Table of Content

My Old Home Summary and Exercise

"My Old Home" is an autobiographical story which has been written by the Chinese writer Lu Xun. It is a short story which tells the activities...

Introduction to My Old Home

'My Old Home' is a story about Xun’s memories, from youth to middle age that depicts the conflict between memories and realities. The story describes the diasporic feeling that Xun feels while being away from home for many years. Upon arriving at his long-past home, his memories are forced to come to confront the realities.

Characters

1. Narrator (Lu Xun) - He is the young Master and the narrator. He is considered a miser in the sense he does not want to give away the furniture to the poor rather wants to sell them.

2. Jun Tu- A childhood friend of the narrator

3. Lu Xun’s father

4. Hong'er (eight-year-old nephew of the narrator)

5. Runtu (A childhood friend of the narrator) is the former temporary servant of Lu Xun. He is shy in nature but 'high in spin

6. Sheng - the son of Runtu.

7. Mrs Yang- She is a neighbour who accuses the narrator of being miserly and people call her the Beancurd Beauty because she sits in a bean curd (milk products) shop opposite Xun's home

My Old Home: Summary and Exercise
My Old Home Summary and Exercise

Short Summary 

"My Old Home" is an autobiographical story by the Chinese writer Lu Xun. It is a short story which tells the activities and happenings of one’s life from youth to old age. The main narrator of this story is the writer (Lu Xun) himself who has presented the conflict between his childhood memories and present realities. 

‘My Old Home’ is a story about a writer's memories, from youth to middle age that presents the conflict between memories and realities. The story describes how Xun feels while being away from home for many years. Upon arriving at his long-past home, his memories are forced to come to confront the realities. His prior conceptions and understandings of the world come into conflict with his realities. 

The narrator returns to his Old Home after twenty years in 1911, during the fall of the Qin Dynasty. He has a deep longing for his old home. He is heartily connected with his hometown. When he comes back to his home, he is greeted by his mother and nephew. He doesn't believe his eyes at first because there are so many changes. 

So many changes have been made but not on positive tracks rather he finds his house in a ruined position, twenty years of weather, renovations and other families, Lu Xun reconciles with his relatives including Mrs Yang, a neighbour who accuses him of being miserly.

Xun feels ashamed when the bean curd lady says he is being miserly for he does not want to give away his furniture. When he sees his hometown under the clouds upon his arrival, he starts feeling depressed to find its unprogressive, desolate and scattered state. For him, his old home was quite beautiful in the past and many people from his class used to live there. His attitude towards his hometown has changed as he comes to his hometown in an unhappy mood. He returns to his hometown with the sole purpose to say "Goodbye" at that time. 

When he arrives at his old home, his mother welcomes him. He sees his nephew Hong'er for the first time. He informs his mother about a rented house in his working place where they are going to migrate sooner. He wants to sell old furniture items the house to buy some items for his rented house. His mother informs him about Runtu and his curiosity to meet him. 

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His prior conceptions come into conflict as he faces the realities of his Old Home town. He comes to know that his old childhood friend Runtu will be reuniting with Lu at the home. He recalls his brief relationship with his childhood friend and a part-time labour boy. Their friendship has been lively, positive and brother-like. Mrs Yang is the one who is so talkative lady. The narrator describes her quite humorously. He describes her as a compass of a geometry box.

Mrs Yang surprises the narrator with her act. She holds the narrator in her arms. The narrator remembers her later on. In his childhood, Mrs Yang used to sit in her bean curd shop powdering herself and was quite famous by her name "A Beancurd Beauty”, Mrs Yang expresses her words related to miserliness when she knows the narrator's intention of selling his old home's furniture. 

The narrator meets Runtu after many years. He doesn't feel good hearing the word "Master" from his mouth. Both, the narrator and his mother notice Runtu's poverty and hardships in his life along with his many children. Runtu has been squeezed by various factors such as responsibilities, bandits, government officials, landed gentry, social differences etc.

These various factors push him to poverty throughout his life. The narrator and his mother plan to help Runtu by providing him with some old items from the house of his need so they provide some goods to Runtu. Runtu selects a few items from the old house.

