Romance of the Three Kindoms (1385)
The author of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong, lived in the chaos of the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. At that time social unrest grew and peasant uprisings came one after another. After many years of war, Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty and established the Ming dynasty. During this period, many people were homeless, including Luo Guanzhong who wrote Zaju and scripts for story-telling. Because he lived at the bottom of society, he understood and was familiar with what people were suffering. Hoping for social stability and people living and working in peace and contentment, he created this historical novel using the historical facts of the late Eastern Han Dynasty.
Journey to the West (1558)
The author Wu Cheng’en lived in the late Ming dynasty. At that time, the social situation was very different from that at the beginning of the founding period. Political contradictions, national contradictions and the internal contradictions of the ruling class were intensified and sharpened. After the ideological and cultural enlightenment thought expanded and the liberation of human nature increasingly flourished, and fiction and opera creation entered a period of full prosperity. In terms of the economy, capitalist started to bud.
“Journey to the West” has a pantheon of gods and demons: One of the gods in the pantheon is lead by the Jade Emperor. This hierarchical system, which is in fact a political system that reflects the reality of the Ming dynasty. In this system, the ruler living a privileged life, and their status is tenured and hereditary.
The demons in the book are a reflection of the common people, who can be divided into three categories: The first one is from within the ruling group, who made a mistake and were relegated to the lower realms. The second one is the good citizens and the third category is composed of purely bad people. This series of characters mirrors ‘a good deed begets good and an evil deed yields evil’, which reflects the author’s notion of the boundary of good and evil which can not be blurred.
Romeo and Juliet (1595)
‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the first mature tragedy that Shakespeare created. Because the work is filled with a “spring and youth” atmosphere, it is a called romantic love tragedy. This work was written in the late 16th century, when the Renaissance began to sprout. At that time the United Kingdom was in the heyday of Queen Elizabeth’s rule, the regnum was steady, the economy was prosperous. Shakespeare was full of confidence in the achievement of the ideal of humanism in society. Thus the work is filled with optimistic mood. The emerging bourgeoisie as a new social force on the stage of history not only meant that the economic base, class structure changed, but also the superstructure changed.
The bourgeoisie brought its own outlook on the world into history, and during this period it focused on humanism. Humanists advocated the “people” as the center, strongly opposed to the dictatorship of theocracy and the authority of the church, and demanded human rights and dignity. The basic conflict in the book is not only the contradiction between the two feudal families, but also the contradictory struggle between the two social forces, which were the social roots of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
At the turn of the seventeenth century, Britain was in the transitional period of the feudal system to the capitalist system, which was a great turning point in British history. During the boom of Elizabeth’s rule, the bourgeoisie supported the monarchy, and the monarchy used the bourgeoisie. As the political situation was relatively stable, social productivity saw rapid development. Although the development of these emerging capitalist relations of production accelerated the collapse of the feudal society, it still relied on the brutal exploitation of the peasantry. During the reign of James I, the autocratic monarchy was further pursued, and the resistance of the bourgeoisie and the working people was vigorously suppressed. Social contradictions further intensified, it fundamentally shook the feudal order, and the prepared conditions for 17th century British bourgeois revolution.
‘Hamlet’ is the ‘epitome’ of this era. The struggle between Hamlet and Claudius is a symbol of the struggle of the emerging bourgeois humanists and the reactionary feudal kingship.
The Renaissance movement brought Europe into the awakening of the ‘people’, and belief in God began to waver. This is the great liberation of thought which promoted the great development of social civilization; the other hand, especially to the late Renaissance, followed by the spread of desires and social confusion. Faced with such a chaotic era, the middle-aged Shakespeare, wanted to show the hidden trouble behind the ideal and development.
