Identity (and Acceptance): Red Scarf Girl

Who are you? What are you? Are you worthy? These questions all have something in similar, and that’s the topic of identity. Identity is one of the few things in life that can either help or destroy you. Without an identity, you’re just a human being with no name, history, family, beliefs, and you have no social status, but no matter how vital identity is, we still struggle to define ourselves and how to call yourself, yourself. In this blog post, we are reading and analysing the book Red Scarf Girl and explaining one of the most prominent themes in the book, identity.

Ji-Li Jiang was an ordinary girl in China besides the fact that she was one of the “rich kids.” (pg 50), she was an ordinary girl who knew she had some advantages but still identified as a 12-year old Chinese student, who followed the same things her peers did, the Chinese Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This [The ordinary girl] is who she identified as, but as the Revolution continued to grow and affect most people, she was quite shocked when she found out that her family just happened to be one of the families that had opposed to what she believed. That was her identity, and she wasn’t an ordinary school girl anymore. One example in the book that highlights the point that her family had opposed to what Jiang had believed in herself was when the revolutionary slogan “Destroy the Four Olds!” (pg 27) had brought itself back to Jiang’s house because Jiang had identified as a Revolutionary and believed in Mao and his regulations, so when she returned and brought the topic home, there was more disagreement than harmony in the household. “But Grandma, we have to get rid of those old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Chairman Mao said they’re holding us back,” (pg 25) this is what Jiang says to her grandmother after her grandmother shames the works of the Revolution and sympathises with the obstruction of a shop banner, which happened to be a supporter of the Four Olds. The sympathy her grandma displayed profoundly impacts Jiang and her ways of thinking as she isn’t used to such disagreement, and we see that her identity doesn’t exactly match her social status’s identity. Because Ji-Li’s family didn’t exactly approve of the Revolution, but Jiang herself has surrounded herself with people who do believe in the Revolution, so there is an apparent conflict with these two identities that she has to maintain. But when the two identities clash into each other, she has trouble defending both at the same time, and they very much do not link up so well leaving her stunned most times. We see this relationship at war when Ji-li runs for class president, as she didn’t know anything about her old Landlord grandfather, but when he is brought up in the confrontation of class status, everyone including Ji-Li is informed about her social status; being on the Government’s Blacklist. “I was numb. Landlord! One of the bloodsuckers who exploited the farmers! The number-one enemies, the worst of the ‘Five Black Categories,’ even worse than criminals or counterrevolutionaries! My grandfather? And Dad, a rightist?” (pg 58) She uses extreme language to point out her disbelief and confusion because now she doesn’t know who she is anymore; she doesn’t know how to identify herself. And she finds it very difficult to break away from any of the two because she’s emotionally tied to one side, the communism side while she’s still biologically and emotionally tied to her “rightist” side, other known as her family. What does she do?

Throughout the book, Jiang Ji-Li came across an incredibly biased alternative, either she breaks away from her family and adopts a new name, lifestyle and social status. Or she continues being who she is, the daughter of a “Rightist” and the granddaughter of a Landlord with the added weight of receiving hardly any allowance to accommodate her mom, younger sister, younger brother, grandmother and herself. But at this stage of the book and her life, she finally understands and acknowledges who she is and what her identity is. This acknowledgement left us with the lasting impression that identity covers a lot of areas in our lives, and that without a character you’re not a person meaning that everyone has an identity they have to keep up with and maintain throughout their lives. But they should always know who they are and how heavy it’s going to be on their backs. Therefore, not only should you know who you are but you should also accept who and what you are no matter what.

Here are some websites, to help and assist you with finding out who you are: