Essay, Research Paper: Grass Soup And Food Division
at the reform camp suggests he has not been completely broken down and reformed
by The Party. The significance of the dividing of foods illustrates his
remaining integrity and emotions that the hunger has affected, but not removed.
"Unfortunately, no matter what group I was assigned to, the others always
trusted me" (164). Being trusted usually is a positive sign of your
character, but Zhang feels it is an unfair burden and responsibility that he
would rather not have dealt with. The fact that the other convicts trusted him
indicates the fact that he was a cerebral convict who had some integrity left.
In this way Zhang is not as reformed as his fellow intellectuals because the
other small workers are quick to criticize others, especially other
intellectuals - a form of betrayal. Their betrayal displays the self centered
attitude that makes others doubt that particular convict would be fair in the
partition. Zhang is more unwilling to turn people in and overanalyze what others
say so that he can seem better in the authorities' eyes. Only when he is asked
specifically about Babylon does Zhang reveal something negative about him, yet
even then he withholds comments that would have surely been used against Mr.
"I like to eat watery things". Convicts cannot trust criminal convicts
either because it is obvious they are not worthy of anyone's trust and would
partition the food completely unequally without fear of retribution. These
convicts have no rectitude and are already accustomed to no one trusting them.
"When it came to the question of how to divide up food, criminal convicts
were not given a say" (166). Criminal convicts cannot participate in the
partitioning of food, because they would undoubtedly cheat others out of their
food. The division of food is much too important a responsibility to be placed
on a criminal. The fact that they can underhandedly attain more food (i.e. - by
stealing) also leads the intellectuals to believe that the people who rely
merely on the partitioned food would divide it honestly and equally. The fact
that Zhang steals food and still is trusted enough to divide the food is
indicative of his worthiness. The convicts in the camp do not seem completely
void of emotions. "Seeing it, one could believe that these men, scraped
clean of everything including freedom, could have made an aeroplane with their
own bare hands" (165). The convicts proudly create works of art with their
hands when fashioning tools used for measuring food. This burst of ingenuity is
one of the few signs that the convicts have any emotion left. The lack of
displays of affection for family members or loved ones exhibits the state of
disrepair the sentiments of these convicts were in. They see their homes as
sources of food, not as their source of humanity and love. The only way these
men and women feel anything is if food is involved. The care with which they
attend to the discussion and creation of measuring tools indicates that their
passion though not directed at amorous affairs or cozy homes, is alive and
channeled through their hunger into inventiveness in the division of food. On
the other hand, negative emotions are also reached when dealing with the
partition of food. "I silently pick up the pile of cucumbers remaining on
the ground, one by one, and when I eat them the flavour is often mixed with my
tears" (161). One of the few times Zhang shows any sign of outward emotion
is in dealing with the division of the food. He openly cries at the frustration
he deals with in collecting his meager portion of food that no one wanted. He
does not cry at the death of convicts, or even at the last episode in the book.
He cries not thinking of his mother or the outside world. He cries at the
possibly smaller ration of food rejected by the other members of his group that
he must eat. He does not get the luxury of choosing what to eat because he
divided the food. The Party has cut off almost all his emotions using hunger, so
that the only pain he feels is related to food. The worst torture in the camp
seems to be the rationing of sparse food into smaller bits for other convicts.
Zhang's emotions and character have obviously been adversely affected by the
reform camp because of The Party's ability to wear out rightists and criminals
by starvation and labour, but throughout the experiences that are shared in the
book, he possesses some basic honor and humanity in his daily activities. Even
through dividing up food, Zhang portrays a decent human being in the torment his
life has become. He is not indicative of other intellectuals, but he is an
example of the inner strength an individual can discover he has to survive.
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