English A: Literature
Part 1: Works in Translation
Reflective Statement and Written Assignment
How does the ‘journey’ in ‘Head for Winter’, reflect Bei Dao’s experience of transition and change in Mao’s China?
Bei Dao’s work was greatly influenced by the conditions in which he was living, as well as his experiences. He was only seventeen years of age during the Cultural Revolution. He later joined the Red Guard and he was required to remove all banned books in China from library shelves, as this was an order from the Communist leader at the time, Mao. The power of the government can be witnessed, as the public is controlled of the literature they are ...view middle of the document...
In ‘Head for Winter’, Bei Dao wrote about the cosmetic and superficial world, that is China, implying that society is hidden from the truth. This has led me to wonder whether living in a society such as Hong Kong, where unlike China, there is more government transparency, and people are entitled to their own opinions, are we also kept away from the truth? I am beginning to ponder whether the news media society watches is valid, or just told to us because it is what we are supposed to believe.
Bei Dao served his home country, China, as a young member of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, however amid his experience in the army, he envisaged reality, which may have been the underlying reason that initiated his writing. In the poem ‘Head for Winter’, Dao uses ironic features to explore the transition from a familiar world into a future of uncertainties. His personal experiences could be reflected in the poem, and could act as a guide to the victims of Mao’s suppression away from the unstable nation, and also may further be implied as a warning to society that their journey to escape the superficial world could lead to a harsh future.
The first stanza depicts a sudden transformation in civilization, which negatively impacts society, thus igniting a personal compulsion to liberate themselves from their own home. Bei Dao’s use of oxymoron to describe the “wind” (Bei Dao, 1990, p.81; subsequent citations refer to this edition and appear in the text) as being “blown away towards the setting sun” (p.81) creates an effigy, where the “wind” (p.81) has forcefully been pushed into a certain direction. The “wind” (p.81) could connote the freedom of the people, whom similarly, lack control of their own will and opinions and have been urged towards the “setting sun” (p.81). As the sun is something that illuminates, especially during the day, it signifies the knowledge of the truth. Thus, the metaphor of the “setting sun” (p.81) describes when light begins to dull, symbolizing obscurity of the truth, and when the day comes to an end, further interpreted as finality, suggesting that the ending is irreversible. Therefore, if one were to take on this journey away from the artificial world, there would be no return. Bei Dao uses biblical allusions for further interpretations of the “setting sun”(p.81) and references to Micah 3:6, which suggests that China may succeed temporarily, however this success could lead society to loose sight of reality and people’s minds could consequently become enslaved or confined. (Adam Clarke, ND.) “Sun” (p.81) may also connote a leader, thus creating reference to Mao, the communist leader of China. Furthermore, the Bible signifies the “setting of the sun” as “evil and treachery” and also symbolizes the last time of Church. (E. Swedenborg, ND.) Dao uses biblical allusions to characterize Mao and his inhumanity due to the iniquity of his actions and the banishment of religion within the nation. Thus, the...