Big Breasts And Wide Hips by Mo Yan

big breast and wide hipsHow many siblings do you have? Are you an only child? Or do you have about one or two siblings? The average number of children in a household usually ranges from none to three–that is, only in modern days. What about the number of children a family could have, three generations ago? Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice had four other sisters. A family could have at least five or six children. Of course large families still happen today, especially with a poor family. Why do they lots of kids when they barely could support one? Because of the high death rate of the children. If one kid dies, there would still be another one to continue the family tree. A pretty harsh way of living, but its reality.

Long ago, having lots of children was considered pretty normal. A woman was expected to be a baby machine from the age of sixteen until the age of forty. It was no wonder that a family could have about ten children running around. Stereotypical ideas such as patriarchy also played a big role with the amount of children a household could have. Before the middle of the twentieth centuries, woman was always thought to be weaker then men. Scientifically, the stereotype might have happened because men has muscles and of course–they ended up doing the heavy jobs (Long time back, most of the job anyways). Religiously, the stereotype happened because God created Adam first in the bible. Eve came later, through one of Adam’s rib bones. That was the reason why woman would never stop giving birth before she had a son.

Shangguan Lu–or Mother, as the narrator of the story calls her–has always wanted a male child, for an heir. Unfortunately, her husband was sterile, meaning that he would never ever produce a child. So to get children, Mother had to go through drastic and desperate measures. Most of her children had different fathers, and almost all of them were girls. At first, her Mother-in-law had regarded this with disappointment, and then to rage. Mother had to plea and beg for her Mother-in-law to let her children survive.

Soon, Mother was pregnant with twins of the Pastor. The first-born child was a girl, something Mother nearly died with fright for, but the second born was a boy. Unfortunately, Mother gave birth during a small Japanese invasion in their village, costing the life of her husband dan her father-in-law, including immediately mental degrade of her Mother-in-law. Mother was left as a single widow, having to take care of her nine hungry children. Fortunately, the eldest child Lai Di and second oldest Zhao Di were old enough to be capable of some help. Lai Di and Zhao Di continued to babysit the younger sisters and care for the newborn twins.

Many events followed after that, with Malory (the father) naming the girl Yunu, who happened to be blind, and the boy Jintong. Malory commited suicide shortly after being disgraced in his own church. Jintong grew up as a spoiled boy, living on his Mother’s milk which he refused to give up. In other words, he refused to become weaned. The next years consisted of problems Mother has regarding the marriage of her first daughter. Lai Di has fallen in love with a passing man who happened to sell coats made out of animals, whom she didn’t approve of. Mother tried marrying Lai Di away to another man. In anger, Lai Di eloped and disappeared from the household.

Mother had many problems regarding Zhao Di and Ling Di (Third Sister)’s marriages too. Finally, Zhao Di eloped too, while Ling Di fell in love with Birdman Han. Unfortunately, he got captured by the Japanese and disappeared. Heartbroken, Ling Di turned into a Bird Fairy. She acted like a bird, and did whatever a bird would do. She also has mystic powers too. Disgusted and awed, Mother was forced to build an altar for her in the house. Jintong remarked being amused by the misfortune that followed people when they insulted or did bad actions to the Bird Fairy.

Xing Di (Fourth Sister) fell into the prostitution pit when Mother had no money. Meanwhile, Lai Di had her first born child and gave her to mother because she was too busy to take care of her own daughter. Qiu Di (Seventh Sister) got sold to a Russian woman on a famine. As years passed, Mother was forced through many hurdles. Children disappearing and dying were a common thing, but its heartbreaking to watch Mother lose all her children one by one. Lai Di came back, labeled as a traitor and widowed because her husband was hanged. Ling Di became caught in an affair with Lai Di’s original husband, Pan Di (Fifth Sister) became a soldier, and Nan Di (Sixth Sister) got married off to one of Pan Di’s second in commands.

Mother’s entire life was taking care of children. Although her original children were gone, she had to take care of her grandchildren, since their parents ‘too busy’ to take care of them. There was Little Mute and Big Mute (Ling Di’s children), Zhao Hua, who grew up side by side with Jin Tong and Yunu, and many others. Mother worked hard, and never gave up even in harsh conditions that include the wars with the Japanese and the famines.

This book labels the brutality of life in China. Not only the war, the story also talked about the legs of children who used to be bound to ensure that they woulnd’t grow too big. Lotus small feet were extremely wanted in China long ago. Mother’s generation was included in bind feet, but her children were free. This book is full of grotesque actions, and many, many deaths. When people that are close to you die so often, one by one, in the end, you don’t really care anymore. Your heart bleeds and you feel numb

The author of this book, Mo Yan, won a Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 2012. He was born in 1955 and grew up in Gaomi in North eastern China. His real name is Guan Moye, with Mo Yan being only a pen name. He wrote many other novels about life in China.

In closing, after reading this book, people should sit and think about their own lives. A goal of every student nowadays is just to study, go to collage, they get a date, then get a good job, rise a family, and live contently. The goals a few generations back might differ a lot. Their main achievement was to die of old age although it’s very difficult due to the low economic level and lack of medical attention. There are many other books which displays about life in Chinese dynasties long time ago, but none of them as detailed as this one. The plot moves so fast, and the characters feel so real. This book is an extremely good book to read in free time.

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