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Feminist Psychological Reader – Response On the Dream of Red Chamber

Popularity 4Viewed 3340 times 2015-1-20 21:20 |System category:News

Feminist Psychological Reader – Response

On the Dream of Red Chamber

A Preface to the Dream of Red Chamber

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when the great encounters the excellent, it may achieve its value. And if we combine the comprehensive theory with Chinese one of the greatest classical literature Work known as The Dream of Red Chamber, we will have a broader view about Chinese culture and Western theory.

When we come to DRC, we will inevitably recall the main character called Lin dai–yu, an angel like but sentimental and sensitive girl. So in this essay, I am going to mainly focus on the characters of Lin daiyu applying the psychoanalytic criticism and subjective reader – response theory.

The core issues of Miss Lin

According to Tyson, Psychoanalytic criticism emphasizes the existence of the unconsciousness of the painful experiences and emotions. And we develop the repression and defense, but sometimes our defenses break down and we then experiences anxiety, such as fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment .etc. in the long run, our core issue will come into being, which will shape our characters and personality.

Miss Lin in the DRC, lived an unhappy childhood. We can find the clue from the novel.

Lin Ru-hai was less fortunate. There was not a single relation in the direct line that bore his name. Already he was fifty, and his only son had died the year before at the age of three. And although he kept several concubines, he seemed fated to have no son, and had all but resigned himself to this melancholy fact.

His chief wife, who had been a Miss Jia, had given him a daughter called Dai-yu. A year or more passed uneventfully and then, quite un­expectedly, Lin Ru-hai’s wife took ill and died. Yu-cun’s little pupil helped with the nursing throughout her mother’s last illness and mourned for her bitterly after her death

The extra strain this placed on her always delicate constitution brought on a severe attack of a recurrent sickness, and for a long time she was unable to pursue her lessons.

After her mother’s death, her grandmother had asked his father to bring her to her household which was described as follows:

She had often heard her mother say that her Grandmother Jia’s home was not like other people’s houses. The servants she had been in contact with during the past few days were comparatively low-ranking ones in the domestic hierarchy, yet the food they ate, the clothes they wore, and everything about them was quite out of the ordinary. Dai-yu tried to imagine that the people who employed these superior beings must be like. 

So we can image that Miss Lin has went through a miserable childhood when her little young brother left her, then she had to suffer from the great loss of her mother. And in her unconsciousness, she could always feel the terrible feeling of abandonment and intimacy. At her own home, she found no one to depend on and share her emotion after her mother’s death. She was lonely and miserable, needed some security and protection. She waited for the one giving her security and repressed her sensation or affection. She therefore, becomes more and more sensitive, suspicious and sentimental. The three “S” can be a vivid description about the girl.

While At the time, when she got the news that her grandma wanted her to stay with her, her defenses broke down gradually. She had to face the people and suffered from the huge struggle of herself, and came in terms with all kinds of complicated person and situations as we had quoted before. She came to the grand and luxurious Rong Mansion. And when she arrived at their house she would have to watch every step she took and weigh every word she said, for if she put a foot wrong they would surely laugh her to scorn.

 Living in the big Rong Mansion, she was in fear of being intimate with other girls, and was therefore always alone with herself. The only one who could share her affection is Jia baoyu. They fell in love with each other and cared about each other. They were the soul mates sharing the same idea. Bao yu was the man who after Miss Lin’s heart. Lin found a proper psychological defense (Jia baoyu) here and she used the displacement (“taking it out” on someone or something less threatening than the person who caused our fear, hurt, frustration, or anger) to release her suffer and fear. Jia baoyu had become all her life. Once, by accident, baoyu did not open the door for her when she came to visit him. Her sense of abandonment, betrayal, insecurity all dominated her, and brought her to the extremity of grief and self – pity. All of these leaded her, as well as the reader, to the next day’s famous song to the Bloomsbury by Miss Lin.

