the first and last, which act as a kind of prelude and postlude to the events of the story, and its appearance in the bulk of the story, which takes the form of an old abandoned garden that the two characters can see from within the wine tavern.
The first mention of the external environment, the prelude, occurs when the narrator looks outside his window and observes, “Above was the leaden sky, a colourless dead white; moreover a flurry of snow had begun to fall” (189). Earlier, the narrator explicitly admits that he nearly regrets having returned to this town where he once lived, since so much has changed that he feels like a stranger. This description of the cosmos, with its heavy, “leaden” sky colored like the skin of a corpse, reflects the narrator’s dreary mood stemming from his disappointment about the changed, bleak state of the town to which he has returned. In addition, snow begins to fall; the word “moreover” suggests that the narrator at this point in time thinks of the snowfall as just one more element to add to the grim lifelessness of his surroundings. At the time of this mention of the cosmos, however, there is no indication that the cosmos means anything other than simply the representation of the author’s regret for having returned to a town that was so different from how he remembered it.
The main instance of the cosmos begins after the narrator arrives in the wine tavern, where he observes from his seat the abandoned garden outside his window that, apparently, he has noticed many times before. Throughout the passage, the narrator contrasts the old, neglected appearance of the garden with its fierce determination to survive in the face of adversity. Though the plum trees are ‘old,’ they are ‘in full bloom, braving the snow as if oblivious to the depth of winter’; the pavilion is ‘crumbling,’ while at the same time right next to it ‘a dozen crimson blossoms blazed bright as flame in the snow, indignant and arrogant, as if despising the wanderer’s wanderlust” (190). The contrast of colors in this passage between the flowers, especially the intense crimson blossoms, and the white snow emphasizes the energy and determination with which this garden, however dilapidated it is, insists on defying the winter that wants to crush it. The plum blossoms, ‘oblivious,’ refuse to even acknowledge the presence of such cold weather, while the crimson blossoms, on the contrary, actually seem to be “indignant and arrogant.” Here is the first example of living creatures daring to defy the grim environment surrounding them, threatening to suppress them.
The narrator’s peculiar, apparently unrelated observation about how the flowers seem to scorn “the wanderer’s wanderlust” reflect his melancholy at his own restlessness and inability to truly consider any part of China home. Soon after first observing the garden, he reflects, “I felt that the north was certainly not my home, yet when I came south I could only count myself as a stranger” (190). Rather than simply stating that he does not feel at home in any part of China, the narrator draws out his statement by remarking first on the strangeness of the north to him, and only afterwards remarking also on the strangeness of the south. This emphasizes the full scope of his sentiment; to the entire country, north and south alike, he is a stranger, disconnected from the present-day around him. The blossoms, in contrast, fiercely defend their right to remain not simply living, but vibrant and bursting with life, regardless of the seasonal change weighing down upon them. The narrator clearly admires their steadfastness and determination; he, on the other hand, has evidently allowed himself to become melancholic in the face of his apparent feeling of displacement.
Thus the garden makes its first appearance, interrupting the thoughts of the narrator and proclaiming its determination to survive. Afterwards, the narrator chances to meet with an old companion, Lu Weifu, who joins him in the tavern. Lu Weifu immediately strikes the narrator as having changed greatly from his younger self, lacking in the spirit and energy he once possessed: “…his pale lantern-jawed face was thin and wasted. He appeared very quiet if not dispirited, and his eyes beneath their thick black brows had lost their alertness; but while looking slowly around, at sight of the deserted garden they suddenly flashed with the same piercing light I had seen so often at school” (191). Although Lu Weifu appears much more fatigued and dispirited than when the two of them were younger, the sight of the garden invigorates him, if only for a moment. This indicates that the garden must hold some kind of positive meaning for him, probably associated with surviving, even through difficult periods. He then proceeds to tell the narrator a series of activities he has been engaged in for the past ten years since they have last seen each other, activities that Lu Weifu finds futile and meaningless (192). While narrating, he pauses to look out the window once more and exclaims of the garden, “‘Could you find anything like this up north? Blossom in thick snow, and the soil beneath the snow not frozen” (193). This exclamation clarifies that it is indeed the vibrant life and persistence of these blossoms in the face of such harsh adversity that impresses Lu Weifu so greatly.
