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While reading Can Xue’s “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” I felt the connection between the child and the snakes was similar to the struggle many parents have over allowing their child to grow older. Sha-yuan told his parents he was able to appear to be near his parents when in reality he was else where, similar to the make-believe worlds children create.

Hadn’t we watched him with care? “I was not always with you, don’t be fooled by superficial appearances,” he said in his usual casual tone.

At first I had expected his parents to be over-bearing-helicopter-like parents, given their constant eye they had over Sha-yuan they had told the narrator. If this had been the case, Sha-yuan would not have been able to sneak the snakes back to his home. The snakes he brought back with him and hid is said to have caused health problems in his parents due to the stress and discomfort of the serpents in their home. This could be symbolic of their growing older, not necessarily a direct result of being around the snakes.

One day I saw Sha-yuan’s mother coming out of the air-raid shelter with a hoe in her hand. She looked wan and sallow… She was almost bald, and she walked like an aged woman. Behind her appeared Sha-yuan’s father, an old man who couldn’t stop blinking one eye.

Later on the parents stop watching him as closely because they believe he has stopped bringing home the snakes as the findings had become less frequent. One afternoon they had left the gate to their yard unlocked by mistake, which is when their child disappears. I interpreted the gate as being Sha-yuan’s passage to adulthood, which is why they cannot find the child. The passage of time Sha-yuan, parallel to his parents, had caused him to become unrecognizable, they could no longer see the snake capturing child because he had become the adult with the snakes inside him, he kept his child-like curiosity to himself now.

The narrator I had found peculiar throughout the story due to the way he would talk about the family, as opposed to being directed to the family in some cases. The story ends with the family and the narrator questioning where the child went makes me believe that perhaps the narrator is an officer or detective of some kind, or perhaps Sha-yuan had moved away, no longer talking to his parents.


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