Main Summary of My Old Home

Lu Xun’s “My Old Home”, tells the story of one’s memories, from youth to old age, and the confrontation of the delusions created when memories challenge realities. With the protagonist, Lu Xun’s persona, being away from home for so many years, images of glamour, beauty, and respectability framed his childhood, diluting his memories. Upon arriving at his long-past home, his memories are forced to come to terms with the truth, thereby shattering his prior conceptions and understandings of the world.
“Ah! Surely this was not the old home I had remembered for the past twenty years?” the narrator declared as he stood in front of an old, broken-down home. Having been worn down by weather and inhabitants, alike, the house’s old, perceived, splendour was invisible to the eye, only to be seen in that of the mind. Rationalizing the discrepancy between memory and that standing before him, he tried to convince himself that his “home had always been like this, and although it had not improved, it was not so depressing as imagined; it was only his mood that had changed because he was coming back to the country without illusions”.
Despite his rationalization, it was clear that his memories had deceived him; having transformed his past home into a grand building it had never been, only to be torn down for re-evaluation along with his other assumed childhood memories that had been built into the magnificent illusions.
After recovering from the shock of seeing his old home, he was informed that his old friend, Jun-Tu, would be returning to town to visit him. Over thirty years had passed since the narrator had last seen his friend, Jun-Tu, and at first, memories were scarce. After pausing for a moment, “a strange picture suddenly flashed into his mind”. Stories, ripe from the passing of time, filled the narrator’s mind.
He was full of the fleshy details he recalled, from the glory of his friend, Jun-Tu’s seaside childhood. Oh, how he wished he could be Jun-Tu. His stories were like candy, appealing to a child and idealized in every way, shape, and form. The narrator could no longer wait to reacquaint himself with Jun-Tu; he wanted to hear more of the seaside glamour. Upon his long-awaited arrival, the narrator was flustered from anticipation. “Jun-Tu stood there, mixed joy and sadness showing on his face. His lips moved, but not a sound did he utter.
Finally, assuming a respectful attitude, he said clearly: “Master! . . .” The narrator’s memories had deceived him once again. Had Jun-Tu not been his friend? Had they not played together and shared stories with one another? As a child, the narrator was unable to understand class differentiation. He remembered, due to his childhood naivety, that his time with Jun-Tu was that of a mutual friendship. This memory grew until it reached utopian standards. Their friendship had been perfect, he had believed.
The narrator’s childhood was shattered. His house was not as it had seemed. Jun-Tu had not even been his equal, living a glorified, sea-side life. Memories had deceived the narrator, blurring truth, ignoring class boundaries, forgetting the power money possessed. How such a divide could form between himself and Jun-Tu, memories and truth were unfathomable to the narrator. The true fickleness of one’s mind and one’s memories, of one’s past, became apparent.
One cannot trust one’s recollections of the past. The mind changes the past, and glorifies it, in order to glorify the individual. By seeing himself as Jun-Tu’s equal, the narrator was able to separate himself from the wrongs associated with class differences. His having to face the truth, having to face Jun-Tu, means having to face poverty within China. His memories had provided a means of protection, a way to detach himself from the inequalities Chinese society produced. Only by confronting his memories, by discovering the truth behind the memories, was he able to see the realities of China.

About the Story

Genre – Autobiographical

‘My Old Home’ is a story about Xun’s memories, from youth to middle age that depicts the conflict between memories and realities. The story describes how Xun feels while being away from home for many years. Upon arriving at his long-past home, his memories are forced to come to confront the realities. His prior conceptions and understandings of the world come into conflict with his realities.

Setting

The story took place during the late 19th century in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, China.

