49 pages 1 hour read

Ha Jin

The Bridegroom

Fiction | Short Story Collection | Adult | Published in 2000

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Summary and Study Guide


The Bridegroom (2000) is a short story collection by Ha Jin. The stories touch on themes involving Chinese social life, the intersection of Chinese and American cultural and economic customs, and authority and the individual. The Bridegroom is Ha Jin’s third short story collection, and first following the success of his 1999 novel, Waiting. Each of the stories in The Bridegroom previously appeared in journals, such as Harper’s and The Boston Book Review.

Plot Summary

The Bridegroom consists of 12 individual short stories which take place in the fictional city of Muji City, China. The first story, “Saboteur,” involves a university professor harassed by railroad police and subsequently made to confess to the crime of sabotage. “Alive” concerns a family man whose life faces disruption when an earthquake leaves him with amnesia. In “In the Kindergarten,” a young girl and her classmates pick purslanes for their teacher, who promises to prepare the plants for dinner but instead brings them home for her own use. In “A Tiger-Fighter Is Hard to Find,” a handsome young actor loses his mind when he’s made to fight a real-life tiger. In “Broken,” two employees share private details of sexual encounters while under interrogation. A married man receives treatment in a mental institution for suspected homosexuality in “The Bridegroom.”

In “An Entrepreneur’s Story,” a man reflects on how differently he’s treated after becoming rich. In “Flame,” a married woman receives a letter from a former lover, setting into motion a chain of events that leads to her private humiliation. In “A Bad Joke,” two men get detained for suspicion of spreading slander against Chairman Deng Xiaoping. A professor evaluates the moral character of his former teacher in “An Official Reply.” After four years living abroad in New York City, a woman returns to her hometown in China, in “The Woman from New York.” The final story of The Bridegroom, “After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town,” traces the rise and fall in fortune of an American-style fast food restaurant in Muji City.