Death: as Seen in Shanghai Girls and the Girl Who Played Go
The process of life ultimately leads to death. Death defines the sense of life. The majority of activities in modern society are dictated by the presence of death, or the fear of death. The novels Shanghai Girls and The Girl Who Played Go, by Lisa See and Shan Sa respectively, each demonstrate different reasons for death. In these two novels, death takes place as an assertion of dominance, as a natural occurrence and as an escape to difficult situations. First, the Monkey people, the Green gang and the Japanese army use death as a method of asserting their dominance over other individuals or groups.
To begin, in Shanghai Girls, Mama is raped and killed by a Japanese gang called the Monkey people who use acts of violence in order to assert their supremacy. When Pearl, May and their mother try to escape the dangers of the Second Sino-Japanese war and the Green gang, they leave by rickshaw and stop at an abandoned shack to rest overnight. Suddenly, a group of Japanese rebels, nicknamed the Monkey people, barge into the shack and begin to violate Pearl and her mother—who later gets murdered..
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Pearl witnesses this tragic event and describes, “My mother’s beaten, but even her blood and her screams don’t stop the soldiers” (Lisa See 74). In order to feel superior, the Monkey people gain authority through physical strength, which is the most primitive form of assertion. The fact that weapons provide this group of individuals with such a strong sense of power brings into question their level of education and their substance of character. Similarly, in Shanghai Girls, the Green Gang threatens Baba with death if he does not obey their orders, in doing so, they prove their power over him.
When the Green Gang barges into Pearl’s home, questioning why her father did not follow their agreement, the leader states, “I will give you three days. Be on your way to America by then, or you will be on your way to your grave. We will return tomorrow – and every day – to make sure you don’t forget what you must do” (See 58). Thus, the Green Gang creates and maintains its identity of superiority through the use of violence and by belittling others. The leader of the gang Likewise, in The Girl Who Played Go, Min and Tang are executed in public by the Japanese army with a view to set an example for the Chinese.
When it is discovered that Min and Tang are part of a revolutionary group, the Japanese army captures, tortures and then brings them out into the public to execute them, “The soldiers open the cages and drive the prisoners with their bayonets [… ] The shots crackle loudly” (Sa 190). It is evident that the strategy to publicly execute enemies is used by the Japanese army to strike fear among the people of China in order to prevent retaliation during the war. Despite the inhumane processes used for this purpose, capital punishment is still used by numerous governments to this day. don’t use conclude) Afterall, death is used as a method to assert one’s power, as used by the Monkey people, the Green Gang and the Japanese army but can also occur naturally as an innocent happening in life. (You need an easy and simpler topic sentence that gets to the point fast here, rewrite t. s)( Moreover, death can occur naturally, as seen through Old Man Louie’s death, the death of the Japanese soldier’s father and Pearl’s stillborn baby. To start with, Old Man Louie in Shanghai Girls dies due to lung cancer which he develops after a life of smoking.
When Pearl reflects on his state of health, she thinks, “Father’s only consolations in these final months, as the cancer eats his lungs, are the photographs… ” (See 258). His passing away is a reminder that death is an unbiased occurrence in terms of social status and wealth, and that despite one’s accomplishments, death is the final destination. Similarly, the father of the unnamed Japanese soldier in the Girl Who Played Go passes away when the soldier is a young boy. When he remembers the death of his father and its effect on his mother, he thinks, “Prolonged mourning for her husband has dried her out” (Sa 5).
Experiencing the loss of a loved one is a tragic event in one’s life and excessive grieving can cause an unhealthy loss of focus for one’s life goals. Experiences like these, however, help the individual mature and gain a unique perspective on life. Likewise, in Shanghai Girls, Pearl’s expectant child is stillborn. In the hospital room, Pearl states, “My baby son comes out, but he never breathes the air of this world” (See 231). Dealing with the death of a child this way creates a very difficult situation for a woman as it may induce her to question her role in society.
Seeing as women are the only gender biologically capable of giving birth, not fulfilling this task fosters insecurity in one’s aptitude as a woman. Hence, death is seen as a natural occurrence in these two novels through the deaths of Old Man Louie, the Japanese soldier’s father and Pearl’s child. Despite the innocent nature of passing away through senescence, one’s life may be cut short due to one’s own purposeful actions. Furthermore, Sam, the Chinese girl and the Japanese soldier use death as a solution to their dilemmas.
To begin, in Shanghai Girls, Sam commits suicide in order to escape the possibility of deportation. Earlier in the novel, Sam reveals to Pearl that when he lived in Shanghai, his family’s farm closed due to a drought, which forced him and his family to work on the streets of Shanghai. His father became addicted to drugs and the rest of his family members’ lives were claimed by disease while trying to make enough money to survive. Sam fears the possibility of returning to that situation, and thus hangs himself.
Pearl finds him, “I run to the closet, where Sam hangs” (See 289). When situations become difficult to deal with, many people become fearful and allow this emotion to cloud their thought processes. This results in poor decisions being carried out on instinct, with committing suicide as an example. By the same token, when the Chinese girl in the Girl Who Played Go learns that she is pregnant, she immediately seeks a doctor to get an abortion in order to avoid disgracing her family. “You must have a remedy, Doctor? ” she asks after learning of her pregnancy.
Although abortion is an ethically controversial topic and many argue it as murder, many women consider it as an option to avoid giving birth. Likewise, at the end, the Chinese girl convinces the soldier to kill her, and immediately following, he also commits suicide. In the midst of the war, the Chinese girl escapes to an abandoned shack where she is found coincidentally by the Japanese soldier. The Chinese girl begs him to kill her, “‘Kill me! Kill me! ’ But I have already pulled the trigger [… ] I put the blood-splattered pistol in my mouth” (Sa 279), and then he also commits suicide.
The Japanese soldier commits a tragic crime to help her escape from this nightmare. However, it can be perceived as an act of love as he wanted to end her suffering. In these ways, death is used as an escape by Sam, the Chinese girl and the Japanese soldier. Death takes place as a statement of dominance, a natural occurrence and as an escape to difficult situations. The different reasons of death are demonstrated through the novels Shanghai Girls and The Girl who Played Go, written by Lisa See and Shan Sa respectively. Death is a mysterious part of life, and although it is feared and unexpected, it is inevitable.