The Snuff Bottle

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In The Snuff Bottle, acts of theft result into levels of unavoidable revenge with several themes being illustrated by the author. The Setting of the story is in a village where poverty and crime seem to thrive. The struggles of survival are depicted as different family members strain to make ends meet. This analysis gives a detailed coverage of the themes portrayed by the writer which include poverty, crime, violence and revenge.

After the boy has recovered, he looks around and realizes that he is in hermit’s house. He does a through search of the house, from bookcases to bundles of medicinal herbs. After a moment, the boy discovers bottles which draw his attention, spotting a unique two-inch-high bottle, covered with mud. His curiosity to know the content of the bottle overrules him and decides to hide as he makes his way after of the house. This marks the start of crime and violence in the story. He stills the bottle from hermit’s house.

The author also introduces Liu Yun whom he says that though he looked innocent, he was behind all forms of mischief in the village (Ying 49). This shows how young people get introduced to criminal behavior like stealing of books. Although Yun is only three years than the boy, he extremely likes girls in the village. His mischievous behavior had ruined his dream and failed to finish school. As a result, he spends most of his time drinking, smoking, singing dirty songs and hanging in the streets (Ying 49).

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As the story progresses, we learn about the disappearance of cigarettes from the factory and the police are out man-hunting those behind the crime. According to workers at the factory, they had witnessed a group of young boys break into the factory. The boy’s mother warns that they are likely to be captured and jailed if they didn’t own up their evil deeds.

At the mention of this, the boy affirms that he was not part of the gang but Li whom he says that he was behind the whole idea of stealing cigarettes from the factory (Ying 52). After investigations, the culprits are captured and it turns out clearly that they did not steal cigarettes alone but everything else they laid their hands on.

Similarly, Liu’s visit at the boy’s home ends up violently when they reach the pond site. Although he never read books, he claims to have come to borrow books. As they are walking towards the pond, Liu pushes the boy bullishly from behind, causing him to land on the muddy ground and have his clothes socked in water and books covered with mud (Ying 53). The boy responds by hitting him back although it is not enough to make him lose his stability.

Towards the end of the story, Liu and Big Brother and caught by Public Security officers for being in possession of criminal evidence (Ying 61). They are taken in custody as the boy is left with the responsibility of taking care of their mother. They are tried and Big Brother is found guilty of serious crimes including suicide attempt. As result, the judge passes a death sentence for Big Brother while Liu is sentenced to labor reform camp.

On the other hand, poverty is seen throughout the narration. The story begins with a boy who has fainted and finds himself in hermit’s house who serves a healer. When he becomes conscious he easily identifies where he was from the stack of yellowing books and medicinal pungent smell. The author mentions that the place is only visited by the sick who never consider going back after getting better, a fact that never stops the hermit from serving them.

The description of the house depicts poverty which has affected most people in the village. The old man who rescues the boy lives in a dark house with tattered wallpapers (Ying 50). Additionally, the house is full of furniture which has old varnish that only existed in cracks. Many people trust the old man as their healer regardless of his living standards and stinking house. He is intercepted time and again on the road to examine and diagnose sick people in the village. He however hates hospitals and has a negative attitude towards them.

Additionally, Big Brother’s description of the family’s financial status demonstrates how poverty has found its way in the family and rooted in the society. Big Brother spends most of his time taking care of other people’s children and laundry. He confesses that it was not his wish but it was away of making ends meet.

He notes that they were only left with their father’s wages and pension which was not enough to meet their daily needs (Ying 49). As a single man who wishes to marry in future, Big Brother understands that money was paramount for him to think of marriage.

Poverty is further manifested through the kind of meals served. The boy’s mother serves him with soya beans without oil which she considers to be expensive. This illustrates the low quality of meals which the family survives on. Additionally, family members have to carry mats and bamboo beds outside after every dinner in order to allow houses to cool to reasonable temperatures to allow sleep (Ying 54). The description of this scenario depicts a case of poverty facing the society.

The author notes that the boy’s mother had a close eye on him, monitoring his single move. She always went along supervising his homework, his time to be in and out of bed, meals and visiting the toilet. The boy further remembers their dad who used to take them fishing and make them laugh especially when he was in his highest spirit (Ying 53).

The boy’s mother gets touched so much when the boy comes back with a bleeding noise caused by Liu. She nurses him gently although the boy is not willing to mention his attacker. However, it turns out clearly that there is a game of vengeance that ties the boy, Liu and Big Brother.

After Liu has injured the boy, his mother notes that Big Brother was not going to spare him (Ying 53). Although Big Brother has not mentioned anything about the evening when he had gone out to discipline Liu for hurting his brother, the boy knew that the encounter must have been quite ugly.

The theme of revenge is also seen from the relationship between the boy and the old hermit. While the boy is having fun at the beach, he comes stealthy and grabs him painfully, causing him to scream. He does this out of a clear conscience that it was the boy who had stolen his bottle.

In general, the story carries a wide range of themes which revolve around the lifestyle of villagers in China.

Work Cited

Ying, Hong. Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific. Shanghai, China: Cheng & Tsui, 2009. Print.

Categories: Family Members


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