Lu Weifu, however, has not fared so well in the most recent years of his life. He narrates his stories in a self-deprecating manner, interlacing his narrative with comments about how futile and meaningless he knew these projects were, and how he cannot respect himself for agreeing to the pursuit of either one. Furthermore, Lu Weifu mentions that he currently works tutoring children in traditional Chinese thought such as the Confucian classics and the Canon for Girls, to which the narrator exclaims, “‘I could really never have guessed that you would be teaching such books.’” Lu Weifu shrugs, unaffected, and tells the narrator that none of it matters (200). This dialogue reveals that the two men, at least in the past, did not approve of such conventional lessons. Lu Weifu has since abandoned his idealistic notions, as evidenced by his indifference to teaching the very ideas he once criticized. Seeing the failure of his endeavors, he has allowed himself to be crushed by the weight of the society about him, losing hope that any of his dreams will come to fruition and, in fact, becoming indifferent to ideas of any kind. When the narrator asks him about his future plans, Lu Weifu responds, “‘Future plans? I don’t know. Just think: has any single thing turned out as we hoped of all we planned in the past? I’m not sure of anything now, not even of what tomorrow will bring, not even of the next minute…” (201). Lu Weifu refuses to follow any particular plan or determine to achieve any particular goals, because he is so despondent over the failure of the dreams he once had to come to fruition. His awe at the perseverance of the garden stands out in stark contrast to his own refusal to continue to uphold his beliefs, even though they have not immediately caught on in the society around him. He does not seem to be consciously aware that, in admiring the determination of the blossoms to survive, he admires the very action he has failed to take in the bleak years since the hope of the May Fourth Movement. This is important; he despairs that his ideas will never come to fruition to the extent that he seems incapable of discerning in the garden, no matter how awe-inspiring it is, any kind of message regarding the possibility for continuation of hope, despite hard times.
While Lu Weifu narrates his stories, the garden once more thrusts itself upon the narrator’s thoughts. “There was a rustle outside the window as a pile of snow slithered off the camellia which had been bending beneath its weight; then the branches of the tree straightened themselves, flaunting their thick dark foliage and blood-red flowers even more clearly.” Meanwhile, “the sky had grown even more leaden. Sparrows were twittering, no doubt because dusk was falling and finding nothing to eat on the snow-covered ground they were going back early to their nests to sleep” (197). Here, the narrator contrasts the reaction of two different sets of living creatures to the oppressive winter. The sparrows have given in to their surroundings; finding no food, they simply give up and retreat to their beds. The garden, of course, as it has already made clear, refuses to do any such thing. The camellia shakes off the snow that has weighted it down and “straightens” itself, “flaunting” its foliage. The use of the word “flaunting” reiterates the not only determined, but thoroughly arrogant nature of the garden’s defiance. Its desire to survive is not simply a wish to remain living, but rather an insistence on proving that it can do so and flourish. It thinks highly of, and wants to show off, its ability to outlast the harshness of its surroundings. It is significant that the narrator notices this movement while Lu Weifu is in the midst of narrating the futility of his actions of the past few years. Later, the narrator parts from Lu Weifu outside the inn and begins to walk home. “As I [the narrator] walked back alone to my hotel, the cold wind buffeted my face with snowflakes, but I found this thoroughly refreshing. I saw that the sky, already dark, had interwoven with the houses and streets in the white, shifting web of thick snow” (201). Though the narrator once found the snow dreary, bleak, and stagnant, he now finds it “refreshing.” Furthermore, this entire scene is full of the fluid movement of the snow, which “interweaves” and “shifts” between the houses while it “buffets” the narrator’s face. Overall, these features make this postlude appear more positive than the prelude. The word “refreshing” indicates that the narrator has first undergone a period of fatigue or weariness, which must be the time he has spent talking to Lu Weifu, since they have just parted. Something has happened throughout the course of that discussion to cause the narrator’s surroundings to suddenly feel like much less of a burden to him.
The garden illustrates the answer. While the narrator feels downcast at the beginning of the short story, his melancholy does not compare at all to Lu Weifu’s complete despair and lack of hope for the future. Perhaps the garden reminds the narrator that he still has hope that in the future his plans will come to fruition. As much is evidenced from the fact that the narrator still expresses shock that Lu Weifu is teaching the classics, and still asks about future plans, implying that he himself has not given in to failure by aimlessly drifting about from day to day. The garden’s presence is a reminder that hope for the future does still exist, despite Lu Weifu’s own sense of futility and hopelessness. After the narrator realizes this, the weight of the present state of China upon him, indicated by the snow, is greatly lightened, as he realizes that it, like everything, will continue to change, and hopefully for the better. This is why the snow takes on the fluid movement that it lacked at the beginning of the short story, and it is also for this reason that the narrator at the end of the short story seems so much more light-hearted than he was in the beginning.