Miss Lin in Song to the Bloomsbury

The DRC had it that next day was the twenty-sixth of the fourth month, the day on which, this year, the festival of Grain in Ear was due to fall, For Grain in Ear marks the beginning of summer; it is about this time that the blossom begins to fail; and tradition has it that the flower-spirits, their work now completed, go away on this day and do not return until the following year. The offerings are therefore thought of as a sort of farewell party for the flowers.

Dai yu considered her as the flower goodness. And she just compared her to the fallen flowers and couldn’t resist burying them just like bury herself. We can have a more clear view about it if we come to excerpt of the poetry.    

Song to Bloomsbury

By Miss Lin

The blossoms fade and falling fill the air,

Of fragrance and bright hues bereft and bare.

Floss drifts and flutters round the Maiden’s bower,

Or softly strikes against her curtained door.


The Maid, grieved by these signs of spring’s decease,

Seeking some means her sorrow to express,

Has rake in hand into the garden gone,.

Before the fallen flowers are trampled on.


Three hundred and three-score the year’s full tale:

From swords of frost and from the slaughtering gale

How can the lovely flowers long stay intact?

Or, once loosed, from their drifting fate draw back?


Can I, that these flowers’ obsequies attend,

Divine how soon or late my life will end?

Let others laugh flower-burial to see:

Another year who will be burying me?


As petals drop and spring begins to fail,

The bloom of youth, too, sickens and turns pale.

One day, when spring has gone and youth has fled.

The Maiden and the flowers will both be dead.

Fear of the ultimate abandonment

Painful things always scar us psychologically. The lost of sibling, the lost of mother, all brought great fear of death to Miss Lin, now her beloved one neglected her, she would inevitably recall her misfortune. She felt a kind of death drive. So just as the poetry said, the Maid, grieved by these signs of spring’s decease, seeking some means her sorrow to express She felt pity about the fallen of flowers, more than that she afraid her death will be as quiet and solitary as the flowers. She buried the flowers here showing her sympathy towards the flowers. Miss Lin signed about the limitation of the life and said that one day, when spring has gone and youth has fled. The Maiden and the flowers will both be dead. The spring is the energy of the flowers while for her, the care of Jia baoyu is the support of her life. And last night, Jia’s refusal blown her strength badly, which made her to inquire who will bury me after my death, and who will be with me at my death bed.

The unconscious desire for the lost object

Why the Miss Lin bury the blooms? Partly because she was extremely lonely and dared to be intimate to other person, also because she was unique and divine, totally free from the dark society. She had lost too much, so she become sensitive about her fortune remain. She buried the flowers and mourned for their pass reflecting her desire for the lost objects. She desired for the love, desired for the one who could read her minds, desired for a brighter society, while the real situation always gave much pressure to her.

As the poetry goes,

Three hundred and three-score the year’s full tale: From swords of frost and from the slaughtering gale, Pure substances the pure earth to enrich, than leave to soak and stink in some foul ditch.

She felt pity about the lost of youth and life. She desired for the eternal youth, but she knew her illness was growing more and more seriously, someday, she will die. She buried the flowers to show her sympathy about the lost day and short day remains for her.

As the poetry goes,

The bloom of youth, too, sickens and turns pale.

One day, when spring has gone and youth has fled

The Symbolic Order: Fallen Flowers

When we come the novel, we can find the flower is treated as the “object small a” by Miss Lin. She lost her mother when she was young. Her mother was the very repressed desire of her which would influence Miss Lin, each time. At the time of flower – fallen day, the symbol fallen flower had touched the nerve of Lin, and roused the enormous sentiment and miss about her passed mother.

She was burying the flower; also she was searching for the spirit of her mother. As we can see from the poetry:

And then I wished that I had wings to fly

After the drifting flowers across the sky:

Across the sky to the world’s farthest end,

The flowers’ last fragrant resting-place to find

Where could she find my mother? Yes, her mind flied to farthest end, where she found the flowers’ last fragrant rest on. She gave expression to her mother’s sudden death.  

