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Chang’s Emotional Trauma
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Atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in the city of Nanking during the First World War left the residents and those who witnessed it in traumatized conditions. The extremes these inhumane acts are as strong as causing equal magnitude of resentment to every reader who comes through the book, “The Rape of Nanking”.
“The Rape of Nanking” is a book written by Iris Chang who learnt about the Rape of Nanking from her parents. This book gives details about the nature of events that occurred during the Chinese massacre. In December 1937 to March 1938, 150, 000 Japanese soldiers were licensed to capture the Chinese city of Nanking and start a campaign of rape, looting and murder. Approximately 250, 000 to 300, 000 people were killed and 20, 000 to 80, 000 women and children were raped while widespread accounts of civilians were hacked to death (Chang 6). Chang based most of her writing on several interviews, which she conducted with massacre survivors including Japanese soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Rape of Nanking events. As Chang gathered information on the massacre for writing the book she experienced emotional trauma that later caused her to commit suicide. This shows that the Japanese soldiers conducted massive torture and killings on Chinese in Nanking to the extent of instilling unbearable memories to the author. This essay explains the traumatizing experience associated to the events surrounding the massacre as recorded in the book, “The Rape of Nanking”.
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No one can deny the beastly nature of the Japanese soldiers during the tragic event, not even the Japanese themselves although they have never admitted they did wrong and apologized to Chinese. To support this fact, one of the soldiers testified later “When we were bored, we had some fun killing Chinese. Buried them alive or pushed them into a fire or kill by other cruel means,” “We stabbed and killed them,” said another, “like potatoes in a skewer. I thought then, it's been only one month since I left home... and 30 days later I was killing people without remorse.” Chang says that the number of people killed is more than those killed during the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, and still more than the combined number of civilians killed in the World War II in Britain, France and Belgium. This must have been hard for the author to ignore. Losing the lives of this much people in three months through inhumane act shows the extent to which human beings can go in seeking to satisfy their egos.
Chang’s emotional trauma was enhanced by the way the troop, besides the killings, performed extremely evil actions on people. She finds the experience sickening that she often felt unwell as she was writing her book. She writes that the Chinese men were used in decapitation contests and for bayonet practice (Chang 87). The soldiers went beyond rape to disemboweling women, slicing off their breasts, nailing them to walls. As if that was not enough, they forced fathers to rape their sons, daughters and mothers in front of family members. Diabolical tortures such as live burials, organ carving, castration and roasting of people became routine (Chang 6). This was a crime against humanity and therefore, the Japanese and China should reconcile otherwise the tension between them may bring worse troubles in the future. The conviction that these horrible events of the massacre have been forgotten though still fresh in Chinese memory inspired Chang to write the book. She seems to be holding an inflammatory charge that the Japanese are suppressing and denying what they did in the Rape of Nanking. In fact, she writes, “When it comes to expressing remorse for its wartime actions before the bar of world opinion, Japan remains to this day a renegade nation (Chang 15).”
Chang interacted with people to obtain facts on the experiences of the Rape of Nanking. She came across numerous photos of the massacre and had face-to-face testimonies from survivors. Perhaps, she could not imagine that there are people who could do such terrible things to their fellow human beings. Her empathetic nature leads her to depression as she tried to explore the injustice done on the Chinese. The depression was so deep that her mental state prevented her from ending her life. Before the depression, Chang was traumatized by what she continued to uncover to the extent of trembling uncontrollably. When asleep, she was having series of similar nightmares in which she was dressed in white while being chased by Japanese soldiers.
Six decades after occurring, the Rape of Nanjing has come back to be a central concern of popular scholarly imaginations in such times when wartime memories are at unprecedented heights. The traumatizing effects of Rape of Nanjing are well articulated in the book and sequential literature done by those who shared similar concerns as Chang. As an evidence of its far-reaching effects, the massacre has been remembered in various multifaceted events, one of them being this book. Memories of disturbing events of the attack are too painful to be remembered by survivors who would wish to. Such post war memories were captured in vast lengths of the book (Yoshida 15). Although the book is a summary of what transpired, it is able to invoke the unavoidable feelings of resentment and trauma. It is a typical feeling of whoever went through this experience and is having a feeling of being forgotten. As the subtitle have it, “The Forgotten Holocaust”, the author succeeded in pointing out that some countries like China, USA and Taiwan have forgotten the victims. This bitterness is a factor towards worsening the already bad memories of the attack. Therefore, it is implicit that throughout the book there is a feeling of discontentment concerning what transpired in the attack to the extent of traumatizing the victims and those who get a chance of reading any documentation like this book (Brook 5).
Brook, Timothy. Documents of the Rape of Nanking. Michigan: University of Michigan Press,
Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, New York: Basic
Yoshida, Takashi. The Making of the "Rape of Nanking": History and Memory in Japan, China,
and the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.