Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waiting by Ha Jin

By Ha Jin

The writing initially reminded of writing found in kid's books. I suspect it was this passage in particular:
Beside him, chickens were strutting and geese waddling. A few little chicks were passing back and forth through the narrow gaps in the paling that fenced a small vegetable garden.
But the story quickly moves along and gets into the more substantial plot of a doctor in China, trying to work out a divorce of his wife of 15 years.

That's the short description of the plot, but in reality the doctor is one of the more passive and indecisive characters that one will read about.

He had initially agreed to marry the woman in his home-town, due to a sense of filial obligation.  His parents had selected this woman to be his wife and not long afterwards, sequentially fallen sick.  The doctor worked a day's trip away from his hometown and had essentially married in order to have someone take care of his parents.  Needless to say, his wife is a very obedient and selfless person.  Not long after their marriage, they have a daughter.

A few years afterwards, he "falls into" a relationship at the army camp that he works at and after a few cycles of the two trying to deny their relationship, his new girlfriend forces him to get a divorce with his wife.

Year after year, the wife initially accepts the divorce, but at the last minute has a change of heart.   As a result, the title refers to the girlfriend waiting on the doctor to get a divorce.  In addition, it also refers to the wife waiting on the doctor to potentially returning to his family.

The story is largely written from the perspective of the doctor; but the intent seems to be pointing out the passiveness and selfishness of the man and the accompanying rationalizations that accompany it.  Ha Jin does a fine job of exploring and elucidating the psychology behind the character and it's certainly valuable to read about such characters, but at the same time, it can be frustrating to have to read about them, when personalities like that exist in real-life.

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