Subject Journal
Posted by Jason
Posted on Fri Jun 16 10:36:11 2000
From IP  

The Chinago

The Chinago was written by Jack London in 1910. During that period, the capitalism rose so quickly and colonialism was flourishing. In The Chinago, Jack London faithfully shows us the phenomena of the society that time¡Xhow those capitalists treated their labors so cruelly. The protagonist of the Story is a man called Ah Cho. He was one of the 500 Chinese coolies working in the Tahiti for British company. One day, there was a murder in their factory and Ah Cho and other five Chinese coolies were served as the crimes. However, Ah Cho and other Chinese coolies all know who was the really murderer, but they never tried to say. Finally, they were all sentenced guilty and one person called Ah Chow even was declared death penalty. Nevertheless, the judge who took responsibility to write the name of crimes made a mistake and Ah Cho replaced Ah Chow to be put to death. In literary category, Marxism declares that a work has inseparable relation with its written background. So a work¡¦s historical setting, author¡¦s life, time period of being written, and cultural milieu shouldn¡¦t be ignored when as a critic in Marxism. This concern of sociological issues makes Marxism not only focus restrictedly on the inward characters and plot of a fiction but also the outward author and the society.
The story of The Chinago is about the circumstance of Chinese coolies in the foreign country, which faithfully displays the inhuman treatment of capitalists to their labors. Jack London¡¦s parents got divorce when he was only a little child and he started to live with mother alone. His mother, nevertheless, married another man later and Jack London needed to learn how to survive independently. Starting to work seems a natural thing to him then although he was just a kid. That child labor period comes a tragic memory of his life and also deeply influences his writing. During that time, he saw the unfairness and exploitation of those capitalists and the seed of hatred to capitalism was planted in his mind. From The Chinago, we can see his resentment toward capitalism is reflected inside. Through those Chinese coolies, he trustworthily shows readers the ugliness and the corruption of those who controlled the power, those capitalists. In coolies¡¦ eyes, those higher status people are ¡§white devil.¡¨ ¡§They grew angry without apparent cause, and their anger was always dangerous. They were like wild beasts at such times.¡¨ In text, moreover, we can also see how those capitalists treat their labors as valuable ¡§tools¡¨, but not human being. ¡§The stockholders were clamoring for dividends, and the Company had not yet paid any; wherefore the Company did not want its costly contract laborers to start the practice of killing one another.¡¨ ¡§That blow of Schemmer¡¦s fist had been worth thousands of dollars to the Company¡K¡¨ These vivid descriptions of capitalists fully show Jack London¡¦s hatred to capitalism.
In the text, we can also see the social status in capitalism that time. There were French government, British company, German overseer and Chinese coolies. French and British were in the highest degree; they controlled the power and owned the benefit produced. German was in the middle degree; they obeyed government and company¡¦s order and cared less about coolies. Chinese was in the lowest degree; they were exploited seriously but couldn¡¦t get their worthy pay. The Chinago was written in 1910 when the World War was about to start. During that period, it¡¦s the time China was trampled by those strong countries. Ironically, when those countries invaded China and set factory, their arrangement of status was almost the same as in The Chinago. It shows us that Jack London¡¦s design of The Chinago is not reasonless; it does reflect the social situation then.
We can also see some cultural differences in the text, which causes the mistake in the story. In The Chinago, the western government seemed much care about the law. Not like Chinese who think the torture is the best way to make criminals learn the truth, western had strict law system. Nevertheless, ironically, this strict law system didn¡¦t serve for the justice. In the text, we can find the law was set to protect the white people. Ah Cho and other four coolies were misunderstood to kill Chung Ga and were judged into serious punishment. Schemmer really killed a coolie before, but he didn¡¦t get any judgment. The doctor¡¦s certificate attested that coolie died for sunstroke, although in all the history of Tahiti no one had ever died of sunstroke. Then, we can see its unfairness. Besides, the reason of western capitalists liked to use Chinese as coolies may also reflect the Chinese social background. In the long history of China, the magistrates¡¦ domineering seems not unusual to common people. This kind of situation makes Chinese have a habit to submit meekly to insults. So Chinese, in old days, seldom protested for some right or advantages. They always kept quiet even when their lives were threatened. Just like in The Chinago, all the coolies knew that who was the real murderer, but no one said. The philosophy of Chinese made those capitalists like to use them as coolies because they never protest or ask for more salary.
After the industrial revolution, the invention of those productive machines made capitalism rise quickly. During that time, the development of capitalism always went with the invasion. Those countries that owned the machines needed new land to set factory and more people to work for them. So they started their occupation.
Lots of weak countries¡¦ people were forced to be coolies. Under the capitalism, those coolies were exploited inhumanly and couldn¡¦t get worthy pay. The disparity between the rich and the poor became serious. That¡¦s why the Marx wanted to break the authority of the capitalism. Capitalism¡¦s unfairness caused the appearance of Marxism. However, also because of this opponent power appearing, capitalism started to make itself improved to get survival. Nowadays, we are still living under the capitalism. However, we should call it ¡§evolutionary capitalism¡¨, because it gets improved. Now we have good welfare system for our labors and the disparity between the rich and poor is not so serious. All these come from the lesson in the old days, just like what we see in The Chinago, we should cherish what we own now.

 Re: Journal Beryl Sun Jun 18 21:52:07 2000
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