Quick Lit Reviews – The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

This is my first literature review for All Goddess Official Blog! I am hoping to make these more of a regular occurrence, if time allows. Let me know in the comments if you have read this story, or anything similar. I’d love to hear others perspectives on this one!

The piece of literature that I am choosing to discuss is “The Bridegroom” by Ha Jin. After reading the story the Bridegroom, I was deeply impacted and in more ways than one. This story shook me to my core, and that, I think, is something that all great stories should do! They should shake you, and make you feel things. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, it does not matter. The point for me is that a story should put you in a different place and make you feel a variety of emotions. That is exactly what happened when I read the Bridegroom by Ha-Jin. One of the themes of this story was homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sensitive topic for many people. What happened in the story is wild, and in this era, hard to imagine. What I read was unthinkable.

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The Bridegroom is book that is a collection of stories by author Ha Jin. After reading the story The Bridegroom (same title as the book itself), I learned that the actual book contains several stories, and the one I am discussing is only a portion of the book. This story shook me, and it got me thinking. The Bridegroom starts with a perfect intro. It features death. Something shocking like death is a perfect intro because with death comes change. The theme of death leaves the reading wanting to know more about what will happen in the story. When a death occurs, what will happen to the remaining characters?

Beina was a girl who was adopted by one of her father’s best friends, Cheng. Cheng took Beina in after her father’s death and raised her like his own.  Once she turned 23, he feared that it was taking too long for her to become married. Being married before age 23 is something that the author appears to make important. In Chinese culture, I assume, based on the text, getting married and starting a family early on in life is necessary. Suddenly, the most handsome man that they knew proposed to Beina causing Cheng to remain completely suspicious as Beina herself was not the most attractive woman. The story that unfolds after that is mind-bending, and I had to pause quite a few times to truly analyze what I was reading.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

There are themes of betrayal, homosexuality, mental health, denial, anger, and much more. This story helps us see in-depth the viewpoints and ideas of the Chinese culture. Broken, captures a glimpse of what it was like to live during that time in China. The author, Ha Jin was born in 1956, so I can assume that this story was written based on events that may have happened in the early to mid 20th century. This story helps understand what it was like to be gay, in China, at the time when this story was written. I don’t want to give away the entire story, but this is something that everyone should read. The story created by Jin, allows us to see the perspective of several different people as the story moves along. Understanding the perspective of other people can also help us to broaden our perspectives, and view things in the world a little bit differently.

The Bridegroom is like no other story that I have ever read before. There is nothing that I have personally read that I can compare it to. It is wildly fascinating, and I appreciate everything about it. I even appreciate the mention of electric baths as a remedy to “cure” being gay. Why? That portion of the story made me upset, it made me sick, and it also made me realize how simple the human mind can be. The struggle of gay and lesbian people is something that I find painful and can sympathize with. How can humanity be so ignorant to think that being gay was merely a disease and one that could be cured?  It showed me how much humanity has struggled over time, and in other countries that differ from my own.

It also showed me how much we have learned and admitted. The fact that electric baths were once a very real part of history was terrifying to me. I could never imagine something like this happening to humans now. It is inhumane. Ha Jin, the author is trying to convey what it was like in China at that time for a person who was homosexual, for a person who is against homosexuality, and also the perspective of his very desperate daughter. One of the main characters of this story is arrested and is “treated” for his sexuality. The government physically took this man away from his life and home due to his sexuality.

Reading this story has not challenged my views but only reaffirmed them. I do not believe that being gay is something that can be cured. I do not believe that humans should be arrested and taken from their homes because they are gay. That is extremely cruel to me. This story left me unsettled but touched. It left me thinking about the struggles of humanity. Broken, also gave me a bit of hope. Although many people around the world still struggle every day with different issues, a positive would be that we are no longer using electric baths to treat sexual preference. Now that is something to think about, isn’t it?

Kimberly Anne is a freelance writer and aspiring author. She is currently in school working towards her BA in Creative Writing and English. Besides work and school, she is writing her first novel and helps small businesses design their websites and brands. You can follow @kimberlyanneinc on IG and Twitter. www.kimberlyanneinc.com

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