The Inability of the Cosmos to Provide True Refuge From Tradition
Although it is tempting to conclude from the ending of “In the Wine Tavern” that the cosmos does serve as a refuge in Lu Xun’s stories, much in the same way that it does in Joyce’s, this is not really the case. The cosmos of Joyce’s stories is a space where characters have greater freedom, set up in opposition to stifling, traditional Dublin society. The cosmos in “In the Wine Tavern,” however, is merely an indication of the narrator’s own changed perspective and increased hope in knowing that, if the blossoms are able to withstand harsh winters, he too should be able to endure this hard period of his life as well and hold to his ideals, knowing that as long as he continues to believe in and fight for them, hope still exists. The positive connotation of the drifting snow at the end of “In the Wine Tavern” is therefore simply another instance of the cosmos reflecting the inner sentiment of the character; there is no indication that the cosmos represents a freer, preferable alternative to a society dominated by outmoded, superstitious thought.
In fact, the narrator’s reflection at the end of “My Old Home” [22] emphasizes that people will find refuge from traditional, restrictive modes of thought in themselves, and not within the cosmos. “As I dozed, a stretch of jade-green seashore spread itself before my eyes, and above a round golden moon hung from a deep blue sky. I thought: hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made” (101). The adjectives used to describe the natural environment—the “jade-green” seashore, the “round golden” moon, and the “deep blue” sky—denote splendid, rich colors, as opposed to the bland whiteness described in the environment of “In the Wine Tavern.” The beauty the narrator sees in the cosmos reflects his own epiphany that “hope cannot be said not to exist” because, like roads, it is something that men have the capability to build, if they so desire. It is not, in other words, a force that exists inherently in the universe, the same way that the earth was not created with roads already carved into it.
The clearest example of the inability of the cosmos to serve as a refuge for people from the constraints of traditional society occurs in “New-Year’s Sacrifice.” [23] The cosmos in this story is first mentioned when the narrator describes the snowflakes of the town, which in merging with the smoke of incense from New-Year’s sacrifices causes great confusion (169). The smoke symbolizes the ceremonies, and therefore the superstitions upon which they are based, of tradition, which means that the cosmos, in merging with it to create confusion, actually seems to be joining with these constraining beliefs, rather than serving as an alternative to them. Presumably, the two of them mixed together cause confusion because they blur the sight of the citizens of the town who walk through the streets, a subtle indication of the similar but more serious effect of traditional Chinese beliefs upon the ability of the people to perceive the hypocrisy of their actions, a criticism that emerges forcefully throughout the course of this story. In the same passage, the narrator indicates that the stark white color of the snow makes his uncle’s study brighter than usual, thus emphasizing a red stone rubbing by a Taoist priest that reads “Longevity” (169). This item, also representative of traditional Chinese society, serves as a scathing comment on its hypocrisy when contrasted with the untimely death of Xianglin Sao later in the novel, which ultimately results from her condemnation as an outcast by her society because of their superstition.
In the next incident in which the narrator mentions the snowy environment of the town, he sits contemplating Xianglin Sao’s sad fate. Although his ensuing thought process is long, it is important enough that it merits full replication here:

