Changing Perspectives in "Dayanhe--My Wet Nurse"

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In Ai Qing's poem, “Dayanhe—My Wet-Nurse”, the eponymous wet-nurse leads a difficult and mostly painful life, but finds purpose and meaning in the perspective she is able to provide the speaker in his childhood. After Dayanhe is no longer able to breastfeed the speaker, he finds himself at the home of his biological family more regularly, a place he feels now much more unfamiliar with (Qing Lines 35-49). Because the speaker has spent so much more time with Dayanhe and her family, he has to some degree been raised under poverty. While he still has the benefits and security of having a middle class home, he witnesses a great deal of life in the poor lower class. Returning home, the speaker is still too young to become appalled by the stark difference in circumstances; however, the way in which his own home seems alien to him indicates that his perspective might not be corrupted by the complacency of his own class. Having a stronger sense of familiarity with the setting of Dayanhe's home probably serves as an early starting point from which the speaker is able to empathize with lives unlike the one of privilege he is born into. Also, because he has been breastfed by Dayanhe, he would likely begin attaching a certain fondness and gratefulness towards not just her—but the difficult life which she exemplifies. After Dayanhe has died, the speaker reflects on certain things which she never lived to see: the death of her alcoholic husband, her oldest son becoming a thief, and most importantly—the speaker now writes “condemnations of this unjust world” that she had faced (Qinq Lines 103-109). Now reflecting on the total life of his adoptive mother, the speaker is able to find some solace in regard to her death. Despite her “lifetime of humiliation at the hands of the world” (Qing 95-96), Dayanhe never had to watch her family ultimately crumble into shambles. Despite all her efforts, her family falls victim to the harsh nature of her class. The speaker, having grown up with...
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