How does the
madman see other people? How does he describe them? Does he see
something others can't? According to the madman, what lies behind
the smiles and façades of courtesy and civilization?
What is the
significance of the animal imagery in the story? What sorts of animals
are alluded to? Where? Why? What animal is referred to in Section
1 of the story? In Section 3, what is the name of the village suffering
from famine? What did the villagers there do? Is that somehow connected
to the name of the village? Do you find animal references anywhere
else in the story? Is there an increased use of animal imagery and
references as the story progresses? In Section 6, an enigmatic series
of phrases is suddenly inserted: "the fierceness of a lion,
the timidity of a rabbit, the craftiness of a fox." What is
intended by this? Does it sound like an epigram encapsulating the
meaning of the whole story? What might Lu Xun be trying to express
through these phrases?
Is the madman
really insane? Is he perhaps saner than those around him? What is
sanity? What is madness? Who decides?
Lu Xun was influenced
by Darwin and Thomas H. Huxley's ideas on evolution. Are there references
to such ideas in the story? Is that connected to the animal imagery?
How does Lu Xun apply the notions of evolution to the understanding
of the human condition? What changes does he believe human beings
must undergo? Why?
What is the
madman criticizing? Is this story about actual cannibalism? What
does cannibalism stand for? What does it mean to "eat"
another human being? Are there any instances of behavior in the
story, other than actual cannibalism, which one might term as cannibalistic?
Is the madman a cannibal too, perhaps without knowing it? Why does
he vomit after eating a dish of fish? What do people do to each
other that makes them into cannibals? Are we all cannibals in some
How is this
story connected to the historical situation of Lu Xun's time? What
was going on in China during this time period? What sorts of social,
economic, or political practices may be associated with cannibalism?
In Lu Xun's eyes, how is traditional Chinese society cannibalistic?
Is modern capitalism any better? What about the experience of Chinese
and Russian communism? What sort of a society was Lu Xun striving
to bring about? How is it possible to "save the children"?
The first entry
in the diary reads, "Tonight the moon is very bright.
I begin to realize that during the past thirty-odd years I have
been in the dark." What is the significance of the moon image?
Does it occur elsewhere in the story? What does it suggest or stand
for? What is the madman able to see under the moonlight? Does the
moon have anything to do with his "madness"? What is hidden
in the darkness? Why is daylight, when there is no moon, depressing
to the madman?
Are there elements
of or allusions to the supernatural in the story? How do the moon
and the madman's perceptions of others as having "smiling green
faces with protruding fangs" contribute to those effects? What
is their meaning? How do they function in the story or contribute
toward its purposes?
What does the
madman learn by reading history books? What does he find there?
How does he interpret the words "benevolence, righteousness,
and morality"? What does he claim is hiding under those words?
How do such references address the problems of Confucianism? Are
there other situations in the story referring to Confucianism and
What does the
madman think of the doctor who comes to examine him? Is it significant
that he is a doctor? Can a doctor be a cannibal? How? Is it relevant
that Lu Xun abandoned a career in medicine to become a writer?
In Section 9,
what makes people reluctant to take "that one little step"?
What is the symbolic meaning of that step? What does Lu Xun want
for people to do? What prevents them from doing it? What does Elder
Brother fail to do in Section 10 that upsets the madman? What is
it that Elder Brother claims can't be done? How does that explain
the meaning of cannibalism? What is the significance of the madman's
question in Section 8, "Is this business of eating people right?"
What is the
significance of the concern with the death of the madman's younger
sister? Why is Elder Brother blamed for her death? Is she a symbol?
What issues are addressed by it? What does it mean to suggest that
she was eaten?
Is the last
line, "Save the children
," an optimistic or pessimistic
ending? Who will save them? From what? What does it mean to be saved
from becoming a cannibal?
What is suggested
when his brother says that the madman got better and went on to
wait for an official appointment? Is the brother telling the truth?
What may have happened to the madman? What is the difference between
being eaten and getting cured of his madness? Is he "eaten"