¶ … psychological impact) of poverty and the solutions to the problem of poverty described in some of the stories covered in this course.
There is much controversy about poverty, given that it was, is, and most probably will be one of the most terrible things that ever existed. People are known to perform exceptional acts as a result of their low social status, especially when they acknowledge the fact that their condition is desperate and that they have to care for their families. Individuals who experience financial breakdowns experience great difficulties in trying to behave normally, given that poverty affects people both physically and mentally. Some actually come to perform desperate acts with the purpose of getting even the smallest amount of resources. There are numerous cases in which people abandoned their lifelong ideals and decided that it was essential for them to do whatever they could in order to get money.
Individuals experience great suffering when they realize that their situation is hopeless. As they reached the end of the road and accepted their fate, people became lost, as most of them "knew very well what a miserable lot awaited a man without any savings nowadays." Wu Tsu-hsiang's story "Let There Be Peace" presents readers with an account involving Wang Hsiao-fu and his family as they come across a series of misfortunes and struggle to stay alive by doing whatever they can. The story initially presents Hsiao-fu in his glory years, during a period when his hard work and determination pay off. He is shown as he manages to raise a small amount of money as a result of his ability to survive on a low budget. Conditions however worsen and the man embarks on a foreseeable journey to poverty, given that almost everyone around him experiences drawbacks and with many people losing their money and businesses. Hsiao-fu's hopes stay with him in spite of all this and he keeps thinking that he will make it at a certain point. At this moment, readers observe how he gradually comes to be desperate and is willing to do anything in order to get as little money as possible. The man's strong determination seems worthless as a consequence of the fact that he constantly comes across difficulties.
After the first years that he spends without a job he manages to keep his self-respect, given that his beggar-like appearance does not prevent him from walking with an air of honor, as "the slight hunch of his shoulders and back, the craning of his neck, and the sluggish movement of his limbs still bespoke the posture of a clerk with a formal apprenticeship" (Wu Tsu-Hsiang).
Most people consider that one's dreams are never lost, not even when the respective person goes through great suffering. However, life's harshness can have a decisive effect on the most optimistic individual, as he or she can be rapidly put down as a result of going through hardships. It is practically impossible for someone to accept his or her condition at the point when he or she realizes that they lost their job, their savings, and virtually everything that assisted them in supporting their dreams.
Having to support a family is a devastating thought for someone that realizes that he or she cannot get work, regardless of what they are willing to do for even the smallest amount of money. Hsiao-fu gradually lost his mind as "he watched all his beautiful yet modest plans, like a rainbow, slowly dispersing" (Wu Tsu-Hsiang). He slowly discovered that dreams were no longer a priority and that what was the most important for him was to provide even the slightest amount of food for his wife and children. Poverty can easily influence a desperate individual in committing immoral acts, given that the respective person cannot possibly put across logical thinking at a point where he lost everything.
Even his fellow villagers consider that Hsiao-fu stole from his neighbor because "he was forced to do it; he couldn't have helped it" (Wu Tsu-Hsiang). People apparently tend to put across understanding toward hopeless individuals, especially when considering the suffering that Hsiao-fu went through and the fact that he had to provide his nearly-dead children with food.
Chao Shu-li's story "Lucky" can be considered to be a thorough description...
Similar to Hsiao-fu's account, Lucky's story begins at the time when the man is already in a critical state and when everyone in his village is acquainted with his situation.
Readers are then presented with his background and with the motives behind his poverty. Although some people might be inclined to believe that poverty can be easily combated through hard work, the truth is that it is almost impossible for someone to recover once he or she had reached a severe state of poverty. Poverty makes people less appealing in the eyes of others and it has them enter a phase when they keep borrowing money and resources and where they struggle to pay back what they already owe.
The first time when Lucky accepted to see off a child that had just passed away "he saw the force of this: he'd got to the state where he wasn't worth a pint of rice" (Chao Shu-li). This act played a significant role in shaping his character and in making him feel less remorseful regarding the shame associated with doing such a thing. His personality got even less apologetic as people from around the village started spreading rumors about his state and about how he was good for nothing. He gradually came to accept his condition and the fact that he should not be ashamed for the fact that he is simply willing to do anything in order to get food. Lucky actually emphasized this at the time when he got the chance to speak before the people in his village, relating to how it was hunger that brought him to a state where he did no longer care about his pride.
Debt is one of the most renowned reasons for which people come to lose everything they have, as they borrow money thinking that they will have no problem paying it back. However, when creditors are insincere and when all that they care about is getting their money with the unjust interest that they settled, conditions become perilous for those who borrowed money from them, as they come to lose everything they had and are still indebt. Creditors can actually be held responsible for having brought numerous individuals to the verge of death, as people did not know that they virtually signed their death-certificate at the time when considered that they should borrow money from some of society's biggest thieves.
Lucky's final speech is most probably meant to criticize society as a whole for the fact that it prefers to close its eyes in front of people who exploit others. Similarly, most people contemporary to Lucky had little trouble blaming him for his behavior, as they did not understand the complexity of the situation and they simply chose to believe that "his biggest problem was that he couldn't keep his hands to himself" (Chao Shu-li). Consequent to reading this story, individuals are probable to comprehend that poverty can influence people in performing dishonorable acts, as these people's needs are much more important than honor. Moreover, a person who watches his or her family becoming worse by-the-day will see no problem in behaving immorally. Priorities are what matters in the end and it is more important for one to feed himself or herself and his or her family than it is for the respective person to act in accordance with society's rules. Similar to Hsiao-fu, Lucky could not simply stand by as he observed his family's condition getting worse.
The "cruel and violent man" in Jou Shih's story "Slave Mother" came to be this way as a result of having numerous debts, no hopes in his life, and practically nothing that he could live for. It thus seems less worrying that he did not hesitate to sell his wife at the time when he was presented with this opportunity. His illness only contributed to the situation, given that along with poverty it downgraded his social status and made it impossible for him to care for himself or for his family similar to how a proud and healthy individual would have done.
It is probably because of this condition that his wife sometimes feels that it would be futile for her to try and talk some sense into him. In spite of the fact that poverty can have people behave very differently from how they would normally behave, the woman protagonist in this story is obviously not interested in the financial aspect of her husband's dealings. She does not even think about the food that her son would be able to eat as a…
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