Date of Award
MA Asian Studies
Angela Weisl, Ph.D
Dongdong Chen, Ph.D
Amrita Ghosh, Ph.D
Zhang Jie, Love Must Not Be Forgotten, Contemporary Chinese women writers, Tragedy in contemporary Chinese literature, Aristotle, and Schopenhauer
Since its publication in 1979 and the ensuing controversy it evoked about the morality of an extramarital love affair (albeit platonic), Zhang Jie’s short story, “Love Must Not Be Forgotten” has continued to captivate readers and literary scholars. While the values of Zhang’s story, with its challenges to traditional ethics and its provocation of female consciousness, have been acknowledged by critics and commentators, examination of the aesthetics of the story’s tragic effect has thus far remained marginal. “Love” engendered pity and fear in readers, particularly during the time following the Cultural Revolution when the lives of Chinese people were firmly constrained by both established conventions and Communist ideology. It especially resonated with people who were miserable in their loveless marriages as it had provided them with a script of their own stories.
The root of the tragedy in “Love” is multifaceted. While Zhong Yu’s unwavering Romantic ideals, the cadre’s “hamartia” (marrying his wife out of a sense of duty), and the confinement of society’s orthodox values all contribute to the tragic affair, chance and destiny also play a pivotal role in the characters’ lives. Ultimately, that is the underpinning of their tragedy as fate is more formidable and undefiable than conventional mores. The riddle of how “Love” came to be such a phenomenon and why it provoked such deep emotional reactions be explained by Aristotelian and other Western theories such as Schopenhauer’s division of three tragedies and Hegel’s concept of tragedy caused by the clash of two justifiable human values. While readers pity the cross-star lovers and fear for their own fate, an analysis of the source of the story’s tragic nature can help them understand the deeper meaning of the tragedy: individuals are not in control of their destiny.
Gao, Daijuan, "“A Wretched Idealist”: Tragedy in “Love Must Not Be Forgotten”" (2016). Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses (ETDs). 2182.