In the book “The Daughter of Han” by Ida Pruitt, the author paid much attention to the historical aspect of the fate of Asian females. Analyzing a breathtaking story of an ordinary Chinese woman, some particular features are worth considering and envisaging in the context of literature interpretation. According to the personal understanding, this book represents the whole picture of the past period, its distinctive characteristics, and items related to the question of political and social spheres of a quotidian life. Thus, this paper will describe a hard fate of a typical Chinese woman, scrutinize major peculiarities of Chinese society in the late 19th century, and evaluate the vital changes that took place at the beginning of the following epoch.
To begin with, it is important to highlight that the author of this book, Ida Pruitt, had a direct connection with the main heroine of this story. Expressing a profound interest in Chinese culture, traditions, and roots, she revealed her brilliant writing skills in several autobiographies. Pruitt had numerous conversations with real people she wrote about and went through the life-challenging situations. To some extent, the writer experienced the similar stories as her characters while facing a prohibition to return to China, recent debates and talks about her personality, and difficulties in the aspect of political activism. Her book appeared in 1967, and the attitude of Ida Pruitt to her creation was rather critical as it encompassed the vital notions such as equality, human rights, and feminism that were close to the writer’s personality and inner vision.
As it was mentioned earlier, the author portrayed a typical Chinese community during the reigning of Qing dynasty. She depicted a scale of rank and the specific groups of people who pertained to the different categories in the social stratification. The main heroine of this book comes from a lower-class home. Ning represents an ordinary Chinese girl with the prescribed destiny, as it might seem at the first sight. It is worth saying that this girl was born in a family of a baker, in Penglai, Shandong province. Since her early childhood, she experienced numerous hardships. Remarkably, until she reached 7 years, her feet had been bound. According to a peculiar Chinese tradition, the reality deals with the fact that the beauty of a Chinese woman depends on the size of her feet. If they were small, the chances for a happy marriage significantly augmented (Pruitt 12). Moreover, the only education a Chinese woman could get was how to be a good wife. Understanding such conception as a part of her duty to the family members, Ning tried to manifest obedience, humility, and resignation like her older sister did. In this context, it is rather pretentious to emphasize that most of the women in Chinese hierarchy were deprived of receiving a proper education. Due to the common persuasion, only a girl who did not leave her father’s house very often could be treated as a fitting example of a good wife. That is why it was Ning’s obligation not to go outside and attempt to avoid the possibility of having a simple conversation with strangers.
Having got married at the age of 13, the heroine faced many challenges and dramatic situations. Her husband became an opium-addicted person who was not capable of acting reasonably. Returning to the historical aspect of the theme, a half of China had suffered from three long-lasting opium wars with Great Britain. Although this fight had recently ended, the population was still under the influence of toxic chemicals. Remarkably, that Ning’s husband was not the exception from the rules. First, he had sold all their possessions; his next mistake was to haggle about his daughter. He conducted many wrong actions by trying to receive some money and to pay for the drug (Pruitt 66). As Ning found herself in a hard life position, the only chance for her was to run away and save her other daughter. As far as she had no education, it was rather complicated for her to find a well-paid job. She had to survive and experience the number of severe circumstances. Finally, the woman considered the employment as a cure and the possibility to be engaged in any activity that brought her at least some relief. Ning succeeded to obtain a position as a servant, despite the fact that the employers showed disrespect to her (Pruitt 111). Nevertheless, this woman was proud to live independently; she had finally discovered her internal power.
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Unfortunately, like the majority of the books, this creation has its own limitations, too. A reader does not have an opportunity to learn about the end of Ning’s story. The novel is left unfinished because of Japanese occupation of Beijing (Pruitt 254). In the context of the 1930s, it is impossible to find the truth and learn whether Ning and her grandparents survived and went through the tragic conditions of that time or not.
This book is a valuable historical source that gives a possibility to dip in the Chinese traditions, the system of beliefs, stereotypes, and prejudices. The reader gets familiar with some cultural aspects, understands the social and economic conceptions, and particular distinctive features of the Chinese community. To be more precise, in her work, the author depicted major and actual problems of the society. The issues she outlined cover the question of gender discrimination, the position and the role of a woman in the past epoch, the influence of war and poverty on the process of taking important decisions. This society had to face numerous challenging periods on the way of its formation. What is more, the accurate analysis is given to the problem of a drug-addicted population and the deplorable effects of the opium wars that took place in the middle of 19th century in China. The destiny of a woman was also rather critical in this period. Having no rights to protect and express disagreement due to the old system of moral norms, females did not have enough assurance in a quotidian life. Taking into consideration the severe pictures of reality, a reader may open some peculiarities in such aspect. As a result, all the prescribed conceptions lead to a better comprehending of a Chinese traditional society at that period.
Despite the fact that Ning was forced to deal with the mistreatment during the whole life, she chanced to save her real might and did not give up. Having been considered a weak and useless woman, the heroine managed to overcome grave obstacles on her way. She strongly believed in heaven and destiny, but she never thought to have a fortune. Observing other people’s stories, Ning had learned the essential lessons of this life – not to give up. Although she had nothing to do but fight for her relatives, she tried to keep her family members together. Being under the influence of Confucians ideas, she understood that the only way for her to be independent is to overstep the limits of ancient beliefs and move further.
To sum up, it is significant to highlight that this story is directly told from a Chinese woman’s point of view. In other words, it has a more realistic and truthful sounding as any of the readers can ever imagine. The valuable experience that the main heroine shares in this book is worth estimating for everyone who is still attempting to find oneself on the road of a modern life. Comprehending the vital notions presented in this paper, every reader can have an insight into the Chinese community, identify its distinguishing characteristics, and open the system of moral norms, regulations, customs, roots, and traditions. Moreover, the special attention also should be paid to the historic scene, as it depicts images and events concerning the development of the Chinese society. The understanding of the oriental culture’s distinctive features is necessary for knowing its chronicle.