Feminist Pioneer Lady Lin

As we can see from the analysis before, Miss Lin was very afraid of the abandonment since she had been deserted many times, she was sensitive about her lose, so she buried the flowers when baoyu didn’t open the door for her. This is also results from the lack of emotional expression. She tried to find the lost part of her mind, the true love, so she took very different attitudes towards marriage, which were treated as a rebellious action towards the patriarchal society. 

An Kind of Love Free From Patriarchal ideology  

Lin daiyu is a girl of rebellious nature who pursued seemingly unattainable love and reached for their ideal marriage which they are not supposed to have in other people’s eyes with their social status taken into consideration.

Although, baoyou and daiyu share the same interest, same idea, and loved each other deeply, the marriage in feudal times was not based on love, but on consideration of family advantage. People in the Rong mansion all thought that the marriage between Baiyu and Baochai will be more suitable, because Baochai had a more solid social background and she was treated as the very person not only to assist them with money but also to steer Baoyu back onto the road of feudal rectitude.

For marriage, Miss Lin thought that his husband didn’t necessary need to work out for money and hold a high position in the government. What she needed is a husband who could understand her and shared the same feeling with her. She took little attention to the material foundations of her husband. In her eyes, jia baoyu was the best husband who cared much about the girl’s feeling and respected girl’s choice.

About her role in a family, she told us that girl’s should not be like a doll, nor house wife with an apron. They should build their own personality and intelligence. So in the DRM, she was unique and cynic, she was rebellious and brave. She got the distinctive poem writing style. Besides she was very brave and persistent in pursuing for the true love. Though, she didn’t yield to the social class suppression, social patriarchal order had finally separated her from baiyu by deceiving baiyu. And finally, Miss Lin died when baiyu and baichai got married and baoyu chose to be a monk after marriage.

Reader Response towards This Kind of Marriage Concept

What do you think about Miss Lin’s marriage concept?

Most of the people, in our time, may give the answer that the love between Lin and Baoyu is marriage without the basic material support. They prefer the love between baochai and baiyu. Their response is understandable. Nowadays, we can find more and more people put the material things instead of inner feeling or spirit correspondence in priory. For this reason, many men are in great pressure to find his suitable Miss right, since the huge material needs of the women. From their response, we can have a clear understanding about the current marriage concept. In the materialized society, everything is dominated by money. Money plays a more important role in the society, which leads us to neglect our true feeling and emotion. We will also find it is very difficult to find a husband or wife, so

We create the kind of speed dating that is very popular among the people. In the dating show, we can always find that some girls asked directly about the possession of the man, such as houses, income, cars, and man came here will also show off his money. They don’t care much about the character of the man they choose, but what he owns. If both of them feel good, then the girl will follow the man and go for the honeymoon.


By using the feminist psychological reader response theory, we can have a clear appreciation about Miss Lin’s love story, which will help us to have a proper concept about our love and marriage. Miss Lin’s love goes beyond the reality, while the Miss Baochai’s love cares too much about material and social status. People in our time, might act more reasonable in the matter of marriage. We could witness lots of misfortunes happened around us, just because their marriages are based on the money – driven or sexual – need – driven. In a word, Love should be based on the mutual understanding and necessary material needs.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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  • Are you an English major? What kind of job can you find? 2015-3-14 20:28

    I can well imagine you had your hands full the moment when you started this post .Nowaday it is difficult to find a job that you want .I think what is most important is if the job is most suitable for you ,which relates to knowledge of self .The other day I read one of your posts ,about "A dream in Red Mansions ",I found it  is too much for me  who is n't English major and only have a diploma in vocational studies ,so I left no comment on it  .I think you are sure to get on in life .By the way I am n't active here and spend some time on persona paper ,mylot ,etc.Good Luck !

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