Winter days are short, and because it was snowing darkness had already enveloped the whole town. All was stir and commotion in the lighted houses, but outside was remarkably quiet. And the snowflakes hissing down on the thick snowdrifts intensified one’s sense of loneliness…I reflected that this wretched and forlorn woman, abandoned in the dust like a worn-out toy of which its owners have tired, had once left her own imprint in the dust, and those who enjoyed life must have wondered at her for wishing to live on; but now at last she had been swept away by death. Whether spirits existed or not I did not know; but in this world of ours the end of a futile existence, the removal of someone whom others are tired of seeing , was just as well for both them and for the individual concerned. Occupied with these reflections, I listened quietly to the hissing of the snow outside, until little by little I felt more relaxed. (174)

The assumptions underlying the narrator’s thought indicate that, though he considers himself above the petty existences of the villagers in his uncle’s town, traditional thought is so embedded in his thinking that he does not recognize its presence. When he speculates that “those who enjoyed life must have wondered at her for wishing to live on,” he implies that Xianglin Sao belongs to a separate category than “those who enjoyed life.” This is evident from the lack of any modifiers or descriptors that would suggest the possibility that Xianglin Sao could also be one who enjoys life. Besides the fact that she is separate in the narrator’s thoughts from “those who enjoyed life,” his speculating that they “must have wondered at her for wishing to live on” is also revealing. They first suggest that Xianglin Sao has no right—or, more likely, no actual capacity—to truly enjoy life, in light of the tragedy and misfortune she has suffered. Having experienced such disfavor from the gods, Xianglin Sao should become resigned to her own misery, rather than trying to regain favor with the cosmos by buying a threshold at a temple, as she does in her later years (186-187). This attempt to somehow overcome the sad role that fate has assigned her “surprises” those who observe her, potentially because it is a rare moment in which a character attempts to take her fate into her own hands, rather than assuming that all that happens is due to a higher, immutable order, including her own exclusion from society and supposed resulting inability to enjoy life. Xianglin Sao thus makes herself a nuisance because she disrupts the rightful order of the community. The narrator observes that she was “swept away by death.” The use of the word “swept” suggests that Xianglin Sao is some kind of unclean blemish, like dirt or dust, that needs to be swept away out of sight in order to allow society to once again become clean.
At this point, the reader is led to believe that the narrator empathizes with Xianglin Sao and the lack of kindness she has received from the townspeople. However, he then asserts that “the removal of someone whom others were tired of seeing, was just as well for both them and the individual concerned” in order to justify to himself Xianglin Sao’s death. His usage of the word “removal” rather than “death” or “fate,” because the former is a verb nominalization, suggests that some unspoken subject is doing the removing of Xianglin Sao [24]. While his justification of Xianglin Sao’s death as a means of ultimately bettering the community environment implies the narrator’s own inability to empathize with her, his implicit suggestion that her “removal” has been ordained by some higher power suggests his own belief, whether or not he is aware of it, that nothing is wrong with Xianglin Sao’s death because it brings the community back into order. In other words, even if the narrator is not certain whether or not he believes in spirits, he clearly sees her death not as a result of the neglect she has received from other people, but rather as necessary for the stabilization of society and, by extension, the cosmos. In believing thus, he exhibits the same indifference toward his fellow human beings that motivates Lu Xun to become a writer in the first place. His role as the disapproving intellectual emphasizes that this apathy for fellow human beings is insidious in all levels of Chinese culture, including those who consider themselves more enlightened than their peers. This is not the only time, after all, that Lu Xun makes supposed intellectuals out to look like hypocrites or even buffoons in his short stories [25].
