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Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant


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A Deconstructive reading of Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant by D. J. Enright

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Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant

  1. 1. A Deconstructive reading of “Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant” by D. J. Enright Mehdi Hassanian esfahani (GS22456) Literary Theory (BBL 5201) Dr. Edwin Vethamani Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant narrates the feelings of a persona, who looks upon a man in a Shanghai restaurant, regrets his/her own life and envies the Chinese man. The poem starts with “I would like to be the elderly Chinese gentleman” and continues by depicting the man, his family and his lifestyle from the point of view of the persona. We have no clue or direct description of the persona, but his/her devouringly look upon the Chinese man makes us conclude that his/her life lacks what he/she finds and envies in the Chinese man’s life. Persona is sensitive to details of Chinese man’s dressing and even to his table-clothe, to see whether it is dirty, “to signify a lack of manners” or not. But he/she is apparently more concerned about his family. Persona thinks that he has a happy family, a “handsome” wife, children and grandchildren who open the door for him, and respect him. He envies the man who has done his job successfully, and now his family is there, together, happy and helpful. The binary oppositions of this poem would consist of two columns. One to depict the Chinese man and things related to him, such as his lifestyle, and the other to belong to the persona, and his/her related issues (which can be assumed by his/her envy of Chinese man). Something like: Persona Subject (Chinese man) Alone With a family Likes and needs to be respected Respected by his family Looks and envies Lives his life We don’t know about the social class He is a gentleman [1]
  2. 2. Rich enough to wear a gold watch Probably not too rich with a gold bracelet Has a handsome wife, who satisfies Feels miserably lonely him, and he is not thinking about the pretty waitress. … … But there is a change in the last lines on the poem. So far, persona envies what the Chinese man is, but talking about his life, persona says: [To the Chinese man] It has been a satisfying evening. Tomorrow Will be a satisfying morning. In between he will sleep satisfactory. I guess that for him it is peace in his time. It would be agreeable to be this Chinese gentleman. Persona guesses that he has a peaceful life; therefore he/she doesn’t claim that he/she wants to be this Chinese man. This paradoxical description of Chinese man seems puzzling at the surface, but leads to a deeper interpretation as well. The verb “guess” signifies doubt. It shrinks the absolute image of a prosper man. And the phrase “it would be agreeable” signifies the indifferent persona who is not eager to be someone else as he/she was before. Surprisingly, the persona may have recognized that people are always more beautiful when it is a party, and you look at their lives as a stranger, but every single man has and should have his own difficulties. Even if the man seems to be rich, with a family and respected, it never means that he has a peaceful life. The last lines of persona lead us to a wisdom, which the persona may be unaware of. We do not know of the persona, whether he/she has gained the knowledge or just said so unconsciously, but we know that this paradox is the irony of life. [2]