Animalization and Return to Nature
An Ecological Reading of The Hundred Secret Senses
By QIN Yuanyuan
A Thesis Submitted to
the School of English and International Studies
Beijing Foreign Studies University
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Chinese American Literature Course
Professor Pan Zhiming
Animalization and Return to Nature
A Ecological Reading of The Hundred Secret Senses
Amy Tan, born in 1952, is acclaimed for her lyrically written tales of sensibility and conflicts in Chinese-American mother-daughter ...view middle of the document...
.. (and) perverse..." (11). Sheng-Mei Ma quotes Marianna Torgovnick’s Gone, Primitive: Savage Intellects to shed light on Amy Tan that “Reified and atomized in economics of advanced technology, the ‘Western’ self feels drained, in need of recharging or healing in a spiritual sense, for which purpose the ‘primitive’ third world cultures are deployed. Simultaneously marked by its bestial savagery ans spiritual transcendence, the primitive other is made to coalesce the physical with the metaphysical” (29). She claims that The Hundred Secret Senses adopts an archetype of ‘primitivism’ catering to the Western ‘self’ which “views the rationality as an obstacle to the union of the body and the mind” (30) and “celebrates the exotic Chinese other in the image of animals with supernatural instincts” (34).
Generally speaking, the disagreement arises over whether the character Kwan makes contribution to the depth of the novel by promoting “universal love” or lessens its profundity by yielding to “the White gaze”. In this paper, I will employ eco-criticism as my theoretical tool and attempt to prove that instead of an “exotic” Chinese other, Kwan is an animalized, transpersonal character who possesses revelatory significance across time and space. Besides, themes of “returning to nature” and “environmental conservation” would also be touched upon in the essay.
Owing to limited sources, research papers available at hand suggest that up till now, few foreign critics have taken an ecological perspective to examine The Hundred Secret Senses. Nevertheless, there are a few Chinese scholars who have made study of “green thoughts” revealed in the novel. Huang Hui, in her “Conflicts and Reconciliation”, pays close attention to conflicts between two sisters and their return to Changmian. She stresses that it is the Chinese ecological ethics clashing with Western mechanical rationalism that results in conflicts between sisters. Their return to Changmian, so to speak, brings them to “original purity” and reconciles their eco-ethics. From an angle of social-natural ecology, Huang holds that the novel conveys Tan’s meditation on the interrelationships among man, nature and society (59-65). Hu Xiaoli, in addition, expounds her viewpoint of spiritual ecology in analysis of spiritual emptiness and existential alienation embodied by Olivia. “The pure, long-lasting love given by Kwan,....the close contact with nature”, Hu confirms, “are the remedies for Olivia’s broken character and her alienated state.” More importantly, she raises up a concept of “inner ecological balance” and its unseparable relation with “love”, which is quite provoking (147). Furthermore, Nie Xinlin introduces eco-feminism into the reading of this novel, arguing that females could only gain vitality, love, hope when they integrate with nature and Kwan and Olivia are two typical cases. She views that compared to males, females were born to be more close to nature since they all breed and support...