Symbolic Cannibalism In Literature

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Instances of symbolic cannibalism in literature are often seen as the spirit that is attributed to oppressive societies. Individuals in such societies are pitted against one another to “feed” the famished whole: a corrupt system of authoritative powers and feudal culture. Lu Xun illuminates the reasons behind cannibalistic mentalities in his short stories “Diary of a Madman” (“DOM”) and “Medicine.” “DOM” reveals ‘dog-eat-dog’ attitudes between individuals due to cannibalistic higher powers and Confucian culture. “Medicine” focuses on the consumption of youth due to the flaws of feudalism. When cannibalism is used on such an extreme level to symbolize the nature of a society, it is generally accepted that this society is in desperate need of ‘awakening.’ In both stories, Lu Xun utilizes the symbolic cannibalism to recognize one entity blindly profiting off of the misfortune and the…show more content…
The Madman’s brother says “We all know it’s been going on- since the creation of the earth itself. That revolutionary, Xu Xilin, a few years back – didn’t they eat his heart and liver?...and last year, I heard that consumptive ate a steamed roll dipped in the blood of an executed criminal,” (Lu 29) to which the Madman responds, “But do you have to join the conspiracy?” (Lu 29) The Madman displays revolutionary spirit, calling into question the logic of justifying cannibalism simply because it has been ongoing for thousands of years. From context, the executed criminal, Xia, is a revolutionary who is executed for his radical ideals is mentioned in another one of Lu Xun’s works, “Medicine.” The link between the two stories shows the ubiquity of cannibalism, especially the “cannibalism” of individual thought. When radicals voice their hope to move past tradition, their individuality is battered or “cannibalized” by an unaccepting society, providing a grim outlook for
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