Do you agree with her? Why did Ha Jin choose Jian as the narrator? How does his lack of objectivity affect your reading? Is his version of the events throughout the course of the novel believable? Is this ultimately a coming-of-age novel? What American notions of China and its particular form of communism are confirmed or challenged in this novel?
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Do you agree with her? Why did Ha Jin choose Jian as the narrator? How does his lack of objectivity affect your reading? Is his version of the events throughout the course of the novel believable? Is this ultimately a coming-of-age novel? What American notions of China and its particular form of communism are confirmed or challenged in this novel? What do you think Ha Jin is saying about Chinese communism and its effect on the individual and society? Are there any fulfilled and satisfied love relationships in this novel?
What is Ha Jin saying about love, romantic or otherwise? What do you think of these two statements? Do you agree with Professor Yang? It just gets your hopes up" [p. According to Professor Yang, what is the fundamental difference between Western and Chinese poetry? Ha Jin gives us minute details of everyday life in Shanning town—the sight of billboards promoting "Aim High, Go All Out" and of laundry on balconies flapping in the wind, the taste of simmering tofu and pomegranate tea, and the smell of stewed radishes.
Why all these details? The natural landscape is absent from The Crazed until Jian leaves Shanning for the countryside.
What are the symbolic differences between the town and the countryside, and later the capital, Beijing? What is the importance of each place and its role in the context of the entire novel? What is the significance of Chinese custom officials confiscating the Bible? And of the Genesis story retold by Professor Yang?
Why does Ha Jin introduce this in the beginning of the novel? Animal imagery permeates the first half of the book. What do the animals signify?
Why do most of the characters resemble animals? Is this connected somehow to the Genesis story? What does Jian learn from traveling to and around Beijing, and from experiencing the historical events of Tiananmen Square in June ?
How does it affect his life, and the story? Do you think he is talking to Jian in particular or to anyone who will listen? Is this a manifestation of his illness or is Yang yelling out the truth from his sickbed? In what ways is this novel about power relationships—between teacher and student, ordinary students and Party member students, teacher and department head, older students and younger students, boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, the individual and the bureaucratic system?
In what ways does the Communist Party bureaucracy affect the various relationships in the novel? How do these relationships change over the course of the spring, as the professor lays dying? Does any one group or individual emerge victorious over another? Are there any betrayals in the novel? Who betrays whom? Who or what is the crazed? What does the title refer to? What does it imply?
Reading Group Guide
US-based Ha Jin did this admirably in the award-winning Waiting, a doleful Chekhovian tale which balanced the horrors of Chinese officialdom against a bitter love story. His follow-up, The Crazed, attempts a similar sleight of hand. At first glance Ha Jin appears to have lost some of his lightness of touch. There is a depressing, communism-by-numbers feel about the way he drops background detail into the plot. Thus in the first 50 pages or so we learn of the confiscation of imported Bibles, the ban on electric stoves in student dormitories and the housing crisis facing young married couples. The web of conspiracy and corruption that features later also looks suspiciously like part of an identikit China.
So the non-Chinese reader can be a little lost here without that background. The Cultural Revolution was a world turned upside down. Anyone subject to foreign influencesintellectuals, officials, students, artists and dissidentswas labeled a "rightist" or "counterrevolutionary. Anyone subject to foreign influences—intellectuals, officials, students, artists and dissidents—was labeled a "rightist" or "counterrevolutionary. They were sent to labor and re-education camps where they were tortured and killed. The impact on the lives of innocent Chinese is almost beyond the grasp of human imagination.
The Crazed by Ha Jin
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