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The Absurd and the Comical in The Piano in a Factory

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Whereas scholarship on Zhang Meng’s acclaimed film The Piano in a Factory is scarce and mainly focuses on working-class identities, the present article contributes to the discussion by investigating the film’s tragicomic style. By taking an existentialist viewpoint about the absurd, it demonstrates that the furloughed workers in fact live in an absurdist existence. Moreover, the changing era rather than character flaws is blamed for the absurdity. Specific images are examined in order to reveal a symbolism having to do with the demise of industrialism and the advent of commercialism. While absurdity is the undercurrent, the characters use humor as a strategy to evade, elude, and cope with life. The third section employs theories of comedy to investigate the comicality of the movie, which derives from exaggeration of negative traits in the characters. The paper argues that by manipulating the scenario at the end, Zhang holds out hope for the working-class’ future. Piano is hence able to transcend the absurdist existence and end up with joy, hope and faith.

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