Saboteur (short story) Short Story Test: Saboteur Flashcards

Saboteur (short story) Short Story Test: Saboteur Flashcards

English 243

Brendan Dyer

The conflict of pride in the short story “Saboteur”

Posted on by bdyer810

When I first started reading this story, I started to sympathize with the main character Mr. Chiu after he was wrongly arrested by the train station police officers. But as I started to read on I began to lose my sympathy for him. This is due to his pride getting in the way of him getting home and treating his hepatitis.

Like many readers who have ready this story, I started off sympathizing with Mr. Chiu. He was picked out of the crowd of people because he was a tourist and was baited into a confrontation. But I Immediately started to lose my natural sympathy for the character as soon as he started making poor and irrational decisions. Even though he was wrongly taken in to custody, the simple solution was just to admit he was wrong and he would have been let go. Instead, he demanded an apology letter where he could show to the university he works for to have an excuse for his absence. Allowing his past student, a lawyer, who was sent in his defense by his wife, to be also taken into custody and punished. Mr. Chiu first off should have waited until his hepatitis symptoms of a relapse to go away before he went on his honeymoon.

The next thing he should have done was when he started to get symptoms of a relapse his first concern should have been getting out as soon as he was given the opportunity, he should have taken the plea bargain given to him, where he could of left and been medicated. Instead he was too concerned about proving his innocence and many people were affected by it. After he was released for agreeing to the original plea bargain, it seemed as though Mr. Chiu wanted revenge in anyway possible. “If only I could kill all the bastards”(Ha Jin, 427). He went about the train stations food market where he went from restaurant to restaurant eating at each one where he spoke of revenge to his lawyer. “Within a month over eight hundred people contracted acute hepatitis in Muji. Six died of the disease, including two children. Nobody knew how the epidemic had started” (Ha Jin, 427). Due to Mr. Chiu and his ignorance, his hepatitis may of started this epidemic by not getting treated and being passed on through the food stands located outside the train stations police cells.

This story went against the stereotypical guidelines to having a good guy and a bad guy present, the theme of good vs. evil between one or more characters that typically takes place did not occur in this short story. Instead, the story started off with Mr. Chiu taking the role of the character in which the reader would say is the good guy and would sympathize for this particular character. But as the story went further along, you begin to realize this man is a arrogant man who cares for nothing but his own well-being. He began by making a scene in the market square, which was unnecessary and could have ended his problems there and then. While being booked and questioned was given a plea agreement of something as simple as signing an apology and admitting his wrongdoing, demanded an apology from the chief officer and caused one of his former students who was sent in his defense to suffer because of his own arrogance. If that wasn’t enough to make you lose your sympathy for him, after he was released went out and purposely spread his disease to the innocent citizens of the city and cause an epidemic leading to deaths. Although this story had no true good guy character, there was still a conflict on evil vs. evil. The first wrongdoers were the police officers who initiated the conflict, but the second wrongdoer was Mr. Chiu due to his poor decision making which caused many other people to suffer and even die do to his revenge on what happened to him.

Even though Mr. Chiu was wrongly arrested and that he deserved an apology, he created an epidemic, where many people contracted the same illness he had and resulted in death. In the end, this epidemic could have been prevented many different ways. The first thing that could have been done which would have prevented all the other problems in the story was if Mr. Chiu and his wife postponed their honeymoon until Mr. Chiu was completely symptom free of having any sort of relapse. The second thing that could have been done is he could of avoided getting confrontational with the police officers and it would of ended there and then. Also, if he was just level headed and was corporative with the chief he would have been let free, and last was Mr. Chiu not seeking revenge and just going home. Due to all of his poor decisions and actions, Mr. Chiu was the “Saboteur”.


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3 thoughts on “The conflict of pride in the short story “Saboteur”

  1. I agree with the fact that Mr. Chiu should never have confronted the police. He knew that the police would have given him a hard time due to the political status of the country. If he really wanted to made his standpoint known, he should have been rebellious in another way. For example, he should have organized a protest with protest. Overall, I agree with your standpoint of the story and how Mr. Chiu could have prevented the outcome.

