Middle Age was published in 1980, four years after the end of the Cultural Revolution. Back then, intellectuals, who had suffered persecution and deprivation during the Cultural Revolution, still failed to gain due appreciation and respect by society at large for their contributions. Chen Rong created the character of Lu Wenting representative of the intellectuals in their middle age. In her letter to the readers, she wrote: “like their predecessors, they are a great generation in that they contribute so much more than they ever receive. They and their families live a hard life and make so many sacrifices, which, unfortunately, goes largely unappreciated by society.” Lu Wenting, like a saint, dedicates her life to work and family and finally falls seriously sick under the combined burden. By describing her hard life, the author raises awareness of the following twin issues: first, how the middle-aged intellectuals, arguably the pillars of the society, should receive a fairer treatment, and second, why contemporary Chinese female intellectuals are on the verge of physical collapse under the combined burden of work and family.
Middle Age also features unique narrative structure: it combines traditional plot-driven structure and stream-of-consciousness techniques, thereby breaking through the time-space constraints of traditional structures and delving deeper into the psychology of the characters.