Ode of Beauty, Tragedy of Beauty --CaoXueqin and Dream of the Red Mansions

Essay by Akris September 2004

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Dream of the Red Mansions is a mixture of ode and tragedy of young women. Love between Baoyu and Daiyu and their dislike of the social environment form the main thread that runs through the whole novel. The triangle love between Baoyu, Daiyu and Baochai reveals the tragedy. Who is Baoyu's lover, Daiyu or Baochai? Who will be chosen by the Jia family to be Baoyu's wife? Both are important problems. The tragedy results from the disharmony of two choices. Baoyu gradually finds that Daiyu is his only bosom friend. Although Baochai should deserve his love, Baoyu always feels there is some kind of gap between them. Baochai upholds all the moral standards of a good daughter-in-law. Daiyu, however, has some kind of rebelliousness in her character. Baochai can control her love for Baoyu in the range of courtesy. But Daiyu shows her love directly. Who is his lover? Baoyu insists on his own choice.

But he has no right to decide who his wife will be. His grandmother and his parents decide this. Thus the tragedy becomes an inevitable end.

In the tragedy of Dream of the Red Mansions, those women destroyed by the feudal society not only have appearance beauty but also have inner beauty. Take Daiyu for example. The writer fully describes her character, her feelings, her dreams and her talent. We feel what she feels and love what she loves through Cao's description. Thus we can experience her tragedy as she experiences her tragedy.

Certainly she is not the only beauty in the novel. The writer describes many beautiful girls. They live in DaGuanyuan Garden, forming a relatively independent female kingdom. The small kingdom is full of wine and poem, laughter and tears, love and hatred. They enjoy limited but quite rare freedom. Compare them with...