The book begins with the main character (Shao Bin) being introduced. From there, we start to learn about his life as a worker and how he wants to upgrade his living situation for him and his wife. When his request is denied, he decides to do something about it. He uses calligraphy as a form of propaganda. When one of his drawings ends up in a newspaper, things start to go south. The people who are in charge of Bin and the other workers (Director Ma and Liu) find out about it and publicly humiliate him. To counter their attack, Bin accuses one of them of having an affair with a woman who he saw in their office.
This fires everyone up and madness ensues. I feel like the issues being discussed in this book are very important, but the contents of this book are not very exciting. The attention-grabbing moments are few and far between, which is unfortunate because they’re what I look for when I’m reading a book. Overall, this novel is quite dull. I find Jin’s style of writing a bit underwhelming and I wish that he didn’t include the unnecessarily boring parts in the novel such as descriptions of meals that Bin enjoys. The main theme that I noticed during the first section of In the Pond is an opposition to corrupt Chinese ways.
Ha Jin uses the character Shao Bin to stand up and fight for what he thinks is right. There were several parts of this section that stuck out to me. Here are a few examples… “Even though he couldn’t correct the leaders’ wrongdoing, he wanted to teach them an unforgettable lesson and show them that he wouldn’t swallow an offense. But what should he do? He remembered that the materialistic thinker Wang Chong of the Han Dynasty had said something about punishing the evil with the writing brush. ” This is where the whole book basically begins. It is the time when Shao Bin gets the inspiration to stick up for himself.
“Who are the masters of this plant? The workers or the two corrupt leaders? Where is their communist conscience? ” (Page 22) When reading In the Pond, this part of Bin’s letter stuck out to me because he really questioned his conditions instead of staying miserable. This is also a part of the theme, which becomes rather evident during this passage. “The workers heard of Bin’s disrupting the election, and they were impressed. They had taken him for a mere bookworm, but all of a sudden he had emerged as a man of both strategy and action. Naturally some young workers shook hands with him.” (Page 47)
I appreciated the fact that Bin’s coworkers stood by him and supported him instead of simply shying away and ignoring their problems. The whole incident made them gain respect for Shao Bin which is really unique because if I were in their shoes, I would probably to avoid conflict by simply ignoring the whole ordeal. PART 2 This section starts out with Bin going to talk to Director Ma. When he gets to his office, Liu is there and denies his request for a promotion, stating that he would rather let Bin’s talents rot. This infuriates Shao and he storms out.
Later on, he meets Yen who he instantly befriends over discussions of art. Yen is an amateur, but they still bond and gain mutual respect for each other. Yen then talks to the leaders and asks them to be kinder to Bin. After this, the leaders tell Shao to look for a job elsewhere because they intend on firing him. Yen finds out what happened and is infuriated. Bin then gets a letter from Gold County’s Cultural Center which states that they would like to utilize his talents for a year. He accepts and starts the job transfer after getting into a fight with the directors.
Later on, Bin signs up for exams and is scoffed at by Liu and Ma. He takes the series of tests at a middle school. Promptly after they’re over, Bin’s wife shows him a letter from a professor who loved his work. Following a long period of dull events, another scandal emerges after Liu is bitten in the butt by Bin. The attack was provoked, but still Shao got the short end of the stick and was treated badly afterwards. The central theme is still clear during this section. Bin tries to fight the corruption that he witnesses daily.
He uses calligraphy as a powerful tool against it This book has really opened my eyes to the communism in China. It inspired me to read further into it and what I have found has shocked me. Though I still don’t really enjoy In the Pond, I have learned quite a bit from it. The passages that stuck out to me in section 2… “Do not worry about having no friend on the road; under heaven who has not heard of your name? ” (Page 68) This part stood out not because of its relevance to the story, but because of the way that the author constructed the dialogue.
I found it interesting that instead of simply saying “who hasn’t heard of your name? ” he said “Under heaven who has not heard of your name? ” I appreciated the eloquence of this part. “Bin couldn’t help smiling; his tears fell on the thin paper. ‘They’re going to accept me. He-he-he, they accept me! ” he cried out, and held his wife up by the waist, swinging her around. One of her flying heels scraped Shanshan’s shoulder and knocked her down. ” (Page 87) This joyous occasion was a highlight of section 2. It was nice for Shao Bin to finally have something positive happen to him.
