The Family


Cao Yu's four-act play The Family was adapted from the famous novel of that name by Ba Jin. In 1934, Ba Jin had been the first to recognize Cao Yu's talent as a playwright when he published the young man's Thunderstorm in the Literary Quarterly, and the two became soulmates for the rest of their lives.

Set in the socio-political turmoil of China in the 1920s, The Family explores the entire ambit of love, ranging from frustration to fulfilment, and from pretended affection to complete devotion. Love, treated with sympathy and warmth in beautiful poetic language, is contrasted against the all-pervading conflicts between generations, between tradition and modernity, and between the family and the individual. The tragedy of two young women and their innocent deaths demonstrate that the old "family" is a "prison" needing to be condemned and demolished.

Monologues from this play are regularly used in speech classes for drama students.

Quotation from Cao Yu:

I remember it was in 1942 during the steaming hot days in Chongqing. I wrote The Family on a boat anchored in the Yangzi River. ... The crew members saw me hunched over a small table day and night, sweat rolling down on my bare back. A middle-aged man said to me: "Gosh! You really work hard writing your plays." In my life, I've forgotten many things that I should have remembered, but this sentence, perhaps for the man's sincerity, has lived in my mind ever since.

- The Wenhui Daily, 1978

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