Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 4

Nathan Murphy

Megan Eddy
English 102-25
16 March, 2015
Title Placeholder Until I Can Think of A Better Title
Yiyun Li has employed various writing techniques to depict images of what China
may have been like during the cultural revolution in her book, "A Thousand Years of
Good Prayers". Using imagination and stories passed down to her, she has crafted several
stories all with relation to China and it's dark history. However, the themes within the
story convey a much deeper and personal message about the characters, as well as the
environment they are in. In Li's story, Immortality she explores the meaning of identity
and self worth. In the beginning, the narrator tells of a young boy who has the face of the
country's dictator. When the real dictator died, he became the dictator's impersonator,
assuming his identity and his worth among the people of China. However, as the cultural
revolution began, Love for the dictator quickly faded. Eventually, the Chinse government
ursurped the title of the impsersonator from him, and he was sent back to his village with
great shame (Immortality). Li uses the thoughts, emotions, and actions of the characters
in her story to portray particular themes. Of these themes, identity and the search for love
stand out as the most prominent in Immortality.
In the very beginning of the story, Li introduces the reader to the Great Papas and
the Chinese tradition of supplying eunichs to their emporer. Before serving as the

emporer's slave, the eunich must first surrender his maleness. Perhaps ironically, this was
seen to be as a great honor and opportunity for the young boys. To the people of a small
village, Li writes that the Great Papas, "filled our hearts with pride and gratitude" (46).
They provided the town with glory and gave it a sort of recognition. From the services
they provided, they created a centralized identity for the small town. Li confirms this, "If
not for [the Great Papas], who were we, the small people born into this no-name town?"
(46). Along with bestow a special identity, these eunichs meant to immortalize their
family names through honor. However, the narrator never mentions any family names
involved with the Great Papa stories. This is a subtle suggestion foreshadowing that the
attempt to immortalize anything is futile.
A decade after the fall of the emporer, communism arose. A boy is born under the
song of communism in China with the dictators face, a thing the public feared and
praised. The dictator was described as cruel, sentencing younch children to labour camps
for the incorrect spelling of his name. However, people were also led to follow his rule.
Li describes him as, "Our Father, Our Savior...[and] the Never Falling Sun of Our Era"
(48). As the boy matured, his face became closer to that of the dictator. Finally, the
dictator died and the government wanted to install someone into power that resembled
him. The boy, now a man, went on to audition to be the "impersonator". Succeeding in
obtaining the position, the man assumed the mantle as one of the most powerful positions
in China. He reignites the people's hope and, "nostalgic tears fill everyone's eyes" (59).
The people look up to him as if he were the dictator himself, and in a way, he has truly
become him. His identity has changed and now reflects that of the dictator, but he
enforced these changes upon himself. Seeking the same immortal glory and recognition

as the former dictator, the young man soon falls to his own faults.
The plot outcome of this story was especially important because it proves that
identity should not be found, but defined by oneself. The man in the story, who's name
the reader has never been told, had rose to great power, yet could not find happiness.
Although assuming position of the greatest person in the country, he was unhappy
because he was not truly himself. Furthermore, that lack of love played a significant role
in his downfall. The author writes, "Now that none of the daughters are available
anymore, he starts to fantasize about the women he should have had long ago" (62). The
people of China sought to immortalize the image of the dictator by hiring impersonators
in his place; but, time is inevitable and not even names of people live on forever.
Yiyun Li could have picked any setting to choose to write her stories in; however,
China puts great emphasis on the themes she intended for the reader to understand. For
most of her stories, the time period is at or before the cultural revolution in China. People
lived under Mao's reign and suffered deciet and famines. Her themes seem to contrast
that of her setting, like the theme of identity in a communism village. Her characters
define the theme mainly through their actions. In an interview with Yiyun Li, she says,
"To me, fiction is comprised of 'situations...' " (Reale). Yiyun prefers to develop the
stories through emotion, actions and events rather than dialouge. Furthermore, ones own
definition of love varies by each character and helps define their true identity. This idea
coincides nicely with the fact that the man in "Immortality" didn't have an identity and
therefore did not experience love.

Works Cited
Li, Yiyun. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.
Reale, Michelle. "Yiyun Li." Writer (Kalmbach Publishing Co.) 120.9 (2007): 58.
Literary

Reference Center. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.