Chapter One The Confusion of Identity in A Many-Splendoured Thing
1.1 Social Identity Confusion
Tajfel (1986) introduced the concept of “social identity”, which refers to the individuals belonging to a social group and the emotional and value significance of their group membership. A social group is defined as two or more people who identify and evaluate themselves in the same way, have a standard definition of who they are and their attributes, and follow the same pattern of interaction with non-members of the group. Group membership involves the comparison of collective concepts, such as “we” and “they”, while self-identity refers to the comparison of “I” and “you” in individual images. Therefore, social identity refers to the tendency to define personal positioning according to their social group. People may feel anxiety when unique positioning deviates from group expectations or misunderstandings, resulting in a lack of identity.
1.1.1 Helplessly Sending Sister Suchen to Western Country
Han Suyin and Han Suchen have the same growth experience. They were born in a family different from traditional Chinese families. Their father is Chinese, while their mother is a Belgian aristocrat. Therefore, they have lived in a combination of Chinese and Western families from an early age and received both Chinese and Western educational methods at the same time. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, due to the invasion of the West, Chinese society was generally hostile to Westerners, and Eurasian people like them were naturally unpopular and even regarded as alien by the people around them.
1.2 Cultural Identity Confusion
Culture is closely related to identity. Identity is the core issue of cultural research, and culture is the source of identity. Said’s work (2009) held the same view, at a certain time, culture is actively linked with the nation or the country so that there is a difference between “us” and “them”. Moreover, it often has a certain degree of xenophobia. At this time, ulture becomes the source of identity. In cultural studies, identity is used to describe “self-consciousness existing in modern individuals”, including gender identity, racial identity, class identity, national identity, and so on. The more important one is cultural identity, which can cover other identities. It can be seen that there are many identities, among which cultural identity is an important one. Cultural identity is the symbol of a cultural group or individual to define their cultural affiliation and dependence on survival.
1.2.1 Enduring the Indecisive Self-awareness
Han Suyin is a Eurasian, the term “Eurasian” means that children are born by a combination of couples from different races, which is a kind of blood cross in the physiological sense. However, the school of cultural studies extends its significance to the cultural city, which means that people who grow up in two or more heterogeneous cultures bear two cultural factors simultaneously and become a “mixture” of the blending and symbiosis of two cultures.Western, described the conflict between East and West more objectively and fairly. In her novel, she did not directly show the racial and cultural conflict between the East and the West but expressed it by describing the characters’ words and deeds in an ordinary banquet.
Many of Han Suyin’s friends already knew the name of Palmer-Jones. Han Suyin was eagerly invited to attend a cocktail party held by them, hoping to have a good conversation with the guests who came to attend. However, when she first arrived at the cocktail party, she knew that it was not a simple interaction between her and Westerners. Han Suyin realized that the atmosphere of the cocktail party was not what she had imagined. When Han Suyin got to the party, she found herself just standing between two British women and a wall. When Han Suyin first entered the cocktail party, this description implied that she was destined not to be accepted by the Westerners at the party, and could not escape the result of being excluded by these Westerners. The fact is exactly the same. When the cocktail party began, the topics people talked about were filled with the greed and arrogance of Western colonizers.
Chapter Two The Reasons for the Confusion of Identity in A Many-Splendoured Thing
2.1 The Reasons for the Confusion of Identity in Social Aspect
The lack of social identity coexists with post-colonial criticism, feminism, and cultural identity, which has been confirmed by many other literary criticism and cultural studies. The self-construction of the “Other” and the differences in the binary opposites related to it, such as rationality/sensibility, existence/absence, male/female, white/colored, colonizer/colonized, often involve power relations. The party holding power has a positive identity, while the other party becomes a subordinate “Other”. In terms of gender, women are the “Other” in the patriarchal society. In terms of ethnic groups, ethnic minorities are “Others”. In terms of race, colored people are “Others”. Geographically, the East is the “Other”. In terms of countries, in the colonial era, the developing countries were the “Others”. In terms of cultural attribution, heterogeneous culture, and non-Western culture are “Others”. Said’s (2009) Orientalism pointed out that the development and maintenance of each culture required the existence of a heterogeneous and competitive “Other”. The East was a competitor of European culture and is one of the most common “Other” images in Europe. The construction of the East helps the West define it as the image, concept, human nature, and experience that contrasts with the East.
2.2 The Reasons for the Confusion of Identity in Cultural Aspect
In various cultures, when foreign nations or subjects interact with each other, the dominant party will be used to understand people in the outside world in its way of thinking and describe those who are different from them as barbaric, beast-like, and irrational. This way is a narrative strategy to demean colonial people. It also embodies the construction of “the Other” when the party controlling the discourse power confirms its cultural identity.
