Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thinking Over the Morning Conversation, Remembering Lu Xun’s Medicine

for ql and Moonbootica at Eschaton

The Chuans, owners of a small tea house, had a son in the advanced stages of tuberculosis, or consumption as it was often called when Lu Xun’s 1919 story, “Medicine” took place. The story begins with the couple getting ready to open their tea house for the day. But it isn’t an ordinary day. The wife gives her husband a packet of silver coins to buy the medicine that is guaranteed to cure their young son.

Old Chuan, happily goes out to the place where he is going to buy the medicine, a crowded place where he sees soldiers are gathering. After a loud noise a man rushes up to old Chuan, demands the money and hands him a warm package. Someone in the crowd asks him who in his family needs the medicine.

The father hurries to the tea house where the morning customers are coming in. His very sick son innocently eats the roll soaked in the warm blood of an executed revolutionary, his cure. As the regulars chatter one comes in loudly asking if the Chuans had taken his valuable tip of where to get the medicine, a guaranteed cure not like the other remedies.

The customers talk about what a fool the executed man was, the son of the widow Hsia. He had been such a fool that he tried to tell people that the empire belonged to them and he had tried to convert the brutal jailer, Red eye. It was the revolutionaries third uncle who had turned him in and gotten a reward and also shielding himself and his family from imperial retribution. The consensus seemed to be that his cleverness was admirable.

In the last section of the story the Chuan’s son has died and when his mother goes at the Ching Ming festival to burn paper money at his grave and leave offerings she encounters the mother of the man whose blood became the ineffective medicine.

The only person who profits in the end is the uncle who collected the reward for turning in his nephew.

This morning on a thread at Eschaton, ql posted a link about Douglas Feith mentioning just one of his academic honors. He now holds positions at Stanford, Harvard and Georgetown Universities. Douglas Feith, one of the architects of the Iraq disaster may be best remembered as memorably discribed by Gen. Tommy Franks ‘the stupidest guy on the face of the earth’.

In the discussion that followed, Moonbootica pointed out that Euan Blair, Tony Blairs’ son who last summer interned in the office of David Drier, R California, was headed to Yale on full scholarship.

I didn't ask but doubt anyone there would think feeding on blood cures a deadly illness. I didn't listen to Morning Edition today.

You've made a good connection between the two countries. The Chuans had the excuse that they were trying to cure their son. Tony Blair is putting his on the path to becoming a blood eater. Douglas Feith is up to his eyes in blood.
I made a mistake, the guy who sold Old Chuan the roll soaked in blood profited too. I wonder if we are supposed to assume that it's Red Eye, the jailer.

Also see the introduction to the collection where Lu Xun makes a reference to the wreath that makes it even more cryptic than the story leaves it. He was an amazing writer.
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