Focusing on the dynamics of the relationship between groups and individuals within these groups or communities, the article outlines several possible types of attitudes and modes of treatment of individuals within the group. Using two short stories by Yiyun Li and Donald Barthelme's “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby,” a range of relationships between the individual and his fellow members of the group or community are analyzed. In Barthelme's story, Colby is evicted from the group and lynched, though within a discourse of seeming consensus and in accordance with procedural rules obtaining within the group. In Yiyun Li's “Persimmons” and “Immortality,” both we-narratives proper, the communities' behavior toward the individual (Lao Da and “our young man” respectively) has to be evaluated in relation to the political situation which largely but not entirely determines the relevant attitudes and actions. In “Persimmons,” political pressure forces the village community to give up their support of Lao Da, but in the end results in a heroization of his doomed revenge on the legal system that gave him no justice. In “Immortality,” the attitudes toward the protagonist are much more ambivalent and the peripheral first-person plural narrators are exposed as unreliable sycophants to the changing political situation. Although the community is shown to be in disagreement with Communism and its policies, it opportunistically toes the line, whereas the young man is a person who serves as a stranger within their midst from the start, even though a stranger who becomes accepted and even admired during some of his career. The article thus points up the ideological functions of we-narrative in the chosen texts and discusses the affordances of this form for a critique of group behavior.

You do not currently have access to this content.