How did Ji-li's beliefs motivate her choices in Red Scarf Girl?   

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Red Scarf Girl, Ji-li Jiang writes about her experiences growing up during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s China, a time when Mao, China's leader, wanted to recommit the country to revolutionary principles. Ji-li makes several choices. First, she decides not to denounce her teachers, though many other students are doing so. She writes in the chapter entitled "Writing Da-Zi-Bao," "The more I read, the more puzzled I became. Did the teachers really intend to ruin our health and corrupt our minds? If so, why hadn’t I ever noticed?" While she wants to be a good revolutionary, as Mao and her community want her to be, she considers her teachers from a personal angle and cannot find anything lacking in them. Her personal connection to her teachers and her honesty cause her not to denounce her teachers. 

At the end of the novel, she is asked to denounce her father, who has been accused of engaging in "counter-revolutionary" activities, such as listening to foreign broadcasts on the radio. However, Ji-li refuses to denounce her father to the Communist authorities. While she is being questioned by the authorities in the chapter entitled "The Class Education Exhibition," she thinks to herself, "I saw Dad standing on a stage, his head bowed, his name written in large black letters, and then crossed out in red ink, on a sign hanging from his neck. I saw myself standing in the middle of the stage, facing thousands of people, condemning Dad for his crimes...I saw Dad looking at me hopelessly, tears on his face." Ji-li cannot denounce her father because she loves him. She has also seen her family suffer because her grandfather was a landlord, so they are considered capitalists. She has seen the dark side of the Cultural Revolution and decides she can't perpetuate its evils.

Although she at first wants to do well and have a bright future and is willing to be part of the Red Successors in order to succeed, her family's experiences teach her that Mao's practices are corrupt. She sees her father suffering, though he is innocent, and she knows that her loyalty lies with her family rather than with Mao's movement. 

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