Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

Oct 2010

(Short Story) A Tropical Winter's Tale by: Charlson Ong

(Reaction) A Dual Awakening by: Ms. Pickles

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In Charlson Ong's "A Tropical Winter's Tale," Li Hua's development from an oppressed, powerless girl to a woman who wields power to subdue the tyranny of her despotic husband occurs across the bounds of time, dream, reality, and geography. Through various expositions that lead to the inciting incidents-marital oppression and Bei Xiong's rape of Anna-the climactic event of Li Hua's murder of her husband magnifies her attainment of power over a period of around forty years.

The first exposition of Li Hua's past takes form in a dream, in which her wintry childhood and the start of her relationship with Bei Xiong are narrated. The dream points out Li Hua's "affinity with winter," which mirrors the desolation of her life: "The sadness without her was sister to the sadness within." It also sets the tone and mood of the story and delineates between Li Hua's past and present, in which her emotional development occurs.

Her awakening from the dream symbolizes the transition from the nightmarish episodes of her life into a present that is still plagued by the haunting memories of an oppressive past, but is nevertheless the medium in which she finally takes control of the things in her life. She wakes up to a life in Chinatown where she exercises control over the operations of the eatery. The story then delves into another exposition, this time outlining the following: marital oppression and Bei Xiong's savage treatment of her; her love for butchering, repeated mentions of which foreshadow the fate of Bei Xiong in her hands; the couple's journey and settlement in Manila; Bei Xiong's dissatisfaction in Li Hua's failure to become pregnant, his "animal ways," and finally his doomed relationship with Clarita.

In the expositions of the past Li Hua is portrayed as a helpless victim of her husband's tyranny, but when the story resumes the narration of the present, Li Hua's possession of power and control are made evident. This occurs not only in the moment of her literal awakening from the nightmare of her past, as she goes to the kitchen to supervise the day's eatery preparations, but also in the second part of the story in which her emotional development is viewed from Bei Xiong's perspective. Bei Xiong's resignation from women bearing his children indicates the disintegration of his control over Li Hua, yet it doesn't stop him from exerting his carnal, inhuman desires upon Anna, with his direct aim being sexual gratification rather than conception.

Bei Xiong's tyranny is the inciting incident that leads to the climactic end of his inhuman life and the height of Li Hua's commanding one wherein she is "the master of her actions." Anna's rape is a manifestation of Bei Xiong's tyranny and it is what triggers the peripeteia that finds Bei Xiong being killed as an animal, a reversal of roles that allows Li Hua to treat him just as he has treated the women in his life. The story's denouement finds Li Hua devoid of fear, which "flew from her as the ghosts of dead sparrows," and her business "razed by fire." These images were mentioned earlier during her dream and the repetition effects the story's unity of action as the end is tied to the beginning to illustrate Li Hua's twofold awakening and rebirth from the last literal and figurative winters of her oppressed life.

Review:

Still mulling it over.

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