2.2.1 The Contradiction Between Chinese and Western Cultures
As a Eurasian, Han Suyin has been influenced by both cultures since childhood. Zhang Songjian (2021) said that Eurasians are not only the product of the combination of the East and the West but also a state of mind. This state of mind is mixed with false values, prejudice, ignorance, and colonialism’s magic. In the book Community (2007), Bowman pointed out that the fragility of individual identity and the instability of constructing identity alone urge identity builders to seek out worries that can bind individual experience. Han Suyin kept coming back and forth between the two cultures, which led to her ambivalence. The unique dual cultural background makes her growth process even more difficult. She not only needs to adapt to cultural differences and conflicts but also needs to adapt to the exclusion of ethnic minorities in mainstream society. To confront this wandering and helpless state of mind, Han Suyin instinctively sought recognition in two directions, representing Belgium as her mother and China as her father. Zhang Xiaoyun (2021) stated that when Han Suyin was 18 years old, she came to the Free University of Brussels to study, which gave her a chance to contact her mother, Dennis’s family. She was very curious and longing for the Dennis family. She longed for their acceptance, but in the end, she got silence and coldness. The Dennis family only regarded her as a little cousin from China and never realized that she was also a member of their family, let alone accepted her into the arms of the Dennis family. Her pursuit in this direction was met with refusal and failure. From this, it can be seen that Han Suyin’s mixed-race identity did not bring her a good life experience for her growth. As she expressed in her novel A Many-Splendoured Thing: “But it is awful to be two or more people all the time. It’s schizophrenia.” (Han,1954:95) Suyin felt confused and conflicted due to her inability to accurately position her role and identity. This suspension of identity in different cultures can easily lead to loss of identity and suffering from the spiritual pain caused by cultural alienation.
Chapter Three The Reconstruction and Significance of Identity in A Many -Splendoured Thing ........................... 33
3.1 The Reconstruction of Identity .............................. 33
3.1.1 The Resolution at the Social Level ............................ 33
3.1.2 The Integration at the Cultural Level ............................. 35
Conclusion ............................. 41
Chapter Three The Reconstruction and Significance of Identity in A Many-Splendoured Thing
3.1 The Reconstruction of Identity
In the Cold War era, Han Suyin’s identity was rooted in - but not bound by the Asian consciousness. She had an open dual vision which helped to construct her own identity to reflect flexible and dialectical critical thinking. Han Suyin’s love for China was evident to all, which can be seen in the sentence “I trust in the Chinese people” that appeared in many of her works, especially in the novel A Many-Splendoured Thing. When facing some abnormal situations in modern China, Han Suyin strengthened her feelings for the motherland and was proud of her Chinese descent. However, she also understood that only the integration of East and West at all levels could promote social progress. The integration of the two cultures can give Hong Kong authentic regional culture and charm.
3.1.1 The Resolution at the Social Level
Han Suyin’s reflection on her own identity also reveals that most Eurasian people lack conscious self-criticism, which leads to not breaking through racial biases and deepening them, making it impossible to achieve equality, dignity, and human justice. Most of these Eurasian mixed-race intellectuals have received higher education in the West, possessing cultural power and wealth. Once they returned to their homeland, they faced risks and embarrassing life situations, and their souls had to split. They exhibited different personalities in the face of different problems, lost control of progress and retreat, and were at a loss. In the face of such a cruel reality, many outstanding westernized intellectuals in China have made brave choices.
Han Suyin, a British Chinese female writer in the 1970s, witnessed the turbulence and changes of the times, experienced the life of the marginal “Other”, suffered the confusion and crisis of identity, and continuously pursued identification with her own identity. Han Suyin has her own experience of life, profound insights into social issues, and unique insights into life. The maverick Han Suyin is an adherent to the actual existence, never fears difficulties, and writing is an artistic expression of this way of life. The wandering life situation and sensitive female experience have contributed to Han Suyin’s unique creative philosophy and writing style.
The novel A Many-Splendoured Thing expands from the aspects of spiritual pursuit and cultural exchange. Han Suyin, who returned from studying in England, was stranded in Hong Kong, which was still a colony at the time due to the turmoil in the Mainland. This experience made her a marginalized person who found it difficult to integrate into colonial life and join the white mainstream society in Europe. The isolation of feudal society in Chinese mainland e emotional confusion for Han Suyin, resulting in a deep identity dilemma. The description of regional dispersion, cultural alienation, and spiritual pain by Han Suyin in the novel is a true portrayal of the author himself. Han Suyin, who pursues fairness and justice, came into contact with the critical spirit and humanitarian feelings of communism and Marxism during her return to the Chinese Mainland. She is proud of herself as a real Chinese and firmly believes in serving the motherland. This experience not only affects Han Suyin’s life and thoughts but also deeply affects her subsequent series of works. When Han Suyin faced some abnormal situations in modern China, her feelings for her motherland became increasingly firm, and she became proud of her Chinese ancestry. But she also understands that only cultural integration can promote social progress, highlighting the impact of spiritual enhancement and cultural exchange on survival conditions and identity. The novel expresses the value and significance of life experienced and grasped by the author and is a product of the author’s aesthetic activities. It is a spiritual enhancement and soul purification that transcends oneself.