This study will analyze the ways in which Pa Chin's novel Family reflects the tensions within Chinese society and within the Chinese family in the 1920s. The novel chronicles the social and familial struggles between the old and the young, between the females seeking more liberated lives in a patriarchal society, and between old traditions and new ways which inevitably weaken those old traditions.
In the beginning of the novel, two conflicts are immediately described. There is a split in society between education and the military (Chin 15) and there is a sign that females are beginning to win new rights, as symbolized by the fact that girl students are soon to be accepted in what was previously an all-male school.
The dispute over funding of the school system and the military is meant to show the fissures that occur in a changing society, one in which conflicts reverberate down from the government to affect all citizens directly or indirectly. How is the China of this era going to pursue both foreign goals as well as develop its domestic strengths through education?
The issue of girl students in a previously all-male school is another sign of the change at hand in Chinese society, and of the challenge to the old traditions which such a change brings. When Chin, a cousin of the Kao brothers, is told of this change to come soon, she is excited but doubtful. Chueh-hui, the youngest of the brothers, assures her such a change has indeed been planned, but adds,
"Whether the plan can be put through or not is another question. . . . Szechuan has entirely too many feudal moralist, and their influence is very strong. They're sure to oppose this thing. Boy's and girls in the same school? That's something they never thought of in their wildest dreams!" (Chin 16).
Another change has to do with class conflict, an issue which is symbolized in part by the relationship between the family and their bondmaid, or slave-girl, Ming-fen...