Character Description

Lu Hsun: The young master who moved out of his old home in order to buy a new home. During his childhood, he befriends with Jun-Tu, a servant, and is fascinated by the stories the latter tells. In order to buy more furniture for the new home, he insists his mother sell the old ones from the old house. He is considered miserly for he does not want to give away the furniture to the poor.
Jun Tu: A shy yet “high in spirits” servant who used to work for Lu Hsun. His home was near the sea. He soon goes back to his hometown and experiences a rough life. Having man kids, famine and social responsibilities cause him to be wary. He acts as an acquaintance rather than a friend to Lu Hsun when both of them reconcile after 30 years.
Mrs. Yang:  A neighbour who sits in a bean curd shop opposite Lu Hsun’s old home. She is one of the poor who visits Lu Hsun’s home and always leaves with a piece of furniture (without paying for it) owned by his family.
Hung erh: Lu Hsun’s shy nephew. He soon befriends Shu Sheng.
Shu Sheng: The 5th son of Jun-Tu. He is very shy and rarely interacts on social occasions. However, he soon opens up towards Hung erh, even inviting the latter to visit his home someday.

Understanding the Story

The story "My Old Home" is set in the narrator's childhood town in China. The narrator returns to his childhood home and experiences various flashbacks from his youth. He recalls a brief relationship with his family's part-time labourer’s kid, "Jun-to". 
He re-meets his forgotten neighbours. The narrator and his mother are selling their stuff since they are relocating. Their departure left the narrator's recollections behind.
The story follows Lu Hsun, a young master who returns home to see his mother and nephew.  He quickly remembers his youth, spent with his closest friend and servant, Jun-Tu.  Lu Hsun reconciles with his family, including a neighbour, Mrs Yang.
Unexpectedly, Jun Tu, cautious from his hard life at sea, pays a surprise visit to Lu Hsun's house.  What happens when geography, time, and societal barriers prevent them from becoming friends? Throughout the story, the narrator recalls previous events in this house. 
Many things have changed and are not what the narrator anticipated when he returns as an adult.  For example, when the narrator comes home, Jun-tu behaves as if the narrator is his master and has a higher status than him. 
The narrator's childhood home was a metaphor in this story. The house is a symbol because it symbolizes the narrator's "old" recollections.  Since the family is departing, the narrator will be reminded of the memories associated with the home. The home represents growing up and moving on in life.
In conclusion, the story teaches us the important message about moving on and leaving the past behind. The narrator, Hung-erh, and his mother are on the boat departing their home at the conclusion of the story. As he departed, he realized he was leaving behind memories and even his former house.

The Plot of the Story

The story follows Lu Hsun, a young master who visits back to his old home and is greeted by his mother and nephew. He soon recalls the memories of his childhood, the time he shared with his best friend and servant, Jun-Tu. Lu Hsun reconciles with his relatives including Mrs Yang, a neighbour who accuses him of being miserly. Unexpectedly, Jun Tu, who has now grown all wary from his tough life at sea, pay a visit to Lu Hsun’s home. What will become of the two when distance, time and social barriers restrict them from being friends again?

The Theme of the Story

The author is trying to tell the audience that being humane towards others prevents a treadmill's existence. In a friend-and-friend relationship, one must learn how to put his comrade first. Hsun also highlights the importance of loyalty. Other themes include respect, filial piety and social barriers that stop people from different classes to befriend.
Friend and Friend is the most evident relationship in the story. The friendship that once existed between Lu Hsun and Jun-Tu is a perfect example of the Confucian ideal friendship. Lu Hsun learnt many things about the outside world from Jun-Tu while Lu Hsun was one of the very few people to who Jun-Tu can open up. These two soon became inseparable for they treated each other like brothers. Their relationship went beyond a master and servant relationship. It was something mutual, reciprocal and relationship.
However, as time passes, Jun-Tu realizes that they can no longer be friends. He clearly understands that one must fulfil his role depending on his social position. Thus, he treats Lu Hsun as a master by paying ultimate respect and offering the slightest gifts to Lu Hsun. This is an example of a ruler and subject relationship.

