Oct 3, 2018 in World Literature

In confucian society, one of the serious and prohinbitted sins is that of rebellion. This kind of sin becomes more serious when a person willingly decides to break an oath or to some extent a covenant. Most importantly, in confucian society, an oath or covenant usually takes a sanctified position that should be respected and adhered to at all costs. Going against such sanctified arrangement is not only seen as breaking fundamental trust, but also commiting an outragious sin. In this kind of arrangment, moral virtue takes a position of trust that is embedded on fulfilling one’s part of the bargain as is required in the promise or covenant, that seems to have no correlation to colour of the parties involved. In the tale of Kieu, initial refusal by Kieu to betroth Kim, when looked critically in the subsequent parts of the tale, is found to have fundamental sense of virtue. This sense of moral virtue is further more reinforced in the later acceptance by Kieu to betroth Kim. I say this because, although it was a cardinal sin to break a pledge or a promise, subsequent revelations depict how unselfish and morally virtuous Kieu’s action was. She further exhibited her moral virtue by owning her mistakes honestly and accepting to take respnsibility for her past mistakes (Du, 38).

There is a possibility that one can view Kieu’s actions of rejecting Kim as an immoral action that should constitute purnishment. Indeed, to somebody who had no prior information on the intriques surrounding Kieu’s life, he/she would be justified to consider Kieu’s actions as lacking any moral virtue. This would be seen more clearly in the beginning of the poem when Kim goes an extra mile to confess and profess his live for Kieu. In return, Kieu becomes convinced of Kim’s devotion and pledges to cherish him in stone and bronze. The use of the terms stone and bronze have crucial meanings in the field of affections. They are used to mean unbreakable faithfulness or strength of conviction, something that solidifies even more, the pledge between the two young lovers. In one of the subsequent visits between the two, Kim develops an overwhelming lust towards Kieu and makes her intentions known. One striking thing that follows is the spirited defence put by Kieu when she reminds her partner of a posibility of betraying their longlife trust and their utlimate obligation for chastity. However, Kieu does not leave Kim empty handed and instead consoles him by reminding him that as long as she was alive, she would sometime in the future get his dues. This consolation is not an act in futility, but a confirmation of a heartfelt promise of love that she has for Kim. Despite all the resounding promises between the two young lovers, we see an attempt to break it almost fifteen years later. This is more serious and one would be left wondering on how such strong affection can be thrown away ot the eleventh hour (Du, 56).

One resounding thing that remarks Kieu’s actions is her unselfish love for Kim. She never wanted to break with Kim out of personal aspirations, but because of her unselfish love for Kim. She recognized the purity of her partner, and never wanted to dirty it by her previous immoral actions, though done not of her own wish. She particularly affirms her dirty past by mentioning on how her life had been exposed to wind and rain. Wind and rain here refer to her dirty past both in a forced marriage and as a prostitute, although all these were forced upon her. Acceptance of such a dark history is in itself a moral virtue (Du, 60).

The courage and nobility with which Kieu confronts her long cherished lover and admits of her dirty past is in itself an outstanding moral virtue. This kind of revelation makes Kieu’s initial rejection more appealing and a virtuous one. In comparison to what happens in the contemporary society, Kiue would be considered one of the virtuous and impeaccable persons with qualities of integrity beyond reproach. She is honest with her dirk past in an event where she has the opportunity to manipulate the environment by saying lies to suit her interests. She feels deep conviction that Kim has an obligation to know all about her life in the brothel. All these actions confirm beyond expectation the kind of morality Kieu harbored (Du, 95).  

Kieu’s moral virtue is not only limited to the facts explained above, but proceeds up to the point she makes debut to compromise and agree to mary Kim. Van, Kieu’s sister and Kim’s wife becomes the focal point of the new development as she urges her sister to re-consider her pledge to marry Kim. Although Kieu refuses initially for the reasons already mentioned, she encounters deep persuasion both from Kim and Van who reminds her that the oath she made is still valid. Kim particularly reminds her of the unbreakable nature of the pledge they made which he affirms must be kept both in life or death. Despite these consistent persuasion, Kieu is still adamant and instead goes ahead to advocate that they better ought for friendship over marriage. However, after spirited fight by Kim, Kieu reluctantly succumbe to the pressure which is best described by her father somedays earlier, when he says that even a saint sometimes succumb to circumstances of the day (Konishi et.al, 20).

Even though promises in confucian society are treated with such solemn sanctity, Kieu’s action of breaking such a promise was out of unselfish interests. This is seen in her honest acceptance of her wrongful pasts which she never wanted to bring to their marriage with Kim as this would be robbing his honest future. Her moral virtue much more reaches climax when she compromises and agrees to marry Kim to fulfil the pledge they made. This can be seen as an action of selflessness where she takes somebody’s interests above hers. All these actions serve to justify Kieu’s refusal to betroth Kim. In summary, the actions presented by the two young lovers outlay issues of moral virtue that to many human beings are difficult to attain.  

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