In the Pond achieves an excellent balance between the seriousness of the issues it addresses and the humor it evokes. At its core, the novel exposes the constraints the Chinese government puts on its citizens. The main character, Shao Bin, is a flinty and daring man who feels cheated out of his rights to attain new housing at a commune called Dismount Fort. He turns his displeasure towards the local leaders into action against them. He confronts their corruption by creating satirical cartoons that criticize them both professionally and personally. The novel becomes an escalation of the conflict between Bin and the authority figures. Unlike Jin’s previous short story collections, where tragedy slowly encroaches and often shallows the main characters, this novel offers hope for the resilient Bin. Even with its positive resolution, In the Pond condemns the orthodox communist ideology in China and how it suppresses any form of dissension or any pursuit of personal success.
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