12 April, 2013
Thomas Foster’s Themes Traced in Mulan
In his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas Foster explains many reoccurring themes in literature, and shows how to recognize them and in some instances shows certain works where they occur. By reading this guide to literature, one may gain a deeper understanding of the work itself and of the author’s intent in writing it. However, Foster’s methods can also be applied to films. A film that contains many of the various themes, models, symbolism, and devices discussed in his book is Walt Disney’s Mulan.
Mulan is a character type with which people are familiar. Foster discusses this process of association in the chapter “Now Where Have I Seen Her Before?” In his book, he asserts that no work is wholly original. The whole idea of a female Chinese heroine was not originally conceived by Disney. The character of Mulan can be traced back to The Ballad of Hua Mulan, written sometime in the 11th century. Still, most people may not be so familiar with this relatively dated ballad. Some people may associate the character of Mulan with that of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. Both Mulan and Scout are tomboys by nature, acting in ways more suited to boys. Also, they both do things they do for the approval of their respective father figures. Mulan is notably the heroine of her story, saving the Chinese empire from the attacking Huns. The ‘heroine’ model can also be seen in characters such as Antigone and Hester Prynne.
Food plays some role in every work- namely the act of consuming it. Mulan is no exception. Foster talks about this in the chapter “Nice To Eat With You.” Towards the beginning of the movie, Mulan along with several other young maidens go to visit the match maker, who is in charge of determining each girl’s eligibility as a wife. This process by which she judges them is by partaking in a cup of tea with each one. Mulan’s ‘interview’ as it were...