“The photograph taken, Liu buckled up his pants and followed Jia out of the studio. The girl looked at him with a knowing smirk on her face, her eyes rolling. Liu smiled back, then turned to the photographer. ‘Old Jia, can you make it express? I need five pictures as soon as possible. ” (Page 97) The fact that Director Liu actually went and had a picture of his butt taken was a bit too much. Part 3 The last part of the book moves pretty fast. Liu is accused of having a relationship with Nina and Bin begins to respect Song less because of the way he handled a painting.
Song’s report came out soon after and Bin was satisfied with the finished product. I feel section 3 of the book is full of a lot of pointless anecdotes, but in the end the novel wasn’t that bad. It had its moments of excitement, but it also had its moments of boring nonsense. I would give In the Pond a solid 6. In the end, I was relieved to have finished the novel for many reasons. For one, the ending was pretty great. Also, the book dragged a lot and I felt bored most of the time. The passages that I felt were important…
“Against the current you must punt hard; one stroke skipped, you fall back many a yard. The ancients said every minute was gold; So, cherish your time and have it controlled. ” (Page 162) Shao Bin remembers this poem about the methodology of study after he struggles with his art. I feel like this poem is quite inspirational, which is the reason it stood out to me. It basically tells the reader to live life to the fullest. “After biting his fingertips for a few moments, he decided to engrave Tu Fu’s line ‘Your brush writes, raising wind and rain.
” It seemed no words were more appropriate as a compliment to Jiang’s uncle. ” (Page 140) This part is taken from when Bin is trying to decide what to carve onto the jade stone for Jiang’s uncle. This quotation is inspiring. It states that you have the ability to change things that you aren’t happy with. The theme is very evident in this passage. “On his way to the Commune Administration, he couldn’t resist smiling and whistling. In the sky a flock of geese were drifting south and gradually merging into the cotton clouds. Joyously Bin stretched up his right arm, as if he too had wings.” (Page 178)
This was a great way to end the book. By comparing Bin’s freedom to the flight of a bird, Jin successfully tied up the story and left me satisfied with the end. Reilly Davidson August 2, 2013 Summer Reading 2013 In the Pond by Ha Jin Honors Assignment “In China, for most of the population, these fault lines – the immediate causes of public dissatisfaction – relate not only to vague yearnings for democracy but, more importantly, to profound economic frustrations and disgust over social inequities and corruption. ” (Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times).
This was taken from an article about the rebellion against Chinese leaders in 1989. It is applicable to the central theme expressed in both the novel and this news article. It’s an opposition to some form of Chinese ruling. In both situations, those who were against it took a stand and fought for what is/was right. The New York Times published a story many years ago entitled “CHINA ERUPTS… THE REASON WHY”. It’s basically about the people of China who were thirsty for change in the spring of 1989. There were many rebels who stuck up for the cause that they placed great importance on.
“…but galvanizing all of China with their threat to kill themselves rather than live without democracy” (excerpt from the article). This passage was important because it clearly states how important it was for the rebels to fight for their beliefs. Ha Jin attempts to share his thoughts about Chinese control by writing In the Pond. The main character (Shao Bin) was basically a tool to bring about the questions of “What would happen if we all stood up for what we believe in? ” and “How can we take a stand for justice? ” He addresses these two points within the first ten pages.
“… the true scholar’s brush must encourage good and warn against evil” (Page 8) This passage from the novel was a quote from Wang Chong, who I believe was a Chinese philosopher during the Han Dynasty. It’s an amazing idea to start the book off with such powerful words. Ha Jin included this as an important inspiration for the character Shao Bin. It leads him to speak out against the unjust ways of his supervisors. “As an artist and scholar I ought to expose those corrupt leaders… A good piece of work should be as lethal as a dagger to evildoers. ” These words fuel Bin throughout the entire novel. They are the match that lights the flame.
Jin tactfully placed them in the beginning as a form of foreshadowing the theme of the entire novel. The theme that also applies to the aforementioned news article. Both pieces of literature address topics of sticking up for oneself and not letting dreams get crushed because of society’s ways. This theme is incredibly important and can be learned from in future situations. All in all, it is pretty evident that there are many people who feel that the situation with the democracy in China is unsatisfactory. The theme in both the news article and In the Pond is clear and is seemingly something good to learn from.