Rhetorical Analysis of Passing Through by Yiyun Li

Communism has sparked plenty of controversy in China. Many citizens are opposed to communism and have protested for a chance at democracy. Like most well-known protests, The Tiananmen Square Massacre is one of the most recognized protests in China’s history. In April of 1 989, students from Beijing University formed a pro-democracy movement. The students led a protest in Tiananmen Square against the Communist government. According to Isabel Hilton, the movement was “the largest and most sustained pro-democracy movement in history. (22) The Chinese government retaliated by sending in tanks to diffuse the protest. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of protestors were killed”. (Junior Scholastic 6) This left a huge impact on the citizens of China. Yiyun Li recalls her life shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in her essay “Passing Through. ” The essay is enhanced by conveying a personal experience, while sharing emotion with the readers, and maintaining an intimate voice throughout the essay. Yiyun Li writes on her experience in the Chinese Military.

Li states, “After the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, the Chinese Ministry of Education began sending future students of Beijing University, a hotbed of pro-democratic rotest, into the military for a year. ” (154) The military provided the students with hours of lecture on the greatness of communism. Even though she may have not agreed with communism and she had been forced to join the military; she knew that attending Beijing University would give her a chance at a life with more freedom in The United States. Li explains a particular experience she had in the military.

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The troops had been traveling for weeks before they made a stop in a tiny village. While stopping in the village Li meets a young girl who pesters her for candy. The young girl collects candy wrappers. She gives the girl a candy wrapper and realizes in that moment even though she is being forced to be in the military she is still on the path for a brighter future, which gives an escape from the communist government. Though Li includes a few descriptive details about the scenery while traveling in the military, this essay is more of a personal experience.

She uses some elements of a descriptive essay by stating, “An old woman was pounding dried peppers in a huge stone mortar. The breeze spread the fine powders, and many of us sneezed;” (154) While reading that sentence the audience can practically smell and feel the burn of the peppers. This does in fact appeal to the reader’s senses, but Li is describing an important memory in her life. This supports the fact that the essay is more of a narrative essay, rather than a descriptive essay. Readers can conclude that Li has a great deal of credibility.

She had been admitted into one of the top high schools in Beijing and was actually attending the well- known college, Beijing University. Li states, “I attended high school in Beijing that admitted only the students with the best scores in the entrance exam. ” (154) When Li included these details in her essay they embraced her credibility as an essayist. The reader was able to gather that she was a very educated individual and in fact knew exactly what she was talking about. The voice of an essay plays a huge role in how the essay appeals to others.

Li keeps a personal touch in her essay by using an intimate and conversational voice throughout her writing. By sharing her personal experience in the essay, she preserves an intimate voice and evokes the emotions of the readers. The audience feels as if they are having a personal conversation with her. One may be able to relate to her experiences and this too strikes up passionate impact on the readers. Li draws the readers in hen she says, “By the time I was 10, I was working at the goal set by my parents to excel in school work so that one day I could go to the United States. (154) In that sentence she appealed to the readers senses, because automatically they picture this young little girl working herself away for a better chance at life. Li used a very humbling tone in her essay this supported her personal style in the essay. Li even goes on to share a humbling experience when she describes this situation, “Even at 18, despite my forced re-education in the army, I knew I was luckier than she was, a passer-by on this mountain and bound for a better estination. “(154). Another element of her style is the type of parallelism in her grammatical structure.

The way she punctuated her sentences made her essay unique and one of a kind. For example Li uses quite a few semicolons to end her sentences. This gives distinctive appeal to her style of essay. By placing her information in chronological order; Li offers one idea at a time. She presents her ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. This is also known as a linear structure. Successfully structuring an essay appeals to the reader’s logic. Yiyun Li is an exceptionally well writer. She has no trouble maintaining her distinctive style and tone.


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