49 pages • 1 hour readHa Jin
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After the narrator becomes a rich man, he notices that everyone treats him differently. When he had worked at a construction company, three years before, he had proposed to a woman named Manshan. Manshan’s mother, Mrs. Pan, had sharply denied him and criticized him. In addition to the fact that he did not have a steady income, the narrator supposes that the Pans had turned him down because they thought he was a criminal.
Two years before, the narrator had fallen into a business arrangement with a colleague. They planned to buy cigarettes in the South and sell them for a profit in their own city. At the time, this was illegal. The police caught them, and the narrator went to jail for three months. His picture appeared in the local papers. The Pans likely noticed.
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The narrator begins attending night college after hearing that Manshan has enrolled. She doesn’t treat him meanly and he wonders if her opinion of him has changed. Through a match-maker, he proposes to her again, but once more, Mrs. Pan turns him down with cruel words. The narrator begins to try and approach Manshan at the night college. One night, he talks to her before she enters class.
By Ha Jin