Waiting, by Ha Jin

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Waiting, the winner of the National Book Award in 1999, was written by Ha Jin, a contemporary Chinese-expatriate writer. Ha Jin was born in a military family in China in 1950s. At the age of fourteen, Jin joined the Chinese Liberation Army against the riot of Civil Revolution. Jin ended his military career in 1977. A few years later, Jin received his master degree in Anglo-English literature at Shandong University in China. He then emigrated to the U.S. to pursue his Ph.D. in English during 1985. In 1989, out of the fear of Tiananmen Square incident in China, Jin decided to remain in the U.S. for his English career. Jin’s first book, Between Silences, was published in 1990. In Frank Bidart’s book review, he concluded Jin’s Between Silence was an “extraordinary meditation,” which delivered the bureaucratic darkness in the Maoist China. Perhaps from the success of Between Silences, Jin continues to mission his folktale style as rather “a voice from China.”

In Jin’s second book, Waiting, begins with a dull theme that takes place in the countryside of China, the Goose Village. The main character, Lin Kong, an army doctor in WuJi City, maintained his routine returning home once a year to divorce his wife, Shuyu, for seventeen years. Lin and Shuyu were married under an arranged marriage hosted by Lin’s parents. Even though Lin was initially against this arranged marriage, he eventually broke his disagreement for submitting his filial duty for his aged parents. Then, he fell in love with his colleague, Manna Wu, the woman Lin considered as an ideal-accommodative spouse. After the divorce with Shuyu, Lin immediately married Manna; however, Lin and Manna’s marriage did not go smoothly as they expected. There was no peaceful moment in their lives; Manna was always grumbling and demanding. Exhausted, Lin imagined going back to his first wife, Shuyu, the woman who dedicated her life for him without a complaint or blame. Lin regretted for leaving Shuyu, but he was left without a chance of stepping back. Unlike Western style, Jin’s story ended without satisfaction. Jin’s Waiting filled with extraordinary exoticism that aroused Western critics’ curiosities and interests.

Jane Dickson, the critic from The Times of London, acquiescently voices her consent on Jin’s Waiting. In Dickson’s book review, she identifies Jin’s Waiting as “a long, slow-burning love story” (¶2). The main character, Lin Kong, spent decades to pursue his ideal marriage; Lin’s beloved, Manna waited for Lin eighteen years to marry her. Dickson concludes the story utterly exerts “the very fragility of the human spirit,” and this becomes the main selling point of the entire book (¶12). Although Lin and Manna eventually got to be together, Lin’s love of Manna faded so rapidly after their twins were born. Lin was fragile. He could not believe his ideal beloved became such an oppressive burden in his life. Lin finally realized he had never loved anyone “wholeheartedly;” even to Manna, Lin had only taken comfort from her for his former loveless marriage with Shuyu (293-296).

Correspondingly to Dickson’s conception, I also admire Jin’s deliberate writing style. Jin exhibited the dull lives under Maoist bureaucratism so precisely. In Jin’s Waiting, Lin Kong was always being monitored for his relationship with his beloved, Manna. Lin’s directors, Ran Su and Zhang, joined to supervise Lin and Manna’s relationship, for making sure these two would “have no abnormal relationship” before their marriage (58). At the final scenario, Manna was diagnosed with heart disease and might have the chance of dying soon. Lin was despaired. Although Lin was not sure when the death would take Manna, he was sure he lacked of the strength to carry his newborn twins and the family responsibility on his own. Lin begged his former wife, Shuyu, to wait for him. He remembered he was once strong and capable when Shuyu was still his support at home (303-306).

Jeffrey Kinkley, the critic from...
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