Glossary of My Old Home

li (n.): traditional Chinese unit of distance measuring 1,640 feet
rationalize (v.): attempt to explain or justify with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate
sacrificial vessels (n.): originally a cauldron for cooking and storing meat. The Shang prototype has a round bowl, set on three legs with two short handles on each side
intercalary (n): a day or month inserted in the calendar to harmonize the solar calendar like 29 February
talisman (n.): an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, which is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck
hedgehog (n.): a small nocturnal Old World mammal with a spiny coat and short legs, able to roll itself into a ball for defence
Concubine (n.): mistress; the woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives
treadmill (adj.): monotonous or wearisome, giving no satisfaction
stupefied (adj.): astonished
flabbergasted (ad.): Shocked

Exercise

Understanding the text

a. How does the narrator describe his feeling at the arrival of his old home?

→ The narrator has many exciting and happy feelings regarding his old home before his arrival but his exciting feelings convert into depressing ones as he sees his surroundings and environment as unprogressive, desolate and scattered under the clouds which seem lifeless to him

b. What were the three kinds of servants in China then? What does it indicate about contemporary Chinese society?

→The then three kinds of servants in China were:

1. Full-timers: Those who worked the whole year long for one family.

2. Dailies: Those who were hired for the daytime.

3. Part-timers: Those who plough their own land but work for a specific family just during the holidays, new year, festival time or rent time.

It indicates that contemporary Chinese society had a slavery system and different classes of slaves and their hierarchy.

c. What makes the narrator nostalgic? What did he do with Runtu in his teenage?

→ The information expressed by the narrator's mother to Runtu makes him nostalgic. He enjoyed and passed time by playing and learning different strange things in his teenage.

d. How did Runtu hunt a Zha at a young age?

→Runtu hunted a Zha by stabbing at it with his pitchfork at a young age.

e. How does the narrator make a humorous picture of Mrs Yang?

→The narrator makes a humorous picture of Mrs Yang through his humourous description by associating her as a bean curd lady and a compass of geometry box who accuses him of being miserly because he does not want to give his furniture to poor Runtu.

f. According to the narrator, what were the different factors that made Runtu a poor man throughout his life?

→According to the narrator, the different factors that made Runtu a poor man throughout his life were a big family, heavy taxes, social responsibilities, famines, bandits, officials, landed gentry and class differences etc.

g. How does the narrator help Runtu before leaving the old home?

→The narrator helps Runtu by providing old furniture items and other household things before leaving the old house. He also asks Runtu to take the things of his needs from his old house.

h. How does the author differentiate two kinds of idols?

→ The author differentiates two kinds of idols through his realization. He says that superstitious idols are worshipped for a short time for something immediate but hope isn't an idol but a long-time desire that people need in most situations. He gives examples of Runtu and his own ways of worshipping idols in two different ways. Runtu worships the idols but he requires hope for a faraway land.

Reference to the Context

a. While reading about the friendship between the narrator and Runtu, Hindu readers remember the friendship between Krishna and Sudama. Which particular description reminds you of the mythological example?

→ While reading the friendship between the narrator and Runtu, Hindu readers remember the friendship between Lord Krishna and poor Sudama. Sudama was Lord Krishna's classmate and a very intimate friend. Lord Krishna was a King and Sudama was a poor Brahmin. Poor Sudama once came to Dwarka to meet his friend Lord Krishna after many years. The same case is found in the friendship and relationship between Lu Xun and Runtu the former is from a rich and upper-class master and the latter one is very poor.

Sudama felt very shy when he visited Krishna like this Runtu felt ashamed and nervous when he met his friend, Lu Xun. Lu Xun helped Runtu like Krishna helped Sudama at the end by providing several household things at the end. Lord Krishna knew about the difficulties faced by Sudama so he helped by providing the blessing which turned him into richness. This amazing help is always remembered by Hindus.

b. How does the story support the proposition that the relationships of childhood are innocent, impartial and disinterested?

→ The story "My Old Home" supports the proposition that relationships of childhood are innocent, impartial and disinterested. As we go through the story, we come to know that the narrator, Lu Xun and Runtu had a childhood friendship beyond various social barriers and class divisions. They had an innocent relationship.

They passed their time playing, learning and sharing their ideas without biasness. We don’t find any impartiality between them though they had a master and part-time worker relationship. They didn’t have any selfish behaviour. Their friendship and relationship were pure, innocent, impartial and disinterested. 

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