“Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh”: A commentary
The first chapter of a story is always one of the most important ones. It sets the stage and tone of the story, introduces us to the characters, and has to be sufficiently interesting to keep the reader engaged. In “Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh”, Mo Yan brings us straight to the heart of the action and the root of the story’s plot; when Ding Shikou, the main character, is retrenched.
The type of society in which the story takes place is highlighted in the opening chapter, when Ding arrives at work to an unnaturally busy scene despite the morning being like “all other weekday mornings”. Ding soon finds out that he had been retrenched, because the factory had been “losing money”. This introduces us to one of the main themes in the story; which is of the constant changes in society. As a society develops, its main industry will normally progress from agriculture to manufacturing and finally, to service. The closing of the factory (a trademark of the manufacturing industry) suggests that society might be changing and developing, possibly going in the direction of the service industry instead. This theme is also displayed in various parts of the story, such as when
The disparities between the rich and the poor is also evident, and this is seen as the vice-mayor and the factory owner both arrive at the factory in expensive cars (the vice-mayor in a “black Audi” and the factory owner; a “VW Santana”) while Ding arrives at work on a “clunky Grand Defense bicycle” – a stark contrast. This tells us about the type of society that Ding was in, and we are made aware of his position in society. Despite “decades of exhausting labour”, he is not part of the upper class. However, through this, we can see a glimpse of his character as the word “decades” and “labour” suggest that he has been working hard for a long time, suggesting how he is persevering in his work despite it being “exhausting”. This...
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