It is known to us that previous scholars tend to compose their writings from the daily life and some of them would like to reveal a certain phenomenon of the society. There is no doubt that each and every writer have their own purpose of writing something. Midnight in Peking tells the true story of the murder of a young British woman and this story happens in January 1937 Peking, after which such a murder has actually haunted the last days of old China for a long period of time. Therefore this paper would like to explore how Midnight in Peking by Paul French reveals the influence of China’s history and living background on that era.
Dark Past of Beijing in the 1930s
First and foremost, Midnight in Peking reveals the dark past of Beijing in the 1930s. In the book Midnight in Peking by Paul French, a non-fiction crime work, a gripping account of a murder in China 75 years ago has been provided and this case remains to be unsolved for long, suggesting that there may be a lot of other unsolved cases as well at that time. What is hard to be believed is that this case remains to be unsolved for over 70 years. Or maybe it can be put in another way that this case may turn out to be unsolved and it won’t be solved any longer at last. An era full of a series of unsolved cases is bound to be plenty of dark sides that cannot be exposed to the wide public. Just take the details of scandals about Bo Xilai, the former Chinese Politburo high flyer, as an example, it has actually changed from a political intrigue to something that is sinister.
The more concrete condition is that Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife, plots to have killed a British businessman named Neil Heywood, implying the severity of this murder. According to this, it is not hard to find that the Chinese authorities tend to protect themselves and a lot of dark issues about the Chinese authorities have not been known to the wide public. Also, the setting of this murder can be regarded as the mixture of elite lifestyle, high politics and murder, all of which seems to have influenced China to a large extent. At the same time, the context of this book is set at the Old City Wall area where Pamela Werner lived with her father, the Legation Quarter, as well as Beijing’s Dongbianmen watchtower where her body was found (Liu Zhongyin. 2019).
In this sense, it can be readily detected that the context of this book as well plays a key role in revealing the dark past of Beijing to some extent. What cannot be neglected is that Pamela Werner died on a frozen night in Peking, the weather of which is so terrible, adding a certain degree of horror and terror for the audience. On most occasions, the extreme weather appears to relate quite close to the occurrence of a lot of bad things. From the perspective of Paul French, the context of the world in the book attracts him to write the story, where one murder happens before all the other things going on.
Lower Status of Chinese
Moreover, Chinese people tend to have a lower status when compared with people from other foreign countries. Through describing the glitzy lives of foreigners living in Beijing 1937, Midnight in Peking appears to have presented a true story in a fun way. For instance, the author has written a scene in which both a British detective and a Chinese detective smoke together, but the photograph of that scene tends to only show the Chinese detective smoking. According to this, it is not hard to find that the global status of the British detective and the Chinese detective is different as a whole.
Or maybe it can be put in another way that the status of the Chinese detective seems to be a little lower than that of the British detective, which is right why only the Chinese detective smoking has been photographed rather than the British detective smoking. Another aspect that can help show the lower status of Chinese people is that when the police are hard to detect the details for the unsolved cases, they may directly propose that the crazed Chinese ritual killers are believed to be responsible for those cases. Apparently, the ones that should be blamed for those killings are the white community and they are right the ones that should be provided with the spotlight of blame. Concerning this, it is not hard to find that Chinese people are wronged to take the responsibility that should be taken by the white community.
Lack of Justice
Apart from that, Midnight in Peking shows that China in the 1930s is one that lacks of justice. The fact that the killer of Pamela Warner escaped from the spot and disappeared into the chaos of Japanese invasion and World War II can well show that the legal system of China at that time is not healthy and comprehensive enough to guarantee the public welfare. What’s worse, the killer of Pamela Warner has not been found upon this point as well.
In this case, there is no doubt that the personal interests of Pamela Warner have not been protected and it is quite unjust for her to die in that way without being clearly investigated. As a result of a legal system that is not healthy and comprehensive, the wide public tend to be the victims of that system. Another disappointing fact is that Pamela Warner’s mother, the wife of ETC Werner, as well died in a suspicious way.
In fact, ETC Werner was a former British diplomat with a reputation as a difficult and moody man (Jeffrey Wasserstrom. 2012), which may lead the audience to wonder whether the death of the wife of ETC Werner died because of ETC Werner had offended someone while serving as a diplomat. After all, the position of being a diplomat has to interact with a lot of people both at home and abroad, during which he may offend some people in an unexpected or even unknown way. Due to the higher incidence of murder, fear and rumor spread through a close-knit international community already made nervous by Japanese troops, poised to invade. According to this, the personal interests of the wide public will as well ruin out of the increasing incidence of uninvestigated cases.
Unprotected Life of Chinese
In addition, the life of the wide public is hard to be protected in China in the 1930s. The death of Pamela Werner can well suggest that the life of ordinary people will be endangered, which has drawn the wide attention from the wide public. However, the details of this murder tend to be more horrific that the body of a girl of 19-year-old was found at the foot of the Fox Tower in Beijing and all the blood had been drained from her body with her missing heart (Rana Mitter. 2012). Obviously, the horror of this murder can as well increase some extent of darkness of China in the 1930s.
It can be understood in this way that the severity of this murder can directly lead the audience to wonder whether there is a hidden side of Pamela Werner, which has resulted in her terrible death in the end. In this sense, the hidden side of people can account for the dark side of the country as well. Obviously, the pursuing of the killer through exhaustive research with the help of interviewing surviving relatives of Peking society and Scotland Yard archives.
In this way, the author makes it possible to bring this tragic tale to a long, thrilling and unexpected overdue conclusion. Nevertheless, what is a pity to say is that though the investigation toward this case has been launched, it ran into trouble quickly. The difficulty in dealing with the investigation of this case can as well help imply that there exist a lot of barriers in front of the successful revealing of the truth of those unsolved cases.
Existence of Expatriates
Last but not the least, Midnight in Peking shows that there are various expatriates in China during 1930s, the lives of which at that time can be represented by diplomats, businessmen, respectful and successful journalists (Tautvile Daugelaite. 2018). From the perspective of Paul French, Americans and Europeans have actually forgotten about the past generations’ time of China before the time when World War II breaks out. In fact, there are plenty of Westerners with low social standing in China during the 1930s apart from expatriates, like drug dealers, gangsters, pimps, etc. These groups of people choose not to leave behind accounts of their lives in diaries or memories.
To sum up, it can be easily obtained that Midnight in Peking by Paul French really plays key role in revealing the influence of Midnight in Peking on China’s history and living background on that era. Through revealing the influence of Midnight in Peking on China’s history and living background on that era, the author can remind people at present and future generations to learn from the past history so as to make the same mistake as the past any more. There is no doubt that there are many aspects that can be used to explain the influence of China’s history and living background on that era as have not been mentioned in the above, which demands further researches in approaching days.
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