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01 Text Summaries

05 Calls for Action

04 Class Hierarchy

03 Cannibalism

02 Research Question

  • Inspired by Lu Xun's own personal experience
  • Hua Shuan goes to the market to get "medicine" for his ill son
  • He witnesses an execution
    • Medicine = steamed bun covered in the executed's blood.
  • The son eats the bun in hopes that it will cure him
    • Reveals that the executed was a boy named Xia Yu who sympathized with the revolutionists
  • Hua's son dies
    • Hua Dama and the mother of Xia Yu meet in the graveyard and mourn together


  • Told in first person of the "madman"
  • Paranoia in response to the hostility and hunger of his community members
  • Hears of a famine in the Wolf Cub Village
    • Becomes paranoid that his village will kill him even if he is rightous or not
  • Seeks the help of Confucius history to understand justice and rightousness
    • Only finds the texts say "Eat People!"
  • Sees more cannibalism everywhere
    • Younger generation are being taught cannibalism
    • He and his family are cannibals as well
  • Final entry is focused on those who have not become cannibals

"Diary of A Madman" (DOAM)

his discontent with traditional social and political aspects of China during the New Culture Movement?

What are common themes in Lu Xun's works that represent

Research Question

  • Cannibalism is a taboo in almost every culture
    • Utilized to shock readers and reinforce his argument
  • Symbolism for the self-destructive nature of traditional China
  • Emphasizes the negative aspects of
    • Traditional society:
      • feudalistic, corrupt
    • Human nature:
      • Selfish, greedy
    • Passivity and apathy:
      • moral indifference to injustices for survival


  • The bloody steamed bun being eaten
    • Weak child = new, emerging generation/ society
    • Parents = old traditional society
    • Child's death = rejection of traditional concepts as a way of living
  • "Hua" vs "Xia"
    • Hua Xia (華夏) is the terminology for historical China
    • "Hua" son consuming the blood of "Xia" Yu
      • China is split between two ideas that try to overtake one another
  • Bystanders of the execution
    • "...as if they were ducks, their heads stretched upwards by an invisible puppeteer." (pg. 3).
      • Ducks = common food in Chinese culture, "prey" animals
    • Represents the survival of the bystanders, but no one is stepping up to critize the injustices of killing others
      • Extreme indifference and apathic behavior to survive

Cannibalism in "Medicine"

  • Confucian books that imply "Eat People!"
    • Traditional beliefs vs modern ideas
      • Rejection of Confucius ideology
    • Literal reading between the lines
      • "Justice" and "righteousness" only benefits the privileged
  • Animal Symbolism
    • Characterizes community members as animals
      • Dogs, wolves, foxes, hyenas (creatures that eat meat)
    • Surviving off of sacrifces of others
    • Dehumanizes those who follow a society that uses others to advantage
  • Alienation from the Crowd
    • "Some believed that eating of men must go on because it was how things had always been. Others recognized it as a sin, yet they still ate, terrified of exposure." (pg. 12)
    • Speaking against the majority isolates the enlightened
      • Human greed to keep things the same, fear of changing the known

Cannibalism in "Diary of a Madman"

  • Critiques the rigid traditional hierarchy through cannibalistic ideas
  • The lowerclass is "consumed" by the upper for enjoyment.
  • Human nature
    • Traditional social structures enforce dehumanizing the lower class as a sacrifice for the upper class.

Social Class Hierarchy

Medicine, pg. 7

“Left of this natural boundary line are buried bodies of those executed in prison, and to the right, the poor. Both sides bulged with grave mounds like the tiered crowns of steamed bread which wealthy families celebrated their birthdays.”

  • Represents familial hierarchy
  • Confucian ideology
    • structure in the household = orderly structure in society
  • Brother = most power, benefits the most
  • Mother = representation of traditional beliefs
  • Madman = "insane", but still above women
  • Sister = lowest in power, is "eaten"

Social Class Hierarchy

Diary of a Madman, pg. 15

“I now realize I have unknowingly spent my life in a country that has been eating human flesh for four thousand years. My sister, I remember, died while my brother was managing the household. He probably fed her secretly to us, by mixing her into our food. I, too, may have unknowingly eaten my sister’s flesh. ”

  • Symbol during the Movement for insistence and determination
  • Flying to the horizon:
    • Evokes hope for the future
  • Red and white flowers
    • Both opposing sides are together
  • Circular wreath
    • China is "whole" again and united




Calls for Action

  • Younger generation is not influenced by traditional beliefs
  • Call for action to recognize that there is hope to change society
  • Influence through literacy and knowledge

"Are there children who have not yet eaten human flesh? Save the children..." (pg. 16)

Diary of a Madman

Thank you!Questions?