Research paper: History (Memoir value and problem as a way of recount)
Recounting the past is an important aspect of human survival in finding answers and solutions to different problems. As such, it is important that humans consider the past as they chart their way forward as to avoid repeating past mistakes in order build a conceivable future, in all aspects of human lives, be it social, political, or economic aspects. This essay focuses on two memoirs by two female writers that recount past activities that shaped human destiny significantly. The memoirs are Wild Swan by, Jung Chang, and Testament of Youth by Vera Britain. The Wild Swan memoir describes the Cultural Revolution that took place in China in a narrative that compares the experiences of her grandmother, her mother, and hers to explain China’s transformation into the modern world. In the Testament of Youth memoir, Brittain focuses on the effects of the First World War on the British middle class citizens. It further highlights the plight of women during, after the war, and in a compassionate manner that appeals to all. The memoir is given in a narrative manner that recounts the harsh experiences of Brittain that pushed her into writing the memoir as a way of expressing herself. The two memoirs are important historical aspects that reveals the past in a captivating manner and are valuable in solving current and future problems that affect humanity.
Wild swan memoir by Jung Chang was first published in 1991, whereby, Chang notes that the wild swan event changed his life significantly considering that it’s the book that led him into being a writer. Chang had for long dreamt of being a writer, but his dreams had been quashed by the tyrannical rule of Mao, which threatened the lives of many writers who suffered in endless political persecutions. Chang’s memoir is a story of three generations of the 20th century China highlighting the then Presidents Mao’s impact of his tyrannical rule in China, and touching on the experiences of females in the modern world. Chang describes the life of her grandmother, who was a warlord concubine; the struggles that her mother went through as a young idealistic communist, and about the ordeals, her parents went through during the Cultural Revolution.
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s failures led Chang’s parents into opposing the president’s policies. They were consequently targeted together with other opposing high-ranking officials during the revolution. The criticizing of Mao by Chang’s father made Chang’s family be exposed to retaliation from Mao’s supporters. This was further followed by her father’s imprisonment, and her family was forced to leave home. All this made Chang lose the respect she had for Mao as she writes, to the extent that when Mao died, she had to hide her head under the shoulder of another student to pretend that she was grieving.
Chang left to study in Britain in 1978 on a government scholarship, where she found life there interesting to the extent that she came to love her new country so much, and especially its diverge culture. The publication the first book Wild Swan made Chang a celebrity due to her unique style of using a personal description of the lives of three generations of Chinese women as a way of highlighting the many changes her country went through that proved extremely successful. The relation of these three stories starts with Chang’s grandmother being sold as a concubine to a Beijing’s police chief in order to increase her father’s power and status in their society. Chang describes her grandmother’s early life, her time as the concubine of a warlord, and the escape with her baby daughter following the death of her husband. This was then followed by the marriage of Chang’s mother to a reputable middle class doctor, making it possible for Chang to give a vivid picture of the traditional china, in addition to the place of women in the society before the communist revolution took place.
The testament of youth memoir describes the impact that the First World War had on the middle class citizens in Britain. The memoir shows the impacts of this war that prolonged into post war years, hence its huge impacts on the citizens. The memoir is further a kind of feminist literature due to their depiction of pioneer women forging their way into independent careers on a society that was sluggishly forbearing of learned women. The memoirs start with Brittains plans of getting into Oxford University, and her love life with Roland Leighton, who was a friend to her brother. The narrative goes through the deaths of her fiancée brother and her two closest male friends during the First World War. It ends with Brittain meeting her Husband and the ensuing marriage in 1925. Brittain was left physically exhausted and grief striken, yet amidst the entire trauma, an idea was planted in Brittains mind of immortalizing her story in a book. The idea of the book came later to be the testament of the youth, which is one of the most celebrated memoirs of the twentieth century. The words in these memoirs appear to pour out of her, a strong mixture of both loss and fury that are reinforced by intelligence and pacifist beliefs.
