Worlds Apart

Do you ever act like a completely different person from who you usually are? How about feeling like you are one person living two lives? If so, you will understand what Lin Kong, the main character in the novel Waiting by Ha Jin, is going through during the exposition. He has two lives, both worlds apart; the first contains his drab, meek wife and daughter residing at his dowdy home in the countryside; the second has his dazzling doctor job at an important hospital along with a glamorous, successful girlfriend who works there too.


In the first world he lived in, Lin’s family and home were there. However, the more time he spent working at his  “big city” job, the more distant his wife (who was never that close to him in the first place) and especially daughter, grew apart from him. Lin, a man with a face that was “smooth and handsome” (Jin 6), was trapped in a loveless arranged marriage to a “small, withered woman who looked much older than her age. Her thin arms and legs couldn’t fill up her clothes, which were always baggy on her…. Her dark hair was coiled into a severe bun on the back of her head, giving her a rather gaunt face. Her mouth was sunken…” (6). Lin Kong and Shuyu were complete opposites, not suited to one another at all, and as the book said best…“In every way the couple did not match” (6). The other fragment in this world Lin was a part of was his daughter. Lin did not care much for the relationship between him and his wife, but he did want his daughter to be attached to him. Despite that, “As she grew older, she became more reticent and remote from him. Now she seldom said an unnecessary word to him, and at most she would give him a thin smile” (6).  All in all, this version of Lin was a bleak and dull one that he tried his best to hide and separate himself from.


In spite of that, Lin led a completely opposing life in Muji City, where he worked and had a girlfriend, who was, technically, his mistress. His girlfriend, Manna Wu was a slim, clever and young nurse working alongside him at the army hospital. She fit perfectly into Lin’s second world. Now, she wasn’t by any means perfect, but she was still a major improvement (in Lin’s eyes anyway) that he longed for from Shuyu. “If only his wife were pretty and her feet had not been bound. Or if only she and he had been a generation older, so that people in the city wouldn’t laugh at her small feet” (49).  After, these thoughts took root, he started to welcome the change Manna Wu would be, so they grew closer to the point where Lin decided to divorce Shuyu.


These two worlds Lin were like the moon and the sun; complete opposites in every way. For him, his life in the Goose Village where his family and past were was like the moon – desolate and disheartening, and he wished to distance himself from it, whereas his exotic life in Muji City with his girlfriend was happy and untroubled. But he had to make a decision – which was more important? Responsibility to his family or his own personal happiness? These are the two worlds of Lin Kang described in the exposition of the novel Waiting.


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