A backwards reality

Liu Xin-Wu – “Black Walls”

This is my #2 favorite story, but the message I get is stronger in this one more than any other story.

Black walls is an interesting story about naivety and fear of the unknown. The characters in this story are superstitious and afraid of anything out of the ordinary. They associated the black walls that Mr. Zhou were spraying with evil. While the color black is a symbol for darkness and evil, it is curious to see how much fear was caused as the result of not knowing any better.

A key aspect that I noticed was the passage of time in the story. The entire story takes place in one hour and twenty-two minutes. Each section is given a specific time it starts at. Using that, I have found the time each scene took, specifically: (In minutes) 16, 9, 20, [These next two are unknown due to inconvenient hole punching], 1, 4, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1. It’s easy to see the downward trend in time as the story progresses, each scene being drawn out more than the last. You could assume that those sections would be shorter than, say, the 16 minute piece, but, surprisingly, it is not. The entire story is told in roughly eight pages. The final 11 minutes of the story (the final seven scenes) are told over the last four pages of the story. The first four pages consist of over 45 minutes (half) of the story. I find this interesting because that is opposite to logical sense. Longer times should have more words, physically. Logic says so. But this story is not about logic, actually about the lack of it. Sure, part of it is because the description is drawn out, longer at the end. Most stories are written with more description at the beginning, so we can visualize a character, visualize where they are, visualize what their motives are, and leave the rest of the story to do just that. Tell a story. The action is set in the latter part of the story so we have good knowledge about the situation and the characters and then see how they react to something. But in this story, it is backwards. The actions of the characters are longer, more drawn out, everything you would expect in the beginning of the story. More action, less physical description as we reach the climax. But this story is all about being backwards, the backwards logic, the backwards instincts of the citizens, symbolized by the backwards time frame and the disjointed plot diagram.

Now, if I haven’t become too insane yet, there is another thing that I would like to discuss: Little Button. His character really only appears on the last page and a half of the story, yet (arguably) he makes the single most important point of the entire story. Think of any character in the story and try to describe them. You can’t get too far. Little Button gets almost a whole page, a whole 1/8th of the story dedicated to his description and thought process. No other character gets even a fraction of that. He’s the only character that we get to see think. Every other character is defined entirely by speech and shallow description. I think this was intended. It supports by backwards theory. The older are commonly associated with being wiser, especially grandparents. As told in the text, Little Button is Mr. Zhao’s grandson. Mr. Zhao has always been seen as the wise leader by the community. Being a leader, as well as a grandparent, puts Mr. Zhao in a light of wisdom. Yet his actions are anything but wise and well thought out, as proved by this quote: “…Mr. and Mrs. Zhao stared hard at him. They were both thinking: Damn tailor!… he dared not open his mouth, much less oppose out suggestions.” They have a power craze if anything, and that spurs the community on, until Little Button, the only real protagonist, provides a much-needed reality check.

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