Virtue or Vice? Trauma Reflected in Mo Yan’s Frog


  • Jinghui Wang Room 317, Wennan Building, Tsinghua University, Haidan District, Beijing 100084



human nature, state will, schizophrenia, legal illegality, virtue or vice


The preoccupation with human nature is deeply rooted in literature. This paper starts from the ancient Chinese rudimentary understanding of human nature, then passes through Mo Yan’s Frog, an epistolary novel which covers the 30-year history of the Chinese population control policy through the description of an obstetrician in quest of her own human nature, and ends with her mediation and effort to retrieve goodness in the face of state will. Mo Yan, as well as many other Chinese people, does not deny that the onechild family policy had been laid down with a good intention to promote the general welfare of all citizens in China. But through a detailed reading of the novel Frog, it is argued that this policy might be a legalized illegality, which results in the schizophrenia of the main character out of the dilemma of justifying her deeds as virtue or vice. It is suggested that the experience of the female character in the novel, as well as in the contemporary Chinese society, should be investigated allegorically, and it reveals a universal issue about the complexity of human nature, for in a certain sense, one may start aiming to be Mother Theresa, but end in finding himself or herself merely a devoted clownlike servant of the state will.


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