Red Scarf Girl: Characters & Quotes

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

''Red Scarf Girl'' by Ji-li Jiang is a stunning memoir that follows Ji-li Jiang's family as China transforms in 1966 due to the Cultural Revolution. In this lesson, you'll learn about the characters and review a few quotes from the book.

Background

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang tracks young Ji-li Jiang's life starting in 1966 when China's leader Mao Zedong started the Cultural Revolution, which changes the values in China from a capitalist country to a communist country. Ji-li Jiang finds her life completely different after finding out she cannot pass the background check for dance tryouts due to her family's past. In this lesson, we will go over the main characters in Ji-li Jiang's memoir Red Scarf Girl and look at quotes that highlight the main premise of the book.

Main Characters

Ji-li Jiang

Ji-li Jiang is twelve years old at the start of the memoir and is the protagonist of the story. She lives in China at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Ji-li Jiang is incredibly bright and has the perfect life until she must choose between her family and her country. Ultimately, she chooses her family, but it takes quite some time because she struggles with the powerful propaganda presented to her by the government.

During the story, Ji-li Jiang's friends wonder why she would support Mao Zedong after everything that his government did to her family. All she can say is, 'Many friends have asked me why, after all I went through, I did not hate Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution in those years. The answer is simple: We were all brainwashed.'

Being a young girl in a country in which free speech and freedom of the press is nonexistent makes it difficult to form independent opinions. Ji-li Jiang is just a young girl being stretched in too many directions.

Ying-Chen Jiang

Ying-Chen Jiang is Ji-Li Jiang's mother. She is an emotional woman and quite the worrier. Her emotions and worrying aren't distracting though. In fact, her character is incredibly strong and could be considered the backbone of the family.

Xi-Reng Jiang

Xi-Reng Jiang is Ji-Li Jiang's father. He is a multifaceted man: in the public eye, he is courageous and sticks to his political principles, and in private, he is a caring father who teaches his children the importance of family. During the story, Xi-Reng Jiang adherence to his principles gets him into big trouble with Chairman Mao Zedong's regime. He is taken to jail for something that he didn't do and refuses to give into the government's assertion that he committed a crime. This shows the loyalty and stubbornness of his character.

Song Po-po

Song Po-po is the Jiang family's housekeeper. Song Po-po isn't your everyday housekeeper though, as she takes great pride in being with the Jiang family. Even after the Jiang family is forced to let Song Po-po go because it is against the law to have a housekeeper, she remains with the family, cooking and cleaning, simply because that is her way of life.

Grandma Cao

Grandma Cao is Ji-Li's grandma and lives with the Jiang family. She has a bright personality and isn't afraid to speak her mind. Grandma Cao has a childish side to her, as she loves to play games with the kids. Ji-li shows us this caring and loving side of her grandma when she says, 'I remembered coming home from kindergarten and showing Grandma the songs and dances we had learned. Grandma sat before us with her knitting, nodding her head in time to the music. '

Grandma Cao's husband was a landlord, which puts the family in a bad light after Chairman Mao launches the Cultural Revolution. Under the new rules, anybody who is or was once rich is treated worse than other families.

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