This section of chapters was focused on Ji-Li's school and social life, as well as the impacts of the cultural revolution in her family. In this set of chapters, Ji-Li's school life starts picking up, but hits a few barriers placed by the revolution and a lack of good teaching material. In addition, Jiang Ji-Li's family was unfortunately and suddenly hit very close to home when her father was imprisoned by his theater group for not confessing to something he did not do.
|Illustration of chalk board with English phrases as described on page 161|
Image of Chalkboard Source
I chose to create an image focusing on Ji-Li's experience at school, because the events behind what her class is learning, versus what they should be learning, paints a different picture of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Historically speaking, as the Cultural Revolution progressed, the violence got more and more intense until it reached a level of near anarchy in China. Despite the bloodshed, many followers of Mao Ze-Dong turned their heads away, or saw the killing as a necessary measure to create a strong communist nation. Even teachers at schools preferred to ignore what was going on and imagine that war would never happen. In fact, if Ji-Li was not from a "black family", much of the violence described in the novel would not be there in the first place.
I believe that Teacher Zhang is one of those people who do not see or choose to ignore the violence in front of their faces. Apparently, all that Teacher Zhang does, is follow orders given to him by the Red Guards and the Communist Party. These orders are carried out just as they are received, with a head bowed and an eye turned blindly away from the truth. However, as page 161 showed, there are times when even Teacher Zhang has to face reality and prepare for the worse. To quote the novel, "In the first class Teacher Zhang had told us that in order to integrate all aspects of our study with the revolution and to prepare for war, we would learn military and political terms first." Clearly, this is a prime example of how even the "blindest" followers were realizing what was happening. According to history, schools in China were closed for most of the revolution, but learning and teaching were destroyed by Mao Ze-Dong way before. For example, learning English grammar was substituted by memorizing scattered and useless phrases. Textbooks were replaced by mimeograph handouts. Even science classes were thrown out the window and substituted by "Fundamentals of Industry and Agriculture" classes. To me, this section of chapters not only showed the physical pain inflicted on Chinese citizens, but the unfortunate intellectual destruction that took place.