The Ironical Aspects in Li Rui's Electing a Thief

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The Ironical Aspects in Li Rui’s Electing A Thief

“Electing a thief”, a short story written by Li Rui, is about a leader in the village who discovers the disappearance of a bag of grain from the storehouse and came up with the idea of “democracy” to get clues on finding the thief. (Li 321) The leader wants all the men from the village to vote for a thief but surprisingly, it turns out that the entire vote is unanimously against him. The head angrily quit his job and all the villagers are very excited about the joke they played on the captain but not for long, their heart suddenly filled with fear. “When they’d had their fill of laughter, some began to worry.” (Li 321) They recognize his significances to the village and now, being at a loss, they decide to go as a group to apologize for their imprudence. There is no doubt that the loss of a helpful leader is the irony of the story but this plot is the facade of the more in-depth irony that the author is trying to convey to the readers. In this paper, there are going to be discussions on the irony of the story and how Li Rui is trying to use this story to demonstrate the ironical aspects of the political system in China. Furthermore, there will be discussions on the symbolic and allegorical meaning of the story. These discussions will be further expanded to illustrate how the author uses his story to link to his view on democracy.

While this story seems straightforward, the irony happened in the middle of the story is rather shallow and fairly superficial. It begins after the villagers pissed off the head of the production team as they have collectively vote that he is the thief who stole the bag of grains. The team head got really angry about it and decides to leave the villagers and not to care a thing about them anymore. It is quite obvious that the villagers dislike the team head and they probably just want to teach him a lesson at first. Moreover, they also want to show him their feeling of suppress, but then, they realize his existence is necessary to the village since he is the one who supplicate for the relief of their loans and grain. “Who’ll we pick? You? Will you be able to bring us back relief loans and relief grain at the end of the year?” ( Li 323) The passage shows how ironic it is that the person they dislike is also the person they need. In exchange for the slight moment they enjoyed from fooling the head man, they are now stuck with a series of problems to face. “If he really quit, then from now on there’ll be no one to call us to work and assign tasks. If we mess up, the wheat harvest really will be delayed, a man can’t walk without a head, and a bird won’t fly without a leader.” (Li 323) Without the leader, they won’t be able to go to work, which means they somehow loose their main source of income. They can’t afford to be jobless because they survive with the very little amount they earn. In the end, after realizing his importance to the village and since no one come up with any other solution, they decide go together as a group to plead for his return.

Another example of a superficial irony takes place in the middle of the story when the election is going on but women are not allowed to vote. “There was no suffrage for women, so they clasped their babies in their arms and squeezed into a corner to watch for the excitement.” ( Li 322) Women in the old days do not hold any power or rights to speak for themselves and yet, this is still one of the major problems in the rural area of China, especially in the farmland villages. Ironically in the story, the women are the ones who end up to be put in front of the group and take the lead for the apology to the team leader. “Women in front- they’re good with words- their small talk and making-up will keep anyone from losing face.”, “Right, women go first.” (Li 324) This passage exemplifies how ironic it is that the women who didn’t get their rights to vote are the ones who end up helping the mess...
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