Decommissioning the Bard: Chloe Gong's These Violent Delights as Anticolonial Edutainment


How can an interracial Romeo and Juliet meaningfully comment on the intersections between identity, race, and power? Chloe Gong’s 2020 Young Adult novel These Violent Delights offers up one potential answer. This adaptation, set in 1920s Shanghai, follows Juliette Cai and Roma Montagav, the heirs to competing Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers. As Juliette and Roma team up to uncover a mysterious malady destroying each gang, Gong crafts a tale that weaves together the intricate relationship between individual identity, systemic power, race, and colonialism. This paper analyzes Gong’s novel to advance two central assertions: first, that the novel serves as a timely reminder of the interrelatedness of colonial power and race, a relationship especially important for young adults who are often underexposed to both the history of colonialism and to theories of racial justice; and second, that the novel significantly foregrounds the conflict and violence inherent in Romeo and Juliet rather than the long-emphasized theme of romance to explore this interrelatedness. These Violent Delights thus provides an important example of how Shakespearean adaptations can counter rather than uphold colonial, neocolonial, and racist ideals. Just as significantly, it also signals the importance of directing attention to YA literature, a genre often considered less meaningful in Shakespeare studies but that in fact reaches young readers at a time that especially shapes their attitudes toward power, inequity, and justice.

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