The narrator’s thoughts are framed by the falling snow outside the window. Immediately a contrast is established between the inside, where “all was stir and commotion in the lighted houses,” but “outside was remarkably quiet.” The comparison between the liveliness of the civilized world and the quiet stillness of the natural world partitioned from the human one by windows and walls is similar to that made by Gabriel in Joyce’s “The Dead,” with one notable exception. As discussed in Chapter I, Gabriel favors the exterior snow over his aunts’ party, wishing to be away from the noise of civilization. The preference of the narrator in “New-Year’s Sacrifice,” however, is not as clear. While he does not explicitly state that he prefers the interior, he does mention before beginning to speculate about Xianglin Sao that the snow “intensifies” the narrator’s sense of loneliness, suggesting that even around other people, he feels this sentiment, albeit to a lesser degree. Later, the narrator thinks, “…I listened quietly to the hissing of the snow outside, until little by little I felt more relaxed.” He justifies her death as necessary for the community to return to a “normal” state. Because his listening to the snow outside is connected to his gradually feeling more relaxed by the subordinate conjunction “until,” the first act, of listening, seems to have led to or at least to be in connection in some way with the second act, of relaxing. The narrator thus draws an explicit link between the snow and the mental process he undergoes in order to justify others’ neglect of Xianglin Sao as part of a natural social order that her presence was disrupting. This is the second moment in the short story, after the incident where the snow and the smoke of the firecrackers mingle together, that the snow is connected in a supportive or complementary role to the traditional behavior under criticism. It naturally cannot serve as a refuge from that which it represents or, at the very least, seems to complement.
The last mention of the snow occurs in the final paragraph of the short story, after Xianglin Sao has been neglected by the townspeople because of all of the misfortune she has endured and, ultimately, has died of starvation and poverty. As he hears the New Year’s celebrations, the narrator again mentions that “the whole town was enveloped by the dense cloud of noise in the sky, mingling with the whirling snowflakes” (187). The narrative focuses on this combined effect of the smoke from the sacrifices and the drifting snow at both the beginning and end of the story, as though to emphasize that this partnership has always existed and will continue to exist. As noted above, the effect of the mingling of these two in the sky is to blur the sight of the townspeople, which serves as an allusion to their cold inability to perceive a fellow human being in dire need of compassion.
The narrator becomes relaxed at the sound of the festivities, and feels only that “the saints of heaven and earth had accepted the sacrifice and incense and were reeling with intoxication in the sky, preparing to give Luzhen’s [26] people boundless good fortune” (188). Although the story is titled “New-Year’s Sacrifice,” it deals mainly with the story of Xianglin Sao—the food and incense offerings are only cursorily mentioned throughout the story. In light of her death, it seems that she is, in fact, the sacrifice. After all, the townspeople felt it was necessary to ignore her and refuse to show her sympathy in order to avoid incurring the displeasure of the Gods; they sacrificed one of their members for the good of the whole, as they see it. First, the narrator’s sentiment illustrates that he has not altogether abandoned traditional notions of the relationship of the cosmos to the people, further indicating that he maintains a frame of thought rooted in tradition, though he claims to be an intellectual. More importantly, however, the narrator is clearly unaware of the hypocrisy of this attitude, since he becomes “relaxed” and all of his doubts leave him upon hearing the firecrackers that symbolize the joyous occasion of the New Year. However, because the narrative ends with the assertion that Luzhen will receive “boundless good fortune,” it jars the reader into an acute awareness of the cruelty of a system of beliefs in which townspeople can leave a fellow human being in need to die, and yet still feel pleased enough with themselves and the quality of their ceremonies to expect such a favorable response from the cosmos. Comparing the amount of food that the townspeople burn for the gods to their complete withholding of food from Xianglin Sao, who died of poverty, it is hard to avoid concluding that these traditional superstitions and customs do indeed eat away at the humanity of the individual members who uphold them; by extension, they also cause undue suffering at the hands of others for those who have somehow lost grace or status within these conventions (173). The snow, always located as a complement to the forces that represent or support these beliefs and superstitions, here serves as a representation of the oppressiveness of traditional Chinese thought upon the members of Chinese society; this is the same function that it serves in “In the Wine Tavern.” These examples demonstrate that, despite the narrator’s positive association with snow at the end of the latter short story, the cosmos cannot be considered as a refuge from perverse traditional society in Lu Xun’s works, but rather as a complement to it. Although Lu Xun’s characters do occasionally express hope for the future of their society and country, it is not through the cosmos that they do so.

