by Ji-Li Jiang
Chapters 1 & 2
What were the “Four Olds”? Why did Chairman Mao want the Four Olds to be destroyed?
So far, from what has been said in the book, one can understand that the Four Olds are stated as a belief of; Old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits and they must be eliminated from China. This is because Chairman Mao, a man who seems to be looked up to and respected by many, including the main character, believes that it's what's setting them back and halting their progress. It is believed that once they are liberated from of all the "old ways" such as; using face cream, having long hair, having a housekeeper, using old Chinese words, respecting teachers, having a store with a name that demands progress or wealth, being superstitious, dressing with the old fashion, etc, they will be able to become a thriving socialist country.
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What can be seen of the society Ji-li lives in?
There are many things in the Ji-li's society that are in the process of changing. They are trying to eliminate all the old ideas from people's lifestyles and in the process they are crossing the line of respect. For example, when there was a man wearing pointy shoes and what was considered "old-styled" pants, this group of teenagers that were something like a patrol humiliated him in front of many others. Not only did they ruin his pants and shoes by cutting them, they had no respect towards their elders.
Another example would be when Ji-li and her friend, An Yi are arguing with two of their classmates, Du Hai and Yang Fan, about the fourolds. Du Hai calls them "teachers' obedient little lambs," just for greeting their teachers in order to be respectful. This shows that the society has lost the sense of what it really means to live in a community.
What are some themes explored in the first chapters?
Conforming/ Non-conforming: Toward the middle of chapter 2, Ji-li arrives home after having witnessed how her society is changing. She's very excited to tell her family about how people had destroyed a sign with the name of the store that was considered a fourold, and how she already felt like she was breathing new air. She is shocked by her grandmother's and parents' reacting. They don't seem to be wanting to conform to the idea of change because they show no interest in helping the protest move forward like it was said they did before. Unlike Ji-li, they are complete unamused and show disapproval of the destruction of the signs.
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This quote is meant to express what Ji-li is supposed to do,
it's not always bright, sometimes it has to be dark first,
in order for it to be bright.