A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers discussion


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Is the boyfriend an artist or a jerk?

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Sarah aren't most artists jerks in some way?
(that's coming from an artist)


Jesse I continually felt that the boyfriend character was taking advantage of and using her. Though I'm not sure what the intended message was. It felt cruel for him to send her away to Europe and away from him and yet the trip accomplished what he said it would. She learned to become independent. But it's hard to respect and like an emotionally distant and often cruel character like that.


Angela Carr I really don't think he was. He was simply too confused himself, and searching for answers. Also, he did let her stay with him after essentially a brief encounter and asked for nothing in return financially. He was a pathetic sort of character who was not very happy overall in my opinion.


message 4: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa I think he was a conflicted artist with a nice helping of jerk.


Renee I'm not entirely sure why people think he's a jerk. She moved in after a week and kept insisting on knowing if if he waned to marry her, but somehow he's the jerk? I don't think he was a ray of sunshine or anything, but he seemed more complex than to say he was either or. In fact, I felt he was quite tolerant. I felt as if it was part of Z's journey to realize she was part of his misery. At one point she says in reference to him, "I see your beauty is being diminished, by me. Day by day. Night by night."

Although, I felt like the book fluctuated too drastically between her wanting her growing self-awareness of personal independence with her wanting to suffocate him with her all-consuming love.


Xujun Eberlein No. He is a realistic character.


Gemma He seemed indifferent to her. He must have known that, given her background, she was anticipating marriage etc. I think it's deceitful that he didn't put her straight on that early on, i.e. that living together in the West does not necessarily equal marriage.

I think he was a bit of a jerk, yes, but they were as bad as each other. She was smothering, and wouldn't contribute a penny, he seemed to use her for cleaning and sex. He didn't really take an interest in her as a person at all. Mid-book he shows a reluctance to even have any conversation with her!

I think a more interesting question would be: who was the victim or the villain?


message 8: by SusannaW (last edited Mar 30, 2009 03:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

SusannaW Perhaps the issue is meant to be ambiguous - certainly as regards who was using who. Z's love of her lover was synonymous with her desire to learn a new language, so he was useful to her. The men she met on her travels didn't interest her really as she didn't have any corresponding desire to learn about their countries/language.

I also think there is an intended irony in the fact Z's boyfriend was incredibly Zen-like. He wanted to float above everything, both emotions and the material world. Z went to England as a Chinese person embracing Capitalism, and found a lover going in the opposite direction.


Wishful Kelly I somehow think the protagonist was the bigger jerk instead of the artist bf. She is needy, demanding, weak and naive, and in the book, the protagonist admitted too. But can't blame her, she's young, alone and from a different culture (I'm a Chinese too). Anyhow, I don't hate her. I love reading this book very much and it reminds me of myself when I was 20/21. Z and her lover see life and love from a different point of view. That is why they can't be together.
This book/story is very truthful and close to realistic, which is why I enjoyed it very much.

The artist loved Z very much, but in a different way and approach. This can be seen in the last chapter of the book, from his last letter to her.

Sweet :)




message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it's interesting that he was really into her when she could hardly speak English, but gets really annoyed when she starts to be able to speak and show herself. He tells her again and again to stop talking. He comes across as a complex character, but there are many signs in the book that he only wanted this young woman when she was a tiny, quiet object and not when her humanity started showing. For me, this was the huge theme of the book.


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