  2. Brendan, you make some very interesting and valid points about Mr. Chiu’s pride and how it was ultimately his downfall. Had he taken the original plea bargain, maybe he could have received treatment for his hepatitis and the entire epidemic could have been prevented. In many situations, especially the case of Mr. Chiu, maybe it is better to swallow our pride rather than to put up a fight.

  3. Brendan, I also sympathized with Mr. Chiu in the beginning; yes, he was unjustly arrested and put through things no one should be subject to, but that does not justify the lives he took starting the epidemic. I do not think that the entire problem is a result of Mr. Chiu’s poor actions however. He could have gotten cured of the disease, but the arrest was not his fault and it was unfair of the government to treat him the way it did.


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Saboteur by Ha Jin | Analysis


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Published: Thu, 14 Dec 2017

Reading “Saboteur” was really ironic for me because I grew up in this kind of controlled place, and I could really relate to these feelings that Mr. Chiu had. In Poland, until I was about ten years old we were under the control of communist Russia. I remember that the government required every person to have their permission to get food. They did not let us use money; we had to apply for special vouchers and everybody was allowed the same amount because communism philosophy was that everyone is equal. There were many times that I saw this kind of totalitarian control by the police. For example, if someone said something against the government that they didn’t like, they could go to jail. Even worse, if some government official didn’t like someone, they would be falsely accused and sent to jail, even though the government officials were the bad guys and the person had done nothing wrong. Ha Jin’s short story “Saboteur” is filled with ever increasing irony from beginning to end that finally climaxes in the main character, Mr. Chiu, becoming that which he was falsely accused of being. Ha Jin’s tale of Mr. Chiu’s unfair arrest, imprisonment and eventual release in Muji City, China after the Cultural Revolution is filled with irony.

The story opens at the end of Mr. Chiu and his wife’s honeymoon. Mr. Chiu had suffered from acute hepatitis and he was feeling like he was recovering but still worried about his liver. This is where one of the first ironic events occurs. They were having lunch in the square, waiting for the time to catch their train home, when the policeman at the next table threw a bowl of tea on their sandals. Mr. Chiu is obviously upset, and he asks the officers why they threw the tea. The officer tells Mr. Chiu that he is lying, and that he wet his shoes himself. The policemen arrest Mr. Chiu after he asks “Why violate the laws you are supposed to enforce?” (Jin par.15). The young officer then told Mr. Chiu “You’re a saboteur, you know that? You’re disrupting the public order” (par.17). This situation is very ironic because Mr. Chiu was minding his own business, doing nothing to disrupt the public. The police, who are supposed to keep the order, were the ones disrupting it. Many times, in communist countries, the enforcers of the law and rules end up being the ones who break them the most.

After Mr. Chiu’s arrest, he was taken to the Interrogation Bureau. He was asked some standard questions and we learned that he as a member of the Communist Party. Then the chief told him “Your crime is sabotage, although it hasn’t induced serious consequences yet… You have failed to be a model for the masses…” (par.40). Mr. Chui argued his side of the story trying to convince the chief that it was actually the police officers who were the saboteurs. The other man in the room then showed Mr. Chiu some statements given by eyewitnesses. The statements all said that Mr. Chiu had shouted in the square and refused to obey the police. Mr. Chiu was feeling sick. The chief told him that he would have to apologize and write a self criticism. Mr. Chiu told the chief, “I won’t write a word because I’m innocent.” (par.51). This whole scene is ironic because it is again the police who are saboteurs. They went so far as to get false statements to force Mr. Chiu confess to a crime that he did not commit. He refused to do that.

