Monkey: Evolution of the Title Character
In Wu Cheng'en's tale "Monkey," the title character, Monkey, evolves throughout the course of the story from being independent and self absorbed to becoming one who recognizes the value in others and learns that working together with them can help them all achieve their goals. In the beginning of the story, Monkey's primary concern is to become immortal so that he does not have to face death. His focus is on what he himself can accomplish. Moreover, he sees no need for others, and there is no one but himself in his vision of the future. However, one day he hears someone singing, "Those I meet upon my way/Are Immortals, one and all," and assumes that the person is an Immortal (Cheng'en 16). He finds that the man is only a lowly woodcutter who had learned the words to the song from a true Immortal, and the next person he meets is a master Taoist who teaches him how to change his form from a human into a variety of other forms, from a pine tree to a mosquito.
As Monkey learns how to do these things, his emphasis is naturally upon himself and his own skills. In fact, he becomes so impressed with his own abilities that in an act of treason he tries to usurp the kingship of the Great Emperor of Jade, which brings the heavenly army upon him. Although Monkey is appeased by the offer of an official title, he later finds out that he is a laughingstock of the court, because his position is only that of a stable boy. Infuriated, he fights the heavenly army and survives every attempt to kill him.
Monkey prays to Buddha for help, but instead of rescuing Monkey, Buddha drops a huge mountain upon him, immobilizing him. Trapped underneath it for 500 years, he is finally rescued by a simple monk, Tripitaka, who then embarks on a journey with him to obtain the Buddhist scriptures. The twosome soon becomes a group of four, and as they battle demons and scale mountains, the...