As a woman, Brittain was able to account the female experiences in the war with an instinctive dynamism. The literary memorialization of world war one was a preserve of the male until the testament of the youth was derived. Brittain was thus able to balance emotional resonance with intellectual precision. She was able to relay her own story that of being the daughter of the proprietor of a provincial paper factory, and then as a young woman in the path towards making sense of the personal effects that were wrecked by war. By so doing, she was able to lay out her political beliefs. According to the memoirs, she was able to learn that no one can live in isolation form public events.
Having grown up in a conservative middle class family, she is able to write boldly concerning her own ambitions as a means of progressing her life and those of other women, despite the traditional ideas by her parents that a woman’s place belongs in the home. What gives Brittain’s memoirs such a great influence is the refusal by Brittain to cling on to accepted norms that continue to diminish the place of a woman in the society. The memoir weaves around political issues into her personal life that makes Brittain’s memoir so fascinating. This is because any person does not have to be interested in pacifism or feminism to understand Brittain’s viewpoint.
The powerful memoir, however, did not come without experiencing of personal by Brittain. Though she belived thaty she would never be find any joy of being in a relationship, she did eventually marry George Caltin, a philosopher which following a courtship that was instigated by a letter. Writing of the testament of youth, together with its publication not only affected Brittain, but also had wider implications. Her husband had to cope reading the emotional nostalgic writing of his wife’s’ former lover. The deaths of her closest friends and father forced Brittain to shoulder the weight if this tragedy. She consequently poured out her energies into campaigning against colonialism, apartheid, and nuclear proliferation. Britttain’s political activism had a lasting impact on her daughter, in that; she led the opposition against the invasion of Iraq in the House of Lords in 2003.
Following the revolution, the position of women in the society rose significantly with Chang’s mother being a civil servant and later the wife of an official. Chang, therefore, gives a historical viewpoint on the effect of Mao’s rule on the culture of traditional China, as well as the unusual opening of women in today’s world. Chang’s account is an inspiring one of courage, intelligence, love, loyalty, and sensitivity that is told in an objective manner without guilt or accusations.
Though Brittain is now dead and cannot witness the success the memoirs, the impacts are still felt even today in, for instance, how her book has helped in shaping the consciousness of modern feminists. In a period of six years, the memoirs had sold over 120, 000 copies. The outbreak of World War II, however, meant that Brittain’s pacifist philosophy became less popular. It was not until the late 1970s that the Virago, the feminist publisher reprinted Testament of Youth which was followed by a popular TV series brought Brittain’s work to a bigger audience. The book up to today remains considerably influential 8 decades after its publication, and continues to inspire new generations. The book was able to convey the personal devastation that followed World War I, especially from the perspective of a young woman who experienced the wrath of war to the fullest. Many other concurrent accounts depicted women as victims who bore the devastating effect of world events, rather than as the means of their own change. Her story is an empathetic one that gives the experiences of women a voice considering that many other female writers struggled to bring their accounts into the limelight.
Problem as a way to recount past
Using the problem as a way of recounting the past is that the story is prone to be relayed in a subjective manner that focuses more on the problem than on the solutions, and the historical aspects of the story. By using the problem approach method to highlight various past historical events we are expected to learn from may be one directional, in that, the author may only view matters that personally problematic to him/her. In these two memoirs, for instance, Brittain in the Testament of Youth focuses only on the plight of women during the First World War and consequently calls for the idealization of feminist ideas. In this line, the memoir gives us a one directional view of the problem in the war hence making it problematic to recount the past from a personal basis. Chang also focuses only on the problems of women in her memoirs hence; giving us a one directional approach to China’s cultural civilization, which is also subjective in nature.
These two memoirs present to us the various conditions the two writers went through that led to their writing of these memoirs. The memoirs present to us the story of these two writers in a narrative form that makes it interesting for one to read and consequently grasp the message. The memoirs present to us the significance of recounting the past using the problem approach, in that, individuals are able to identify with the stories and consequently comprehend their precepts. The problem method is however compounded with its shortcomings, though they are not big enough to warrant using this approach as ineffective. Through the memoirs, we are able to learn the Cultural Revolution that ushered it into the modern world.
We also learn the plight of women during the First World War, and the effects of the war. The memoirs are, therefore, in the very essence significant in recounting the past as we build the future.
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