Min enthusiastically goes to the Red Fire Farm in order to prove her willingness as a city girl to do the hard work of the proletariat. (52). While there, she meets a similarly zealous and ambitious woman, Comrade Lu, who continually shows off her knowledge of the Party and her own Party credentials. (60-65).
In contrast to deputy commander Lu, commander Yan is not only a model comrade, but a strong, selfless, and compassionate leader. A tall, handsome, "conqueror"-like woman, Yan never tried to prove her credentials as a party comrade. Min remembers, with affection, how Yan would trek alone to the well and carry back two 80 lb buckets of water on a pole, balancing it on her broad shoulders. (117). Yan's presence was so great that she did not even need to tell the other comrades to get back to work.
In a sense, Min looked at Yan as the embodiment of the Maoist proletariat ideal. Yan was the woman on the party propaganda posters, doing her work love, enthusiasm, and a smile on her face. Mao's Socialist utopia would be populated with Yans. Min's love affair with Yan appears to be motivated not merely by sexual attraction, but personal admiration for her virtues, so rare during the Cultural Revolution.
Min uses Yan to illustrate the betrayal of the virtuous comrade by the party's political opportunists and the effects of such betrayal. Commander Yan is accused of disloyalty by Deputy Commander Lu, who covets her position. (145). Yan is sent to prison and returns a cowed and neutered spirit. She attempts to conform to society's expectations of her and asks Min to arrange a liasion between Yan and a male actor, Leopard Lee.
Yan, the embodiment of courage, selflessness, and willpower, is beaten down by her party's injustices. She no longer possesses the love of life and strength of will that she had when Min first fell in love with her. Yan's request of Min to arrange the heterosexual liason was her attempt to tell Min that they can no longer be together, though she does not have the heart to tell Min directly. When Min skips out on theatre duties for the sake of visiting her, Yan unequivocally expresses her desire for their relationship to end. (287).
Yan's termination of the relationship marks the theme of betrayal than runs throughout Min's memoir. Yan, a model comrade, has to break her passionate, homosexual relationship with Min or risk ostracism from the society that she loves with full ideological zeal. Min, an ambitious model comrade herself, understands this decision on a practical, political level but feels betrayed on a deeper emotional, spiritual level.
The injustices of the Maoist regime are eventually avenged by the Party members who have been wronged by the Red Guards under Mao and his wife, Madame Mao. When Mao dies and the excesses of the Cultural Revolution are publicly recognized, the Maoists are repressed and stripped of their positions in the party. Min, who stayed loyal to the Maoists despite the injustices she suffered, shares in the punishment as well.
In the epilogue, Min describes her life after her dismissal from the studio. She was desperately lonely because she was not allowed to be with her true lover Yan. She also felt abandoned and betrayed by the Party, which continually failed to live up to its ideals. Working as a set clerk at the Shanghai film studio, she was a broken woman, physically and spiritually.
Min's account does not appear to have a political purpose. The Cultural Revolution was already over by the time she started writing so it is unlikely that she wanted her book to encourage some type of action. Rather, it appears to be a self-reflective account of the period from a Maoist zealot herself. Neither does the memoir appear to be self-serving, as Min admits her complicity in the injustices and excesses of the Cultural Revolution. She does not cast herself as a political dissenter to these excesses, but as a heartbroken lover, of Yan as well as the Maoist regime.
Min's memoir appears to be a record of the insanity, fear, and human wickedness that pervaded the Cultural Revolution. During this period bad people found a way to get away with wicked deeds, even gaining society's approval and political advancement from these deeds. More importantly, good people, even those who were strong like Min and Yan, were pressured to…