The Outlaws of the Marsh (1630)
The Outlaws of the Marsh is the first book in the history of Chinese literature that directly describe the main contradiction of the feudal society – the peasant class and the landlord class contradictions on a large scale. The work depicts a vigorous peasant revolutionary struggle, showing a magnificent scene of struggle for life. The novel exposes the darkness of the feudal society, the evil of the ruling class, and reveals that the social roots of the peasant uprising are cruel feudal oppression and exploitation, praising the justice of the peasant revolutionary struggle. The novel describes the representatives of the ruling class from the Gao Qiu to Zhenf Zhu, they formed a dark ruling network, which brought great disaster to people. The novel also shapes the heroic image of Li Kui, Lu Zhishen, Wu Song and Lin Chong, and praises the rebellious spirit of the peasant uprising heroes.
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1690)
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio is a series of classical short stories which is unique and artistic. Most of the stories are tell of ghosts and monsters, but the content is deeply rooted in real life, and euphemistically reflect the social contradictions of that time. The stories can be classified into 5 categories. The first one is the stories which reflect the social darkness, expose and oppose the feudal ruling class oppression. The second one is against the feudal marriage, criticises feudal ethical education, and praises young men and women pursue pure love and fight for freedom and happiness. The third category is to expose and criticize the corruption of the imperial examination system. The fourth one is to praise the oppressed people with the spirit of the struggle against authority. The last one is the stories which educate people to be honest, helpful, hardworking, etc..
An interesting phenomenon is that in the Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, there are many female roles. Even though the female images is shaped from the perspective of maleism, not completely divorced from feudal thought, it gives the female image new connotations.
Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
The author of Gulliver’s Travels is Jonathan Swift. During the period of 1710 to 1714, he was appointed as a public relations officer of Robert Harry and Henry St John’s Tory Party. But later, the parties alternated, the Whigs came to power. Swift wrote the book in order to reflect the social contradictions of England in the first half of the 18th century, criticize the decadence of the British ruling group, expose the exploitation of the bourgeoisie at that time, and sharply refute all attempts to defend the social system at that time and oppose the wars of aggression and colonialism. Later, the author also went to Ireland to teach. Ireland was subject to the high pressure of England rule, so that the author reflected the decline of Irish agriculture through the third island travels in the book.
A Dream of Red Mansions (1791)
‘A Dream of Red Mansions’ describes Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu’s love tragedy, and the declining process of four big families, reflecting the feudal society brutal class oppression, exposing the darkness and decay of the feudal system, showing the inevitable trend of collapse of feudal society and proposing the ideals with the hazy democratic thinking. Besides, the praise for the girls and the sympathy and respect for the weak in the book laid the foundation for the later liberation of the women, marriage autonomy and today’s feminist movement.
Pride and prejudice (1813)
Austin was unmarried and lived in a relatively wealthy family in a rural town. So that in her work, there are no major social contradictions, just a peaceful life of landlords, pastors and other people. From the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century, ‘sentimental novels’ and ‘Gothic novels’ filled the British literary world. However, Pride and Prejudice was anomalous and shows the daily life of the British middle class in a country who’s life had not yet been hit by the capitalist industrial revolution.
The work is perhaps one of the greatest love novels in the world, and it ‘tells you that women have the right to live better, and should not think of what the women should take.’
Wuthering Heights (1847)
Emilie Bronte lived in thirty years of social turbulence in Britain. Capitalism was developing and increasingly exposed to its inherent flaws. There were sharp contradictions between labor and capital and the unemployed workers were poor. Besides, a large number of child laborers were cruelly tortured to death and the British government restricted the democratic reform struggle and the workers’ movement. People’s spirits suffered from the intense oppression. Humanity as twisted without mercy. Another feature of the time was patriarchy. At that time, the Victorian period, the noble class were enormously proud of their success. Status is first, money is god and women’s marriage, to a large extent, determines their fate.
The work is mainly carried out to explore human nature for people to realize that if there is no humanity, the world will become ugly, shrill and painful. The grotesque love story exposes the evil of patriarchal society and criticisms toward disrespect of the female.