Computer Approach to Narrative Sketch #1: Cautionary Tale for Chinese

Cautionary Tale for Chinese is a sarcastic tale generated with Tracery that features the terrible end of a Chinese who escaped from his socialistic reality and then ended up being eaten by decadent capitalism.

The tale was adapted from a 1907 children's book written by Hilaire Belloc called Cautionary Tales for Children: Designed for the Admonition of Children between the ages of eight and fourteen years. Besides the tale which I chose for this project, “Jim: Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion,” the book also includes other tales with similar structure and topics: "Henry King: Who chewed bits of string, and was early cut off in Dreadful agonies”, “Matilda: Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death" and “Rebecca: Who slammed doors for fun and Perished miserably”.

The tales for children in this book have such a strong sense of disciplinary power, which keeps reminding me of the invisible surveillance and regulation from the government that I experienced when back in Shanghai this summer.

I keep the original structure of the tale as six paragraphs, and extract the key conflict of this story:

  1. “Jim” escaped from the protection of “nurse”, even though he was treated well and given lots of “good food”.

  2. “Jim” ran into a “lion”, he shouted out “words” to his “nurse”, but it was too late, and the “lion” ate him.

  3. “Jim”’s parents wasn’t too sad about their son’s death, because “Jim” wouldn’t do what he was told.

“Jim” - Here I replaced “Jim” with a collection of “Top 10 common Chinese names”

“nurse” - “Nurse” is a metaphor for something that provides protection/daily need while restricts the free will of Chinese people.

“lion” - “Lion” is the invader as well as the terminator to “Jim”’s life, which I interprets as cultural invasion. So I picked a few stereotypical cultural “invaders” to Chinese culture such as Hollywood movies, idea of LGBT equality, DINK, K-pop.

“good food” - The book The Global Trap gives this 20/80 theory, in which 20 percent of 21st century’s population keeps the economy going, while the rest 80 percent of frustrated citizens “happy with a mixture of deadeningly predictable, lowest common denominator entertainment for the soul and nourishment for the body.” These low cost entertainment is called “titty-tainment”, which is how I interpreted the metaphor of “good food” in this tale.

“words” - With his life threatened, “ Jim” finally realized his protection only comes from obeying his nurse, so he shouted out “help” to his “nurse.” Here I adapted the word “help” with the Core Socialist Value, which is a set of new official interpretations of Chinese propaganda about socialism promoted at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. Shouting out the “core value” has an explicit meaning of the ultimate surrender to his protector.