Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution Summary

Jiang Ji-Li


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Faithful to one girl's personal experience, this work narrates personal historical events in the context of one of the more turbulent and destructive periods of modern Chinese history, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. It also works at recapturing the innocence of a young person, one of many thousands, who were persuaded that Chairman Mao wanted to help them personally by helping them to change the culture of China. The public image of the Cultural Revolution concentrated on transforming loyalty to family into loyalty to the good of the community and the nation. Jiang admits that she was devoted to Chairman Mao even after her own family was denounced and humiliated because her grandfather was once a landowner. Her story starts with a description of her happiness to be wearing a "red scarf, emblem of the Young Pioneers" as a successful child of modern Chinese society. But she quickly brings to our attention in a very personal way the costs of such a broad social movement as the Cultural Revolution to each individual, their families, their futures, and the entire stability of a culture. For example, she, like other children of socalled political enemies, was faced with a decision about whether to denounce her actor-father or to find herself vilified along with him. At the time, she was barely thirteen and classmates, teachers, and political officials alike detained and questioned her, trying to persuade her to criticize her father, change her family name, and...

(The entire section is 497 words.)