Outwitting Patriarchy: Comic Narrative Strategies in the Works of Yang Jiang, Su Qing, and Zhang Ailing

  • Amy D. Dooling


In depicting Wei’s descent into poverty, illness, and mental disequilibrium, Bai Wei uses laughter to call attention to the female subject’s problematic relationship to language itself. Driven precariously to the brink of rage and hysteria by a world of patriarchal privilege and power, Wei is rendered speechless, reduced in the end to a state of irrepressible mad laughter. On another level, as a mechanism of survival her laughter also signifies a subversive resistance to the stereotyped image of the passively suffering female and the tragic narrative ending to which she is habitually consigned. In this chapter, I am interested in further exploring the role of laughter in Chinese feminist narratives. Specifically, I will focus on the works of three popular women writers who came to prominence during the Shanghai Occupation period (1937–1945), all of whom draw on comic devices to critique modern gender relations. Yang Jiang (1911-) appropriated the European comedy of manners genre to expose the absurdities of bourgeois patriarchy in her two plays, Chenxin ruyi (As you desire, 1943) and Nongzhen chengjia (Forging the truth, 1944).1 In her best-selling novel Jiehun shinian (Ten years of marriage, 1944), Su Qing (1914–1982) incorporates satire into a scathing analysis of the contemporary institutions of marriage and motherhood.2 And in her novella “Qingcheng zhi lian” (Love in a fallen city, 1943), Zhang Ailing (1920–1995) subtly mocks the traditional femme-fatale paradigm to depict her heroine’s quest for love and marriage amid national crisis.3


Chinese Literature Female Victim Romantic Lover Woman Writer Modern Chinese Literature 
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    Critical biographies of both Yang Jiang and Su Qing have recently been published, a promising sign that their work will receive the thorough critical evaluation they deserve. See Kong Qingmao, Yang Jiang pingzhuan (A critical biography of Yang Jiang) (Beijing: Xiahua chubanshe, 1998)Google Scholar
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© Amy D. Dooling 2005

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  • Amy D. Dooling

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