Save the Children
Although Lu Xun’s cosmos provides no comforting alternative to the stifling rigidity of conventional society, his narrators still occasionally manage to find hope for the future elsewhere—namely in incidents involving other people. In the short story, “A Small Incident,” [27] for example, the kindness a lowly rickshaw driver shows for an old woman that he has accidentally hit causes the narrator to realize his own selfishness. Looking back upon the event, he reflects, “…this small incident keeps coming back to me, often more vivid than in actual life, teaching me shame, spurring me on to reform, and imbuing me with fresh courage and fresh hope” (78). The kindness that the rickshaw driver without hesitation demonstrates toward the old woman jars the narrator into a sudden realization of his own lack of empathy for his fellows. His openness to learning from a man lower than himself in societal status defies the traditional notion that with superior wealth and authority comes superior moral character. Before the incident, the narrator describes himself as indifferent to the current affairs of the day. “Frankly speaking, they taught me to take a poorer view of people every day” (76). He is obviously disillusioned with the moral and social state of his era. However, the incident involving the rickshaw driver consistently imbues him with “fresh courage and fresh hope.” The driver reminds the narrator that values such as kindness and compassion for fellow human beings continues to exist, and that as long as they exist, there is hope that they will overcome, that the future will be brighter than the present. It is important to note that, as the rickshaw driver is of a lower status than the narrator, the latter man’s respect for the former demonstrates a break with conventional thought, in which those of lower status generally learn from those with wealth, power, and authority.
In “My Old Home,” the aforementioned short story, the narrator regrets the societal conventions that have forced Runtu, once his childhood best friend, to in adulthood regard him as a superior because of his higher social status. Seeing the way in which his nephew and Runtu’s son play together as close friends almost immediately after meeting one another, however, the narrator is touched by their innocent blindness to the difference in each other’s socioeconomic status. Although the narrator believes that it is too late for the generation to which he and Runtu belong to change their surroundings, he is refreshed by the playing of the two children because he sees in it hope that future generations will embrace new ideas of equality and compassion for others, thus breaking out of the conventions that have restricted members of Chinese society for so many years. It is this realization that leads to the previously-discussed moment when the narrator’s spirits rise because he realizes that hope is not inherent to the earth, but can be created by men who are willing to strive to improve their surroundings. He clearly places the burden of creating the possibility of a freer, better future onto the shoulders of people and their actions and behaviors, rather than onto any one particular external force. This event is distinct from that in “A Small Incident” in that the narrator is inspired to hope not by a fellow adult, but by children. His optimism that the future will gradually become better as men will make it so, culminating in a statement that is arguably the most optimistic in Lu Xun’s entire opus, occurs as a result of observing a future generation that still possesses great potential for altering the conventions and outdated traditions of their predecessors. Indeed, the narrator at the end of “A Madman’s Diary” cries out to “save the children,” believing that the only hope for people to stop “eating” each other lies within those who will grow up learning from the errors of their elders. Indeed, this is not surprising, given Lu Xun’s stated reason for becoming a writer in the first place. [28]

