Maxine Kingston’s “On Morality” is the story a Taoist monk who wants immortality and Tu Tzu-chun, a man who inadvertently prevents the human race from receiving immortality because he cannot learn to let go of love. The story tells of Tu Tzu-chun who receives money from the Taoist twice and squanders it. When he receives it a third time, Tu Tzu-chun buys land to build a place where he could help widows and orphans. The Taoist tells Tzu-chun that in order for Tzu-chun to repay the monk, he must help in an “important difficult task” (Kingston 606) to create immortality for the human race.
The story is told similarly to a legend or a children’s story with a purpose to convey meaning in an important idea. For “On Morality”, that idea is about human nature and an inability to give up love. In this way, the format of the story is a strength to the overall structure that the author has chosen. The story is also mysterious in that the plot of the story is not given away until the last paragraph, “Now that Tu had broken the silence… no immortality for the human race” (Kingston 607). As well as the moral of the story, discovering that the Taoist was trying to teach Tu to overcome human emotions and desires, “You overcame joy and sorrow, anger, fear, and evil desire, but not love” (Kingston 608) but finding that love is impossible to overcome.
Overall, I would recommend this story to anyone who likes tales with morals or stories that are told as legends. It was interesting and thought provoking to read.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. “On Morality.” Short Fiction: An Anthology, edited by Mark Levene and Rosemary Sullivan, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 606-608.