"Son of the Revolution"
Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro's "Son of the Revolution" is a comprehensive story of Liang Heng's life on growing up during the chaotic times of the Chinese revolution. The purpose of this novel was to depict the horrors and hardships of life during the revolution period in china during Mao Zedong's reign. In the beginning of the book, the author portrays that news and ideologies always stated that the government was working for the good of the people of the country. However, as the book unfolds the author reveals that the government is actually exploiting the people through misuse of people's trust. The book also provides insights into the Chinese life during the period of 1954-1978. This 24 year period saw major political movement and aspects of Mao Zedong's thoughts and its influence on people. The personal effects of these historical movements coincide directly with the Liang family providing stirring details through the eyes of a person that went through the actual horrific events. This essay will focus on some historical central issues of the book from the period when the first campaign against rightist occurred in 1957 to the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" in 1966. The role of family, influence of relationships in marriage and divorce, the power of Mao Thought, and the major political reforms that took place in the period depicted in the novel will be discussed.
The lack of structure in Liang Heng's family was apparent throughout the story. Political turmoil, loyalty to parties, the reforms, and escapism from political turmoil tore the family apart. During the time of the "Hundred Flowers Campaign", in 1957, Mao Zedong and his party urged intellectuals to speak out and criticize the party's drawbacks. Liang Heng's mother was one of the people involved in criticizing the party and criticized her bosses for elitism and abuse of power. Eventually, the campaign turned into an "Anti-Rightist Movement" and Heng's mother was called a counter-revolutionary and branded a rightist and was sent to the countryside, being able to return home only once a month to see her children. The custom in china in such events was that the whole family would be considered guilty, even if just one person in the family committed a crime. Once branded [a rightist], the family would not be able to join any form of parties and when children come of age to go to school files would be open against them just because one member of the family was a rightist or committed some sort of other crimes. Going to college, finding a decent job, or husband and wives were other issues that would be difficult to overcome. Because of his mothers' involvement as a rightist, the Liang family endured endless criticism and was detested on the social level as well as the political level. As a rightist, there were various strategies that one could follow in order to "save" themselves. The first one is trying to prove to the political officials that they had been reformed. One way of gaining the officials trust or showing that they had been reformed was to report on others, so friendship was an impossible thing as everyone was watching everyone closely for a chance to catch someone making a blunder and quickly report to the officials to gain their trust. Another strategy to get out of being labeled a rightist was to write constant "Thought Reports" about oneself and confess their crimes regretfully, which Liang Heng's mother did. The third strategy to freedom was hard work. For three long years, Liang Heng's mother carried pounds of rocks on her back and at the end of three long years when she could carry more than 100 pounds of rock on her back, she was told that she was no longer a rightist any more and could go home. Even then, Heng's father raised the question of divorce and decided that they were all doomed to scorns for the rest of their lives unless he broke off with his wife completely.
Political and social status issues...
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