The first short story under consideration is “Iron Child” by Mo Yan. The piece of literature deals with industrialization of China, which aimed at establishing the socialist model of political system of this country in the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century. The outcomes of the political transformation of China, particularly, child labor, are described in the story. The story “Iron Child” is narrated by a five-year-old boy (Yan n.pag.). Another short story under analysis is “Dogshit Food” by Liu Heng. The events of this story take place in the period of the so-called Great Leap Forward (1958).
“Dogshit Food” deals predominantly with the issues of social life in China and political transformation after the World War II. The author emphasizes the human perception of beauty and ethical aspect of interpersonal relations. The story is being delivered in the third person singular, which indicates author’s narrative. The protagonist of the novel is Yang Tiankuan (Heng n.pag.). In spite of thematic diversity and differences in the formal realization of subject matter in both short-stories, “Dogshit Food” by Liu Heng and “Iron Child” by Mo Yan, they have a wide range of similarities.
In his short story “Iron Child”, Mo Yan deals with the issues of industrialization of China establishing the socialist model of political system. The writer also reflects upon the most acute and burning social issues, particularly, child labor. It should be mentioned that Mo Yan creates the reality in which children appeared to be the most vulnerable in the face of decisions and choices of adults. The general tone of the novel is gloomy. The pace of revolving the plot is predominantly moderate, gravitating towards acceleration. The surrealist vision gives this short story the flavor of reminiscence, since the author, apparently, is recalling and reconsidering his childhood. The aspect of the surrealist vision is embodied in the Iron Child who is the protagonist’s friend. Iron Child is endowed with extraordinary abilities of consuming iron (Yan n.pag.).
On the other hand, “Dogshit Food” by Liu Heng, above all, accentuates the inter-personal relations between Yang Tiankuan and his wife and Yang Tiankuan and the rest of community inhabiting the Flood Water Valley. According to the short story, the negative effect of reformatting the agriculture and economy of China is related to the issue of malnutrition. Apparently, the author is drawing a parallel between the affliction and the person’s character. The conflict between the appearance, the outer surface, and person’s inner world is revealed through the lens of Yang Tiankuan’s wife. Namely, the author analyzes the way she treats Yang Tiankuan and others and, consequently, the way she perceives the world (Heng n.pag.). Therefore, the issues dealt in both novels are social life in China in the age of the Great Leap Forward, childhood and the status of children in Chinese society, interpersonal relations, human perception, and understanding the beauty.
The essence of social issues and their outcomes and, as a result, the cause-effect relations dealt with in both short stories constitute the commonness between these particular pieces of literature. Another important observation to be made concerns the aspect of distinctiveness and autonomy of Chinese literature in general and Chinese prose of the twentieth century in particular. The phenomenon of distinctiveness and autonomy of Chinese literature was predetermined by the geographical position of China as well as scientific, cultural, and political separateness of this region from the rest of the world. Coalescence, i.e. loss of individuality, of the Chinese historic-cultural frontier in Asia represented itself as a notable fact common to the second half of the twentieth century. Mo Yan and Liu Heng’s positions supported Chinese identity in the context of culture by all means.
Considering the current situation, it is important to admit the process of introducing the realities of the Western world to East and China in particular. They were assimilated into Eastern ground. Mo Yan and Liu Heng’s short stories were called, above all, to communicate the idea of cultural identity to the audience across the world. In other words, these particular pieces of literature have no target audience.
In its turn, the absence of target audiences indicates both self-sufficiency and self-sustainment of art in general and literature in particular. Self-sufficiency and self-sustainment are the markers of the postmodern art, philosophy and the concept of world. However, social determination of both pieces of art is obvious as far as their subject matter is concerned. In my considered opinion, the issues of identity, assimilation and social determination presented in both “Dogshit Food” by Liu Heng and Mo Yan’s “Iron Child” are important in terms of investigating and analyzing.
Heng, Liu. “Dogshit Food.” _Fiction Since 1976._ Trans. Deride Sabina Knight. N.p., n.d. 366 – 378. Print.
Yan, Mo. “Iron Child.” _Fiction Since 1976._ Trans. Howad Goldblatt. N.p., n.d. 367 – 387. Print.