Rae Yang’s novel ‘Spider Eaters’ depicts a person who has lived in different portions of the world and has seen a great deal in the many decades she has lived.
Yang’s father, a diplomat in Switzerland, and Rae spend her childhood in Geneva. Yang joins a middle school and a high school in Beijing for the influential. During her adolescent, the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong a communist leader broke out. Rae actively participated as a Red guard like all her other peers in Beijing. Yang later devoted four years of her life in a pig’s farm in northern China, doing manual work and grazing pigs. Though, Yang grew up loving and having faith for the Mao, the chairman of Communist party, her eagerness for revolution and loyalty to the birth of a new China stopped after she endured the adversity of physical work (Yang 150).
When Rae realized that her family was not influential anymore, instead Yang was living in poverty. Spider Eater is written by Rae Yang, someone who has witnessed and participated in the Cultural Revolution in China.The purpose and methods of the Cultural Revolution as described by Rae in her Memoir Spider Eater, shows that Mao used lack of experience youth at that time, to drive his modernization ideas against the religion that was practiced at that time.
The youth during Maoist presented themselves as inexperienced true believers of Maoist. The youth air displeasure and show that they had missed an immense divine quest referring to the Revolution that Mao used to ascend to power. The youth desired to be associated with a similar event, so when Mao asked the youth to stand by him to defend the Revolution from opposing powers, the youth were ready to bounce into action.The Cultural Revolution in China turned to be disastrous economically, politically and socially.
Mao advocacy of abolishment of schools, customs, shrines and cultural heritage, using the common law, the Leap Forward and the rise of the Red Guard purged China to an economic crisis. Poverty level country increased, and millions of Chinese died due to starvation and flood. Mao intended to make China competitive with other powerful countries, but he overlooked the other drivers of an economy like food security, international market, health, and education. The Red Guards which comprised of youth of school-going age were deployed to rural farms to learn from the farmers. When joining the Mao’s revolution, the youth believed that China will be a better society, after fighting corruption and bureaucracy. The country later learned that the communist party led by Mao had no vision for a better, crime-free China. Due to conditions that prevailed in China during the Cultural Revolution, many families were broken, people died, children were neglected due to forced labor, and wealthy people like Rae Yang’s father were reduced to peasants due to the rule of communist of not privatization of properties.The youth were fed with ideas that love was not for revolutionaries.
“Red Guards had no sex” since sex was perceived to be ugly, dirty and very dangerous. The youth-only loved with hearts and did not dare hold or touch each other. Rae brings out the various relationships that she had from her childhood to her first love at the pig’s farm in northern China (Yang 210).
Yang talks about her nanny who was a poor lady who looked after her and told her bedtime stories. Rae idolizes her father who was determined to see her have a good future by taking her to school. Yang remembers her grandmother who was an icon in her childhood dream. Nainai, Yang’s grandmother dies of diabetic in a delusional windowless room in the house the family had owned before the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution affected family livelihood, considering that Yang young life, after joining the Red Guard, we do not hear about her father anymore. Rae’s family was separated, and the education that she once valued was derailed. Maoist did not care much about family but cared more about its legacy and development. The story is written from a woman point of view, and the reader can know about the lives of various women during the revolution.
However, misfortunes that befell on Yang ushered well-being, the people who ate crabs must have eaten spiders too. After realizing that past experiences were terrible, then the people who ate spider can tell the people who have not tasted spiders that, spiders are not tasty (Yang 194). The lesson from the book is people who experienced Cultural Revolution in China deserve gratitude, and they can, without doubt, say that the revolution affected the Chinese in a harmful and detrimental way. Therefore, Spider Eaters is a memoir and an experience shared by Yang during the revolution.
Yang exclaims what Chinese people lost was evident, but “what we gained is difficult to say,” meaning there is something to learn in every situationRae Yang describes his initiation to the Red Guard by just taking a band and tying it to the arm. At one time when she was sixteen years old, and with other Red Guards peers on a forty- hour train journey to a provincial city south of Beijing, the youth got bored and decided to make tremendous changes on the train. All people onboard who are had carriages to sleep in and were not workers gave up beds to the Red Guard. At the next train station, Rae shows how people were mistreated by the Red Guard.
She gives an example of a woman who is bleeding yet a young girl strokes her. Rae expresses pity towards the woman but due to Maoist, Yang belief that violence was necessary and inevitable to have a revolution. In the next scenes, Rae narrates the shame and pain that teachers went through as pupils and students denounced their teachers (Yang 83). Students who went against the revolution were beaten. The experience of a lady who screamed Rae’s name every time she was hit whereas she was soaked in blood which covered her injuries haunted Yang for many years. The Cultural Revolution was the most painful times of the Chinese people. The teachers who were openly denounced by students and pupils that they taught must have had a traumatizing experience.
The elite group of Chinese was the most affected since, Maoist prohibited them from practicing their professions, they included the religious leaders, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and writers. The beating of citizens without a reason or the harassing of innocent passengers on a train spells the terror that people of China went through. In her statement, Yang says that the things she says during the seven months of intense Cultural Revolution have haunted her for many years.