the abandoner

In many places around the world, maintaining a family’s lineage is very important. In some of these areas, the one to carry it must be a boy.

There are some people who take this tradition very seriously, for example, the vice-chairman in the short story, “The Abandoner”, by Ma Jian. It was in 1979 when the one-child policy was introduced. It was also that year when the vice-chairman gave birth to his first daughter, Miaomiao. She was retarded and the vice-chairman realized that she was bringing more trouble than happiness. Due to Miaomiao’s abnormality, the vice-chairman’s wife received permission to give birth to a new child. The vice-chairman desperately hoped for a boy, but received a second daughter.

He then resorts to getting rid of Miaomiao. The vice-chairman could have easily killed her and come up with an excuse for why she died, but he takes the time, a whole six months, to try to get rid of her. This deed shows that he still has grown feelings for her. It could be because she was his first daughter, or it could be because they started spending a lot of time together. First, he tries leaving her on the road, waiting to see if anyone will take her. He then reads about an orphanage nearby. He then tries to deposit her there, but Miaomiao eventually gets returned to him.

The old fortune teller warned him that he could not change his fate, yet he still tries with no luck. This shows his stubbornness and how desperate he is to correct his lineage. This also shows his mixed feelings for Miaomiao. One evening, as he is about to fall asleep, he “hears” her “talking” to him. She discusses how his mission to get rid of her is not worth all the trouble, how he has learned new things about himself as he continues to try. In reality, his mind is telling him all of this. This event displays his revelation and how he has become wiser as a father, which is ironic because his retarded daughter taught him something.

More irony is revealed towards the end of the story, when he leaves Miaomiao out for someone to take her. Whenever someone would get close, he would run over and pick her back up. In the end, he protects the person he is trying to get rid of. He became the “retarded daughter’s only protector”. All of these events change who the vice-chairman is. His mentality changes and he now knows more about himself than he used to. Not all of the knowledge he obtained was good to know, but it revealed who he was and who he came to be.

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