The cosmos in Lu Xun’s stories acts as a mirror reflecting the characters’ own thoughts back to themselves, as it does in Joyce’s stories. Furthermore, the relationship between the actions or pleas of the characters and the behavior of the cosmos is unclear. Both of these question the traditional notion of an inherent, objective truth inherent in the cosmos that dictates the ways societies should behave and interact, an idea propounded by generations of Chinese thought [29]. While Lu Xun’s short stories showcase both the injustice and cruelty of these outmoded systems of thought and their insidiousness within the Chinese, even those that consider themselves to be intellectuals of a new order, they also suggest that people should look to other people, and especially to future generations, for hope that the future will become more open-minded and just—not to foreign countries. Despite the fact that Lu Xun promoted the introduction of certain Western ideologies into Chinese society, his short stories and essays make clear that he envisioned the root of Chinese society’s backwardness to be contained in the people themselves, and therefore believed that true change had to start from within, rather than without.

Above, I have argued that whereas the cosmos in Joyce’s Dubliners serves the dual purpose of questioning the conventions held by the Irish people and ultimately representing the need of the Irish to discard their isolationism if they ever hope to experience a re-awakening of their own culture, Lu Xun’s cosmos serves only the first purpose. The hope within his short stories emerges from other people, and especially from children, suggesting that he conceptualizes of the salvation of his own stagnated culture as coming from within his people, rather than from external forces. Some may protest that this is naïve and simplistic—Joyce did call for Ireland to join with continental Europe, but in so doing, he implicitly called for Irish people themselves to become freer and more open-minded. Such is evident enough from the narrator’s critique of Eveline in the short story of the same name. Meanwhile, as has already been mentioned several times, Lu Xun was not exactly isolationist, but rather firmly believed that the introduction of certain Western ideologies into Chinese society was ultimately necessary for its modernization.
The purpose of my argument is to suggest a model by which the cosmos within the early short stories of the two authors can be interpreted. This does not imply that each author believed in one or the other method to be the sole means of reviving the culture of his respective country. Rather, in Joyce’s case, communicating with and exchanging with continental Europe serves as the framework, or necessary overarching model, for cultural revitalization, a change which implies a simultaneous change within Irish people as well. Lu Xun, on the contrary, views the introduction of foreign ideas into Chinese culture as of secondary significance to the necessity of change from within his people. This is highlighted in his short story, “Mourning,” [30] in which the protagonist, an idealistic but naïve Chinese intellectual, comes to the unfortunate realization that simply reading, believing, and putting into practice ideas imported from Western thinkers has little effect if the predominant mode of thought within Chinese society is still traditional and socially restrictive. [31]
In fact, certain common denominators in each of their stories indicate that both willingness to embrace new ways of thinking and open-mindedness to ideas coming from environments outside of one’s own are not totally separate, but rather facets of the same general liberality that is a necessary characteristic for the growth and development of any entity, whether it be an individual or a nation. For instance, two striking similarities between the two authors are the use of windows as mediators between the internal and external and the reliance upon snow as a motif. The presence of the windows is logical enough; a window is an artificial divide between the interior world of civilization and external world of the natural, allowing those bound within the first world to glimpse the second. It represents the manner in which the characters regard the cosmos, as it comes to them mediated through layers of the convention, tradition, and superstition that are by-products of belonging to any one culture.
The role of snow in both authors’ stories is much more ambiguous. In Lu Xun’s “New-Year’s Sacrifice,” for instance, it serves as a symbol of the outmoded superstitions of Xianglin Sao’s town that ultimately lead to her neglect and subsequent death. In many other contexts, though, it is positive; for instance, in “My Old Home,” the narrator as a child greatly looks forward to snow because of all of the stories about it that his good friend Runtu has told him (93). In “In the Wine Tavern,” the snow represents the oppression of traditional Chinese society on the freedom of individuals, much as it does in “New-Year’s Sacrifice.” However, by the end of the story, the snow has transformed from a stagnant mass into a fluid, moving flurry, blowing against the narrator’s face and relaxing him in the wake of his grim conversation with Lu Weifu. Here, the snow seems to point toward hope for the eventual progress of Chinese society, even though, as has been addressed above, it does not represent a hope coming from without as much as it represents a hope coming from within a change in the liberal-mindedness of the Chinese people. In Joyce’s “The Dead,” meanwhile, the snow has an unquestionably positive connotation; it first serves, for Gabriel, as a comforting alternative to the superficiality and underlying tensions of civilized society. Afterwards, the snow serves as a universalizing force, uniting both the living and the dead under one large blanket of snow, emphasizing the connectedness of all mankind in their journey for enlightenment, progress, and cultural fruition.
It is in a sense sobering, if not somewhat sentimental, to imagine Joyce’s characters wistfully regarding snow in Ireland as Lu Xun’s characters watch the snowflakes falling in China at the same time. Regardless of the shifting meanings of snow throughout the short stories of both authors, its presence in both worlds suggests universality beyond the borders of either of the respective countries. Indeed, Joyce once remarked of his writing, “…I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal” (Ellmann 505). Perhaps, then, Joyce’s and Lu Xun’s criticisms should be extrapolated to refer not only to the Irish, or to the Chinese, but to any society in which new ideals struggling to take hold must first confront the outmoded beliefs that have preceded them for generations. If these problems and issues are common to any society in such a condition, than one can hope that the solutions, too, are applicable not only to the particular situation of Ireland or China in the early twentieth century, but to all those who continue to persist in their beliefs that, ultimately, those creeds that reinforce equal relations, liberality, and justice will persevere.


[1] It is a noteworthy curiosity that the young lives of both men followed similar paths. Both men were born to families of at least some wealth and/or social status, families which gradually descended into poverty due to faults and eventual deaths of their fathers, both of whom were substance abusers (the downfall of Lu Xun’s family was also due in part to a transgression of Lu Xun’s grandfather). Furthermore, both men first went to medical school, but left before graduating in order to pursue writing careers (Ellmann 24, 34-41, 110-113, 115-120, 123-133 and Lyell 3,7-8, 11-22, 69-75).

[2] Lu Xun was not translated into the languages that Joyce could read until near the end of the latter man’s  life, or in most cases, after it. A search in the Worldcat search engine of  “Lu Xun short stories” yields the following results for first translations of Lu Xun’s short stories into languages Joyce could understand: English: The Tragedy of Ah Qui, and Other Modern Chinese Stories (1930); German: Die reise ist Lang, gesammelte Erzählungen (1955); French: Contes anciens sur un mode nouveau (1978); Italian: Fuga sulla luna (1988). On the other hand, by the mid-1930s, a few years before Lu Xun’s death, selections from Chamber Music and Dubliners had been published in Japanese, which Lu Xun could read. (Slocum 122-123).

[3] Authors that both men read include Ibsen, Tolstoi, Shaw, and Maupassant, among others. Lu Xun indicates his respect for Russian authors in his essay “The Ties Between Chinese and Russian Literatures”, a respect that Joyce shared to some extent, at least for Tolstoi (Lu Xun III 209-213 and Joyce Letters 73-74). However, the most striking shared influence of the two authors is Henrik Ibsen , whose work features prominently in each of their writings. Extensive scholarship has been conducted on the influence of Ibsen’s work on Joyce’s (see Tysdahl’s Joyce and Ibsen and Ellmann 54-55).  Meanwhile, Lu Xun is credited with first introducing Ibsen to Chinese audiences, beginning a long-term love affair between that country and the author’s works (Melvin). As the motivation behind the comparison of this paper is primarily thematic, not historical, it is beyond its scope to analyze which, if any, of the similar trends of Joyce’s and Lu Xun’s writing can be traced back to their mutual interest in Ibsen. However, this remains an interesting subject for future inquiry.

