‘Medicine’ by Lu Xun

Medicine by Lu Xun, 1919

The magic trick:

Couching a message within a personal story

We close our week in China with a second story from Lu Xun, and it’s certainly an intense journey into the excruciating pain of parents losing a child. Clearly, it’s a story with a message. Xun’s talking a lot here about the dangers of superstition, the need to embrace the modern world of science, the strange period of transition in China between old and new, etc. etc. So in that way, it’s a great example of an author making a point but doing so couched within the inviting form of a personal story.

And that’s quite a trick on Xun’s part.

The selection:

“A guaranteed cure! Eaten warm like this. A roll dipped in human blood like this can cure any consumption!”

The old woman seemed a little disconcerted by the word “consumption,” and turned a shade paler; however, she forced a smile again at once and found some pretext to leave. Meanwhile the man in brown was indiscreet enough to go on talking at the top of his voice until the child in the inner room was woken and started coughing.


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