Seth, a savvy but shy innocent from the American mid-West, discovers the hedonism of Guangzhou when he jumps ship with the Preacher. He becomes entangled with the patriotic Snow Flake and together, they visit her remote ancestral village. But they are followed there by the shadowy figure of Lin Jun who tests Seth’s commitment to the values of his forefathers and his feelings for Snow Flake.
The novel examines what it is to be a Westerner in contemporary China through the character of Seth who, with no appropriate language skills, embarks on an adventure without morals – discarding his religious beliefs, recreating himself as his imagination sees fit and running wild with the Preacher and Snow Flake. At the same time, the novel also asks how the West should best engage China on sensitive internal issues such as the suppression of religious, spiritual, democratic and artistic movements when China grows ever stronger and more influential. This question is presented to Seth when he is totally removed from his own culture and faced with an extreme event that, even in his state of mind, is totally contrary to his own moral framework.
The exegesis discusses Seth’s dilemma from the perspective of cultural relativism - that is when can an individual from one culture declare an event which takes place in another culture to be ‘wrong’?
The exegesis also discusses my own dilemma of writing about a culture that is not my own and concludes that Guangzhou both asks how the West can engage China on sensitive issues and is also my response to this very question.