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This is a story of a man looking upon a beautiful red flower growing on the side of a cliff. Because it is so high above his reach, its beauty is enough to make his "heart shudder with fear." Although it is a magnificent flower, any man trying to reach for it risks possibly losing his life because it is unattainable. Gang was drafted in 1962 fighting to support Mao Zedong's Great Proletarion Cultural Revolution, and this poem was written several years after he participated in the Revolution. The Cultural Revolution was designed by Mao to destroy the culture of pre-Communist China. The Red Guard groups led by Mao and his wife Jiang Qing were the ones responsible for the destruction of anything historically cultural in China. With that in mind, one can see that the crimson bloom represents many things.
First, the color of the flower itself lends itself to several interpretations. Red is the universal color for passion; it can either symbolize love or hate. Red is also the color of blood. Blood is always one of the tragic outcomes of any war, so one can see why the mere sight of the flower makes the narrator "shudder with fear." (3) Also, flower's red color could also be due to the fact that the group that he participated in was called the Red Guard. On line 5, the narrator writes that the azalea has "beauty, always looking on disaster." At one time, Gang supported Mao's communist beliefs, but several years later he questioned why he was a part of something that was so inhuman and devastating to China and its people. The azalea could also represent Gang's feeling at the time of the revolution.
The narrator tells the azalea that it is "not willfully courting danger...[and not] at ease with whatever happens to [it]." This reflects Gang's questioning of the righteousness of the revolution. In the third stanza, Gang asks whether anyone would like to "pick a flower" to give to a loved one as a gift or to keep for his own self. (12) This flower is a symbol of the benefits of communism for each person and his own family. On line 15, the narrator states that there is no clear path to the unreachable azalea. However, if a person were to actually "reach" the azalea, than it "would surely bloom in his heart," stating that the person would definitely reap the benefits of communism, and that the entire country of China would only be gaining from the destruction. Finally, Gang repeats "red azalea on the cliff" for a third time, to remind the reader that it is at a high place that a man would have a hard time reaching. (20) The flower also "reminds" him of his "first love;" he felt that strongly for that cause.
The last line in the poem is significant because he summarizes that "sometimes the past years look just like the azalea on the cliff." (25) The narrator compares the passionate color of the flower and its dangerous location with his own past experiences..
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