Death as Seen in Shanghai Girls and the Girl Who Played Go

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The process of life ultimately leads to death. Death defines the sense of life. The majority of activities in modern society are dictated by the presence of death, or the fear of death. The novels Shanghai Girls and The Girl Who Played Go, by Lisa See and Shan Sa respectively, each demonstrate different reasons for death. In these two novels, death takes place as an assertion of dominance, as a natural occurrence and as an escape to difficult situations. First, the Monkey people, the Green gang and the Japanese army use death as a method of asserting their dominance over other individuals or groups. To begin, in Shanghai Girls, Mama is raped and killed by a Japanese gang called the Monkey people who use acts of violence in order to assert their supremacy. When Pearl, May and their mother try to escape the dangers of the Second Sino-Japanese war and the Green gang, they leave by rickshaw and stop at an abandoned shack to rest overnight. Suddenly, a group of Japanese rebels, nicknamed the Monkey people, barge into the shack and begin to violate Pearl and her mother—who later gets murdered.. Pearl witnesses this tragic event and describes, “My mother’s beaten, but even her blood and her screams don’t stop the soldiers” (Lisa See 74). In order to feel superior, the Monkey people gain authority through physical strength, which is the most primitive form of assertion. The fact that weapons provide this group of individuals with such a strong sense of power brings into question their level of education and their substance of character. Similarly, in Shanghai Girls, the Green Gang threatens Baba with death if he does not obey their orders, in doing so, they prove their power over him. When the Green Gang barges into Pearl’s home, questioning why her father did not follow their agreement, the leader states, “I will give you three days. Be on your way to America by then, or you will be on your way to your grave. We will return tomorrow – and every day – to make sure you...
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