The characters of Ah Q from Lu Xun’s Ah Q-The Real Story and Hsiang Tzu from Lao She’s Rickshaw appear in the end, as shown by the authors, to have led rather similarly hopeless lives. Both men are without any family in the end, although Hsiang Tzu briefly has a wife. In the end both men are portrayed as social outcasts, but their circumstances of being outcast are unique. Both stories end with these characters dead. Ah Q is physically slaughtered, while Hsiang Tzu is portrayed as living dead. It all comes down to Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu leading similarly tragic lives with their endings the most tragic.
At the beginning of the stories of Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu it is made clear that neither had any known family. There is never mention of family in Ah Q’s story. In the middle of Hsiang Tzu’s story he briefly has a wife. Hsiang Tzu’s experience with his wife is not considered a blessing as his wife forced him into the marriage by pretending to be pregnant. After being married she really does become pregnant, but she and the baby die in childbirth leaving Hsiang Tzu without any more hope for having a family. Ah Q is never portrayed as having friendly relations, but at points in Hsiang Tzu’s story he has friends. Hsiang Tzu loses his friends by taking advantage of them. In the end both are left without family or friends, which is one of the biggest tragedies in their tragedy filled lives.
Ah Q was never truly accepted among the villagers, but they did utilize his ability to help out by doing odd jobs around the village. Although, they realized his usefulness they never treated him with respect and often ridiculed him. He was kept from being totally part of the village mostly due to his attitude of superiority. The combination of his feeling of superiority and the villagers lack of respect for him often resulted in Ah Q being beaten in many fights, but never losing face in his own mind. He believed he was better than the other villagers because not only had he once been rich, but also he had been to the town. He became entirely outcast by the villagers after returning from one of his stays in the town. On this occasion Ah Q returned with a newfound wealth of goods to sell. One of his statements after his return truly shows his feelings of superiority, “Rich? You betcha! From here on out, whatever Ah Q wants, Ah Q gets!” (Lu Xun 150). Eventually, the villagers probably out of jealousy of his gain in wealth and Ah Q’s more profound feeling of superiority began to accuse him of gaining his wealth through burglary, a claim with no proof shown in the story. It appears that Ah Q’s status as a social outcast was mostly brought on by his acting as superior rather than any bad actions particularly done against the villagers, as even if he was a burglar he did stole from the townspeople and not the villagers.
Hsiang Tzu’s status as a social outcast was at first due to him acting different from the other rickshaw drivers. Most of the rickshaw drivers did not care much about saving their money, but Hsiang Tzu saved every penny he could to buy his own rickshaw. He mostly did not fit in because he did not waste his money in teahouses, on alcoholic drinks, or other items unnecessary for living. He became an outsider mostly because he did not want to be included. Later in life after many tragedies he gave up hope of ever owning his rickshaw and began to spend money and hang out with the other rickshaw drivers. Cigarettes and drink became his friends (Lao She, 227). This resulted in him fitting in for a period of time, but in the end he became too lazy to work and began to leech off of others mostly by borrowing money and not repaying his debt. Ultimately, Hsiang Tzu becomes a social outcast due to his taking advantage of all his acquaintances.
The story of Ah Q ends with him being executed on the charges of stealing from Old Master Zhao. When speaking to the judge of Ah Q’s case the lieutenant involved in the capture shows the desperation that led to the capture and execution of an innocent man; “I’ve been a lieutenant in the Revolutionary Party for less than three weeks and we’ve already has a dozen cases of burglary. Not one of them solved, either” (Lu Xun 168). Their desperation and the villagers already accusation of Ah Q being a burglar led to his capture on the grounds of burglary. Because the Revolutionary Party needed to make an example of someone in an attempt to stop the rampant burglary incidents, Ah Q was executed without any effort every made at listening to his insistence of not participating and being unable to help recover the goods.
At the beginning of Rickshaw, Hsiang Tzu is full of hope and worked hard to get the rickshaw he yearned to own. His effort did pay off at first and he was able to buy himself a good rickshaw, but his bad judgment caused him to lose his rickshaw and end up in the army. Even after his escape from the army and return to the city Hsiang Tzu remained hopeful and began to work at buying another rickshaw. Before he earned enough to buy his own rickshaw Hu Niu tricked him into marrying her. After her death Hsiang Tzu floats between being hopeless and with some hope, but he pretty much abandons his dream of being a successful rickshaw puller with his own rickshaw. At one point near the end of the story he fully regains hope when he scores a job for him and a women he once knew and seems to have loved, but when he goes to find her he finds that she has killed herself. After this incident “he didn’t think any more, he didn’t hope any more.” The story ends with him as alive, but no longer with any point or hope left in his life.
Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu both lead tragic lives without family and Hsiang Tzu’s brief marriage just adds to his tragedy. Partially because they have no one, but also due to other circumstances partially brought on by themselves, Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu live most of their lives as social outcasts. Both Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu’s lives as social outcasts came to a most tragic end. Ah Q lost his life in a very public shooting execution and Hsiang Tzu became a living dead. Both stories show how hard social outcasts can struggle against society without anything to show of it.
Lao She. Rickshaw. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1979.
Lu Xun. Dairy of a Madman and Other Stories. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.