Mr. Chiu was feeling very sick. He asks one of the guards to let their leader know of his condition when he is informed that no leader is on duty on the weekend. Mr. Chui resolved himself to take his detention with ease, and he tried to be restful to not irritate his hepatitis more. When he woke up Monday, he heard moaning. Mr. Chiu looked out of his window, and realized that it was his lawyer handcuffed to a tree in the heat. The lawyer had been sent by his wife to get him out of the jail, and now he was being tortured for calling the boss a bandit. This is another instance of irony because it shows the upholders of the laws breaking them.

Mr. Chiu is taken to the interrogation room again after seeing his lawyer friend get more punishment. He felt helpless, and knew the only way to help was to sign a confession for a crime he did not commit. The chief told him he didn’t have to write it himself, only sign it. The confession said “…I myself and responsible for my arrest…I have realized the reactionary nature of my crime…shall never commit that kind of crime again” (par.95). Even though he was furious, he signed it to help his friend. Mr. Chiu and the lawyer left the police station, and then they stopped at many tea stands and restaurants. While eating little bits at each place, he kept saying “I wish I could kill all those bastards!” (par.106). Within a month over eight hundred people got hepatitis and six died. The irony here is that Mr. Chiu is the one who spread his disease, disrupting public order, they crime he was falsely accused of.

This story has many wonderful instances of irony, and if we look even closer, we can see even more irony when we tie all of the past events to the ending. Even though Mr. Chiu takes the only revenge he can, becoming what he was falsely accused of by spreading his disease around because he was reacting to the crime against him. The real saboteurs were the police. If the police had not falsely accused Mr. Chiu, they would not have spread hepatitis to their city, disrupting the public. They are the ones who wrote the confession, and those were the crimes they were guilty of.

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Saboteur Summary

Ha Jin

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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“Saboteur” is told through the consciousness of Chiu Muguang, a university professor who is arrested and briefly kept in captivity, although the final paragraphs of the story are narrated from the point of view of Fenjin, Chiu’s former student. In a brief epilogue, an unidentified narrator makes clear the motives for Chiu’s strange behavior after his imprisonment.

As the story opens, Chiu and his new bride are having lunch on the last day of their honeymoon in the city of Muji, China. Chiu is looking forward to returning to his job in Harbin, especially because he is worried about having a relapse of hepatitis, a disease that left him debilitated several months earlier. As he and his bride finish their lunch, a police officer at a nearby table tosses tea on the couple. Chiu finds this action inexplicable and lodges a complaint. Instead of apologizing, the police officer arrests Chiu for disturbing the peace. Manhandled when he resists, Chiu is outraged, and as he departs with the police officer he asks his wife to contact someone at the university to bail him out of jail.

Like the officer in the restaurant, the officers at the police station are unmoved by Chiu’s protests over what he believes has been a miscarriage of justice. They ignore his threats and toss him in a cell. Within hours, he is brought before the bureau chief, who possesses a thick dossier to support the police officer’s claim that Chiu has been disruptive and disrespectful. Chiu is astounded when he learns he is charged with sabotage and that his…

(The entire section is 636 words.)

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Saboteur Homework Help Questions

  • What is ironic in the story “Saboteur” by Ha Jin?

    Irony abounds in “Saboteur” by Ha Jin. From the beginning of the story’s initial event to the ending of the story, the author cleverly uses an ironic approach. 
    Mr. and Mrs. Chiu are…

  • Why is Mr. Chiu in Muji in Ha Jin’s short story, “Saboteur?”

    In Ha Jin’s short story, “Saboteur,” Chiu Muguang, who is a university professor, is spending the last day of his honeymoon in Muji, China. He and his new wife are at an outdoor cafe. Chiu is…

  • Provide a 90 word summary for the story “Saboteur” by Ha Jin.

    “Saboteur” by Ha Jin takes place immediately following the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  The setting is the fictitious city of  Muji City. The tone of the story is harsh, brutal,…

  • Identify the protagonists in “The Things They Carried” and in “Saboteur,”  then identify a…

    The protagonist in The Things They Carried is Tim O’Brien, who is also the narrator. In Ha Jin’s Saboteur, Mr. Chiu is the protagonist.
    As for literary conflicts, there are four major ones: man…

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