Asian Literature

Post modern literature often calls to mind the conflicts of modernization and the cultural changes that ensue. Traditional cultures are often demonstratively changed by the process of revolution and in the eastern cultures there are countless examples of the cultural changes that have occurred over just two or three generations. As a result much of the literature of the ensuing generations depicts the inherent difficulties of change through character analysis of events, and particularly with regard to major life changing events, such as the death of members of the older generations. Within Post Modern Asian Literature there are consistent themes of the difficulty of progress, these themes are usually expressed as direct conflict between the young and the old. Within the short stories, the Ancestor, Thoughts of Home and the Hateful Age as well as in other literature these conflicts are expressed differently, among literary characters but still arrive at two basic principles, old vs. new cultural expressions and generational differences in assimilation and modernity.

In the work of Sonu Hwi, Thoughts of Home there are expressions of the inability of individuals to accept change. The older generations displaced by the political and cultural turmoil of the Korean War are still displaced and longing for home. In the work the Narrator expresses anguish over recurring dreams of being home in the North, a place he is likely never to see again. Juxtaposed with the Narrator's recurring and unsettling dreams is the story of the father of a friend who has been so homesick, for so long that he rebuilds his old home in the new land, to a level of exactness that in the end causes him to actually exhibit symptoms of dementia. "...this new building -- hardly a month old-resembled the old one even in its ancient, run down appearance." (208) the eventual death of the old man, serves as a warning to the younger man (the Narrator) of the potential of his unsettling dreams of returning home. The Narrator, discusses with this old mans son the concerns the young have for the very old, as if all their decisions are rooted in the past and potentially feeble, not as if they have lived every day of their lives, building and working to create a home and family. Indeed the actions of the old man could have been seen as feeble minded actions as he longed for his home so much that he was disturbed by any little thing that was not the same, including the lack of rats in the rafters. Yi Changwan's concerns for his father were real, as the story closes with is death, drowning in the artificial swamp, dug in his front yard, the Narrator believing that he saw his reflection and believing it was that of his father reached for him and lost his grip on this earth.

Within Niwa Funio's Japanese tale the Hateful Age there is a clear sense of the desperate life of the very old, as they attempt or in this case recede from assimilation into a more modern Japanese culture and from all semblance of honor and mutual love and respect. The story of Ume' is tearfully sad, as she recedes into a world of her own and loses all sense of soul and purpose as well as propriety and love. Ume' has lived a life beyond her usefulness and has no one in her generation, or even the generation of her only child to relate to her or remember her in her more generous and loving days. The symptoms of her dementia are those of a person who feels as if she is an outsider in her own family, and the symptoms are so severe that every glimpse of her is through the eyes of the generation, to which she has become a burden.

The Compartment was crowded, but one of the passengers, seeing Ruriko enter with her peculiar burden, offered his seat. Directly opposite her was a woman in her thirties, also accompanied by an old lady. Soon after the train started she addressed Ruriko: "Excuse me but where are you taking yours?" "I'm leaving her at my sisster's place in the country." Well, we seem to be in the same boat." Said the woman, with a sigh...."How old is she?" The other woman asked. "Eighty-Six." "Mine's eighty." She glanced about the carriage and went on in a lower voice. "Why on earth do they live on to be eighty? I just can't make it out. They live on and on, until they're of no use to anyone-until even they themselves are fed up with living. All that mine cares about these days is food, and she can't get it into her head that rice is rationed..."They're rice-eating spooks!" (326)

The work goes on to describe the juxtaposition of complete breakdown between the generations as the other passengers stared at the women with disdain and as if they were not exactly human but animal.

The other passengers were the two old women. From their expressions it was clear that they did not feel they were looking at human beings at all but rather at some strange species of supernatural plant or animal. Apparently it did not occur to them that they all shared a common destiny with these old women,...they two were condemned to become nothing but troublesome baggage carted along by their resentful families...requiring three good meals a day. (327)

Through the eyes of another character, the husband of the country grandchild, there is a recognition of the spiritual and what would seem like untiring patience, through spiritual awareness. Yet, in moments of weakness he questioned the condition of the culture, as the longevity, expected to be seen as a cherished gift was actually frequently a monumental burden. Stating in his mind the faithful ideas of a prophetic Master he noted that only one in a thousand individuals kept their minds and kept learning as they aged, while the other 999 became, just a body, in which it was impossible to detect the slightest trace of soul, spirit, conscience, or anything that makes human beings worthy of respect....There was hardly a family in Japan that did not suffer from the system in which old people had to be either cared for by the children or committed to primitive and sinister institutions. People had been complaining for years, but the traditional family system still lingered on, with all its insufficiency, hypocrisy, sentimentality, and injustice." (340)

The utter disconnectedness between the young and the old leaves the very young, with no real memory of the loving and beautiful way in which the old might have lived the majority of their lives, even though there is often a sense that this was the case.

In Bi Feiyu's the Ancestor another very old and quirky woman simply called Great-Grandmother is observed, again through the eyes of a much younger ancestor. The generational changes of culture are starkly contrasting ideals and cultural beliefs that overshadow the intentions of each member of the family. To seek eternal safety, the younger generations, fearing that the old woman will live to be over 100 with a full set of teeth, and therefore transform into a demon and haunt them for eternity, concoct a diabolic plan to pull the frail woman's teeth, which is her undoing. The Narrator of this piece feels and acts particularly distant from his Great-Grandmother and all of the older relatives, and their superstitious ways and lives, but follows and even assists with the plan, to appease his family and maintain honor and eternal safety. Though the grandson does not directly say so within the work, he seems not to really believe in the superstitious potential outcome of the longevity of his ever present Great Grandmother, but chooses to explain the situation away by saying to his wife that this is simply the way the family is and has always been, rooted in the past. When the Narrator's wife expresses fear and concern with regard to the relative morbidity of his family, a father who sleeps in a coffin when he needs to, an infant brother and sister buried under the floorboards of the house and the mysterious Great-Grandmother lording over the family from her Garret, where no one said she is allowed to enter he dismisses her fears. "Where are you going to sleep?" I Asked Father. "In your great-grandmother's coffin," said father. My wife gave me a nervous look....Once in bed, my wife said, "Why does he sleep in a coffin?" "It doesn't matter, we're all one family. Dead or alive, we're all together." (218) This is an expression of an old ideal, that he and his wife seem not to share. The descriptions of his Great-grandmother are even more telling of how foreign this familiar life has become, now that he has had the opportunity to experience more modern culture.

To this day Great-Grandmother has maintained the customs and attitudes of the Lat Qing dynasty.…