Son of the Revolution

by Liang Heng, Judith Shapiro

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

When Liang Heng's mother was accused of being antiparty and forced to become a peasant, his father had to repudiate his mother so that the rest of the family wouldn't be associated with her. He writes:

I began to believe that she really had done something wrong. My father and teachers said so, and my classmates hated me for her supposed crimes. At last I no longer wished to visit her despite my loneliness, and when I saw her at a distance I didn't even call out to her. I cut her out of my life just as I had been told to do, and became solitary and self-reliant.

It cost him a sense of place in his community and contributed to the difficulty that Heng had growing up under the Communist regime. Even though his family cut ties with his mother, they were still persecuted by the government and he grew up in the shadow of her supposed betrayal.

One of the things that threw society into chaos was the desire of the revolutionaries to reinterpret old customs, institute new ones, and change things that had come before. For example, they changed the names of roads, locations, and other items around town. Liang writes:

All this was extremely confusing, especially for the old people, and everybody was always getting off at the wrong bus stop and getting lost. To make matters even worse, the ticket-sellers on the buses were too busy giving instructive readings from the Quotations of Chairman Mao between stops to have much time to help straighten out the mess. Of course, there were some people who never did get used to is, and to this day they live on the ghosts of streets whose names today's young people have never heard of.

This example demonstrates how all-encompassing the changes made by the Communist government were. It helps the reader understand how such a thing could lead to Liang and his family being forced to work as farmers after the government turned against them. The new governing party was intent on changing everything, and anyone who didn't agree with them was ostracized or worse.

Loyalty was extremely important to the Communist government, and they worked to indoctrinate everyone in many different ways. Liang describes seeing that "on each dormitory there was what looked like a festive display, a series of big pictures of Chairman Mao and below them vertical rows of bright red paper hearts." With the cost of even perceived disloyalty being so high, it's no surprise that people were flamboyant. It served to both engender further loyalty and represent their own.

Liang and his sisters have to grow up quickly and find a place for themselves. They are unable to do so effectively, though, because they can't integrate into the Communist party the way successful people without a negative family background could. Liang describes how his sister tried to avoid blaming her parents, saying, "she broke off awkwardly, not wanting to reproach Father for our poverty. It seemed there was nothing to talk about that wasn't painful." The effects of the revolution, government changes, and persecution change the entire course of the Liang family forever.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access