A Story a Day #5: Pearl S. Buck
February 10th, 2020
"The Old Demon"
Pearl S. Buck
In a Chinese village lives an old woman, her son and his wife. The village is worried about the Japanese coming, but the old woman is not. Soon, they begin dropping bombs from the sky and everyone else in the village runs but the old woman. She stays behind and finds a pilot wounded in a plane. She attempts to help him but he dies before she can. Other Japanese soldiers come upon the village and tell her that they plan to keep going. In an effort to save the villagers that had run already, she pulls the pin on the water gate and lets loose the river.
This story reminded me of other war stories I have read in the past. So many of them are included in American school curriculum whether it be stories from the Civil War, WWI, WWII or others. It reminded me most of Heart of Darkness which is another war story though set in Africa, not China. Truthfully, these kinds of stories have never interested me. I've never been a fan of violence and so reading stories that glorify these kinds of acts don't really resonate with me. That said, I enjoyed reading this story because it focuses on the old woman rather than young soldiers. It is often the civilians' stories that are forgotten or left out of these narratives when they are equally impacted by the destitution of war. This change of perspective made it much more nuanced and interesting to see the internal struggle and denial of people living in the midst of impending destruction.