The changing roles of women in early 20th-century China were influenced deeply by prominent images of "New Women" characters in the popular fiction of the May Fourth Cultural Movement. The Movement, with its aggressive departure from traditional Confucian ideology and its assimilation of Western feminist thinking, provided a context for these New Women characters, who stood in clear contrast to the submissive "ideal" woman. Two representative works that present New Woman protagonists, Lu Xun's "Regret for the Past" and Ding Ling's "Ms. Sophie's Diary," are reexamined in order to answer the question: To what extent does each work depart from a Confucian patriarchal view of women? It is shown that while Lu Xun's work has been judged as more mature and revolutionary in its social criticism, his heroine is essentially a silenced, marginalized object without female consciousness, smothered and enclosed in the phallogocentric text. Ding Ling's "Sophie," which has been viewed as sentimental on the other hand, represents a radical departure not only through the subversive character of Sophie, who constantly eludes categorical definition, but also through the writer's innovative use of diary form, language, and narrative devices of her own.
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