Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution

by Jiang Ji-Li
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In Red Scarf Girl, what did Ji-li conclude was the psychological pressure to which Uncle Fan and others succumbed?

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Ji-li reads an article in the paper that tells of two counterrevolutionaries who were detained.  One "confessed and had a positive attitude" and was pardoned, while the other refused to confess and was imprisoned".  Although she cannot hear the full conversation between Uncle Fan and her parents, Ji-li concludes that this was the psychological pressure to which Uncle Fan and the others succumbed.  Under torture, Uncle Fan most likely confessed to something he did not do, in effect telling his tormentors what they wanted to hear so they would stop beating him.  This mode of psychological pressure is described in the axiom, "Leniency to those who confess, and severity to those who resist" (Chapter 11).

Although Ji-li is pretty sure this is what happened to Uncle Fan, she still does not quite understand.  From what he says, it appears that Uncle Fan must have confessed, but if he did, why was he then not treated with leniency and pardoned?

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