The novel, Red Scarf Girl, by Ji-li Jiang is a fantastic story about her life during the Cultural Revolution. All of the characters show courage, friendship, and meet challenges of some kind. It is not necessary for the characters to keep their friends close, but they choose to, which in certain situations, it helps them survive the challenges brought forth. Yet, on the contrary, some friendships that the characters maintain are dangerous to withhold. Courage is required to survive for all of them though; courage keeps Ji-li, her parents, and friends from totally losing it.
Many characters throughout the book exhibit courage either to stand up for their self, for other characters, or for what they believe in. Her parents’ employers, Red Guard members, and school faculty about her parents, question Ji-li repeatedly and constantly, trying to extract information about her parents from her. At one point she is called to the Red Guard Committee’s office where one of her dad’s employees, Thin-Face, asks her to reveal, to him and the others in the office, what her father does that show his “landlord and rightist mentality”. No matter what Thin-Face accuses Ji-li’s father of, Ji-li holds strong and tells Thin-Face the truth. She never breaks down or makes something up to get Thin-Face to stop. “But my father never said anything against Chairman Mao,” I protested weakly. “I would tell you if he did.” My voice grew stronger with conviction. “He never said anything against the party.” During the time that Ji-Li is working in the rice fields, she shows courage in wanting to not stop in her job. She cut herself but she knew she couldn’t stop cutting the rice because she didn’t want to give up. “It hurt badly. I clenched my teeth and took up the sickle again, forcing myself to think only of finishing the job.
Friendship plays a major part in the novel. During the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao Zedong brainwashes the younger generations into thinking that class status is very important and that one should not associate yourself with those of bad statuses; this would mean that you would lose friends and even family. Two of Ji-Li’s friends-Chang Hong and Bai-Shan – are examples of how friends stick together no matter what a person’s class status is. One day, Chang Hong tells Ji-Li to meet her in the Red Guard office because she wanted to talk to Ji-Li. “I know you want to take care of your family. But Ji-li, have you considered the importance of your political life?” Chang Hong said, after Ji-li walked in and sat down. Chang Hong wants Ji-li to have a better life and to do what’s best for her in order to become a better revolutionary in the Cultural Revolution. She is worried about Ji-li’s future. Bai-Shan is clearly interested in Ji-li and tries to show her that he cares for her, but Ji-li always refuses his help. “Don’t…don’t cry. I’ll help you. We’ll finish in no time.” When Bai-Shan sees Ji-li still working in the field after the sky’s gone dark, he offers to help her with cutting the rice in the field so she can finish quicker. Ji-li tells him that she doesn’t need his help and yells at him; as a result of this, Bai-Shan leaves her alone in the field. After Ji-li’s family had their house searched and everything bad started happening to them, Ji-li refused help from everyone.
Throughout Red Scarf Girl, challenges are met and dealt with by many of the characters. Yet, no one in the novel faces as many challenges as the Jiang family. “Well do you want to confess then?” Grandma’s voice sounded unusually old. “But I have no idea what they want me to confess.” Mom’s voice said, “How about leaving the Party-” Dad cut her short. “No. I did nothing wrong. How can I confess?” Her dad is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He goes to meetings and at one meeting, the leaders announced that if they have to name someone publicly, then that person will not receive leniency. Her dad knows that he is the person, but he has nothing to confess, so he either has to rat out one of his friends, make something up, or just keep silent. Song Po-po has been with the Jiangs for a long time and has become family, but it soon becomes known that they are a landlord family. “We really hate to let you go. But if the Red Guards found out, they would accuse us of exploiting working people.” Mom’s voice sounded uncomfortable. Her working for them caused the Jiangs to meet a challenge where they had to either fire Song Po-po in order to not be in trouble with the Red Guards or keep Song Po-po and risk being caught.
In Red Scarf Girl, courage is one of the most important things. Along with having friendships, courage allowed the characters of Red Scarf Girl to keep going and face all of the harsh challenges along the way. If one did not have courage, then it was painstakingly hard to continue on. Ming-ming’s father is an example of how courage keeps a person going, even though it is not known for sure whether or not he actually hung himself. The novel never had a chapter that friendship, courage, and meeting challenges were not a part of.
Ji-Li Jiang. Red Scarf Girl.