2 May 2011
A Victim of Society: A Feminist Criticism of Wen Xiu from “Celestial Bath” Wen Xiu, the protagonist in Geling Yan’s short story “Celestial Bath,” was a small town teenage girl from Chengdu, China who left her home to join the Intellectual Youth. While there, she was chosen among the other girls by Lao Jin to learn the skill of herding horses. She was to share a tent with Lao Jin, but was not sexually threatened by him, since his “manhood” had been cut off in a blood feud between clans. Lao Jin taught Wen Xiu to herd horses until it was time for her to return home. However, no one was ever sent to retrieve Wen Xiu and take her back to Chengdu. After waiting for weeks, a peddler arrived and took advantage of her body once he convinced Wen Xiu that he could help her get home. Her body became a commodity, and she became a whore, sleeping around with all the men that came to her tent, thinking they could get her home; but she never went back home. Instead, she spent her last days in an infirmary, recovering from an abortion, before attempting to shoot herself in the foot in order to be sent home and before having Lao Jin take her life. Wen Xiu died with the terrible reputation of being a whore, but was actually a victim to societal implications and demands regarding the status and stereotypes of women. She did make questionable decisions in the course of her life, but she had limited options in the matter; she did what she had to do given the circumstances of her situation. There are many stereotypes and limitations placed on women by society regarding what they are allowed to do and how they are supposed to act, Wen Xiu being no exception. Women have been viewed as weak and powerless without men, and have been perceived as being unable to achieve anything on their own, requiring the assistance of men who do not have to provide it. Wen Xiu is well aware of this, and is even told by the peddler that...
Cited: Yan, Geling. White Snake and Other Stories. “Celestial Bath.” 65-84.
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