Examine the concepts of “the Other”, “the Otherness” and “the Othering”, and then identify how Huang Baowen is “othered” by the community in Muji City. What are the consequences of feeling “othered”? Provide examples from the story.
Identify the references to homosexuality in Ha Jin’s story. What do these references reveal about how homosexuality is perceived? Are there different views or is there only one perspective?
Why does Baowen learn martial arts? What does this reveal about cultural values?
Examine how the arrested men describe the Men’s World Club, and then in relation to their description discuss the symbolic value of the club for these men. Can you find, in Ha Jin’s story, other settings whose symbolic value is in contrast with that of the club?
According to Louis Althuser, class rule is maintained by two important forces: “Repressive State Apparatus” and “Ideological State Apparatus”. The former includes “the army, police, prisons and law courts” whereas the latter operates with the help of “education, the church, party politics, the family and the media” (Branston & Stafford, The Media Student’s Book, 1996, pp. 122-123). How can this theory explain people’s perception of and reaction to Baowen’s homosexuality in the story?
Identify the references to marriage and then discuss how marriage is portrayed in the story. For example, how does Cheng’s view of marriage differ from Beina’s? What does marriage mean to Beina? What does it mean to Baowen? What does it mean to the community at large in Muji City?
Identify how masculinity and femininity are portrayed in the story, and comment on how you react to these portrayals.
What makes Ha Jin’s story universal?
© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, December 2008