[4] In this paper, the words “cosmos,” “nature,” “natural environment,” etc. will be used interchangeably. They all are meant to refer to the world beyond Mankind’s. This encompasses everything from natural growth frequently seen every day, such as trees and shrubs, to outer space and beyond.

[5] For other examples of expressions of disbelief in the tenets of Catholicism, please see Joyce’s later work, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, specifically p. 42-50, 237, 240, and 244

[6] Remember, however, that it is not the cosmos itself conveying this sense of enlightenment to Gabriel, according to the paradigm that has been established; he discovers it for himself, as a result of the preceding incident with his wife, and only then perceives it in the snowfall (278-279)

[7] See Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, p. 207-208

[8]Joyce wrote about this idea in his critical writings, particularly “The Shade of Parnell” and “Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages” (Joyce Critical Writings). It is notable that Leopold Bloom, the messianic protagonist of Ulysses who showcases the traits of compassion and humanism that the rest of Dublin seems to lack, is in fact of foreign origin. For further analysis of this stance, see Schwarz 50-56 and 264-265.

[9] For criticism of this movement, see Ellmann 266-268

[10] Only the oppression of the Catholic Church has been discussed at length in this essay. For a fuller discussion of the British presence in Ireland throughout history, see Susan de Sola Rodstein’s essay “Back to 1904: Joyce, Ireland, and Nationalism”

[11] «呐喊», Nahan

[12] «彷徨», Panghuang

[13] For more on intellectual movements in early twentieth-century China to dispel traditional modes of thought that were considered outdated, as well as Lu Xun’s role in them and his disappointment with their failure, please see Chow 185-186, 297, 356

[14] The translation of Lu Xun’s short stories that will be cited in this paper, unless otherwise noted, is that of Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang.

[15]« 药 », Yao

[16] Note also that the crow did not fly away until well after she requested a sign from the cosmos. Furthermore, it’s flying away did not even coincide with her parting, but rather occurred after “they had not gone thirty paces” (67). It is also natural that a crow in a tree would at some point fly away from said tree. In other words, there is no real coinciding of movement between the mother and the crow, making it even more likely that the crow’s flight could be a random event.

[17] «明天 », Mingtian

[18] « 狂人日记 », Kuangren Riji

[19] « 阿Q正传», Ah Q Zhengzhuan

[20] While Ah Q does describe the eyes of the wolf as “boring into him from a distance” as well, this characteristic is not placed within his two main descriptors of the wolf’s eyes, suggesting that he does not see this as one of their defining characteristics, as opposed to the eyes of the people.

[21] « 在酒楼上 » , Zai Jiuloushang

[22] « 故乡 », Guxiang

[23] «祝福 », Zhufu

[24] This holds in the Chinese version, in which the sentence translated is  of a construction that uses “使,“ which implies that some agent performs the action:”使厌见者不见” (Lu Xun 祝福)

[25] For more examples, see the previously-discussed example of Lu Weifu in “In the Wine Tavern”  (p. 26-21, above), or see “Kongyiji, ”  “Storm in a Teacup, ” etc., all of which can be found in the Yang translation.

[26] Luzhen is the name of the town mentioned both here and in many of Lu Xun’s other short stories

[27] « 一件小事 », Yi Jian Xiao Shi

[28] See pp. 25-26, above

[29] For instance, the ideas of both Confucianism and Daoism, two very influential systems of thought in China, were believed to be ordained by the natural order of the cosmos, rather than seen as arbitrary, man-made constructions

[30] « 伤逝», Shangshi

[31] An additional example of this belief can be found in Lu Xun’s well-known lecture 《娜拉走后怎样》 (After Nora Walks Out, What Then?)in which he argues that Nora leaving home at the end of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, as liberating an action as it seems, could not possibly work unless her society already has existing structures to support independent women ; without venues through which to seek work and earn money, Nora’s leaving home can only possibly result in her returning home as a failure, becoming a prostitute, or dying of destitution (Yang Vol. II 85). His lecture emphasizes his belief in the necessity of the society of a people to be developed to the point where it can be receptive to new ideas before these new ideas can ever possibly take hold.

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