In “A Temporary Marriage” which is the latest story in chronicle order, author depicted Korean immigrants and their life with Okja as the central figure. She wants to change, but even until the end of the story, Ok-ja cannot truly extricate herself from her previous life, her past. “Mrs. Shin! ” A distant voice tried to reach her, but she was beyond reaching. But even as he reached for Mrs. Shin, my darling, my love, her wounded body continued its ancient song. (23) In this passage, we could found that she delights in inflicted pain and is still called Mrs.
Shin until the end. Throughout the book, almost all of characters are haunted by past memories. And they never seemed to be free from past. There are more clear images that the past haunting the present in the second story “At the Edge of The World”. It explores a theme that the significant past memories are influencing present. Author is describing another broken immigrant family in America, or the imperfectly constructed one, the ‘hero’ the precocious Mark Lee, who lives with his mother and second father. Although the narrator is Mark Lee, this is mainly about his father’s story told in his son’s eyes.
His father, Ra Choe Cheol refuses to forget the past and dwells in it, culminating in his gut by Chanhee’s mother. He thinks of his life as going nowhere, just pretending it is going somewhere, possibly because he is always looking backward, not onward. (34) Mark and Mark’s mother detests this, as the attitude reminds the mother of her memories that she would like to forget/ thinks it impractical and Mark thinks is taking his father away from him. The contrast between father and mother is striking in their different outlook of their past and present lives.
Through Mark, his disillusionment with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, his inability to forget his brother, his doubts of the drive that is the national ideal of America are shown. It is hinted that he feels guilty for what happened to his brother, even though never shown explicitly. What happened to his brother and to himself is revealed in the 6th story “Drifting House”, It is a tragic, dynamic and quite a spooky story about young brothers and sister. The background of “Drifting House” is late 1990s in North Korea, where prevailing starvation, misery because of Dictatorship of Kim Jung-Il.
And it is the only story located in North Korea in this book. The older brother Won Cheol and younger brother Choe Cheol, who is another main character of “At the Edge of The World”, and younger sister Gukhwa tried to escape North Korean border and cross Tumen River, but in the end, only Choe Cheol succeed to escape. Throughout the story the older brother Won Cheol continuously saw Gukhwa’s phantom, which could be interpreted as his guiltiness. The bushes keened with animal sounds. But there was no squirrel, no soldier casting a fatal shadow; it was only their sister.
Her pallid skin. She leaped from rock to rock like a fawn. She smiled and wiggled her tiny fingers at him in the air, … The same Gukhwa, comic even in her revenge. (120) As depicted in this passage, Won Cheol is haunted by his dead sister, his past. And this past and guiltiness is inherited to Choe Cheol, the only survivor. These facts are the reason of Choe Cheol’s character or viewpoint in “At the Edge of The World”. The past is never forgotten and sometimes it is inherited and recurring. I think this is one of the theme or message that Krys Lee had intended to deliver.
Considering that “Drifting House” is the title of this book, and its location is “North Korea”, the other stories’ are “Korea” or “America”, it could be said that “Drifting House” is the key story of this book. In our class, meeting with Krys Lee, she said that when she was writing the book, there was not exact title of this book and after she finished her book, her editor decide the title as “Drifting House”. And according to her interview with the Viking Press, she said “Drifting House’ was written after I became friends with activists and North Korean defectors.
I cried many times, hearing and reading stories about people I knew, before this sadness changed into anger at a regime that destroys its own people. ” These could be a clear evidence of Kyres Lee’s trigger of writing this book is related to North Korea and the story “Drifting House” is the root story of this book. As I mentioned previously, one of the themes, the memory of the past is haunting the present, and 2 or more stories are influencing each other. Author deliberately put these stories apart, put them not a numerical order.
And when readers read this book, we could found the truth or facts about character’s past when these short stories are progressing and it affects readers. There is the another example of this theme is the interrelationship between “The Goose Father” and “A Temporary Marriage”. The Goose Father’s main character is Gilho Pak, who is Detector Pak in “A Temporary Marriage”, is a goose father separated from his family. He attempts to secure a stable social position and he is ambivalent about his sexual orientation. He met Woo Seong and it seemed he did coming out, which is scandal to his family.
In “A Temporary Marriage”, there are some passages about the consequence of this scandal. “She looked for family photos on Dr. Pak’s desk: (…) but there was only a photo of Dr. Pak standing beside a young man with large, despondent eyes. ” Dr. Pak turned the photo over when he saw her looking. ” ( 9) Also in “A Small Sorrow” and “Beautiful Women”, two related stories take Mina Lim as a central figure. In “A Small Sorrow”, Mina is depicted as an independent woman who triggers Eun Kang against her social norm of idealist women or wife.
Mina’s disengaged sense of freedom from what society expects from the ideal woman evokes Eun Kang’s inner self and passion to reinvent herself. “Does he know me? ” Mina said, and laughed. “Why do you let him do this to you? ” (141) And also Eun Kang is attracted to Mina sexually as mentioned in several pages. Her first encounter with one of her husband’s lovers, and she found herself disturbed, titillated, imagining Mina the way Seongwon might (136) She was attracted to the girl’s sexual territory…(137) These characteristic of Mina, the reason of her characteristic is revealed in the last story “Beautiful Women”.
Beautiful Women” is a coming-of-age story, and perhaps a story of children revisiting the mistakes of their parents, told across a background of foreign soldiers. In this story, Mina, although she is still in a transition phase, an incomplete “new woman”, but knows what is wrong, and is determined to fix it. She determined to break away from the dependence on men “Mina longs to hear her mother’s comforting songs: Man in the heavens, woman is the earth… the predictable lull of her mother’s fantasies that neither believes anymore” (205). “Mina swallows; she protects those she loves… she believes she isn’t afraid of anything.
She raises her chin so her smile is more conspicuous” (194). I think throughout this book, while other characters are haunted by past and never be relief, Mina is the only character that tries to make change and succeeded to escape from her past. Another theme I picked is “Violence”. Throughout this book, Krys Lee shows prevailing violence in our life. It might be external violence caused by society or country, or it might be internal violence caused by one’s family or oneself. The title story “Drifting House”, there is no other word for it, brutal.
In setting and topic it presents a world utterly without sentimentality or sympathy. It is described in a way that might be called delicate if it wasn’t in the service of such a brutal plot. No reader will walk away from this story without considering what it says about North Korea at the present time. Also in “The Goose Father” and “The Salaryman”, author depicted violence caused by economical factor, IMF crisis in late 1990s in South Korea. “The Goose Father” is a story of a man of very certain routines whose routines are disrupted in the most fundamental way by the arrival of a boarder and an actual goose into his life.
A Goose Father is a Korean father working in Korea while his wife and children live in an English-speaking country for their children’s education. “The Salaryman” is both a snapshot of the IMF crisis and a reflection on some of the cost of Korea’s economic sense. The story is told in the second person, a narrative remove that works well, makes the story seem even more clinical. This is an example of Krys Lee’s skill in that she takes readers into a story that was in fact quite common at that time, though might difficult to an English-language reader. And I think these kinds of escribing technique makes story cruel and reveals the violence more brutally.
Also Krys Lee delivers the massage that even religion could not be savior of these violence revealed in this book. “The Pastor’s Son” is another story of a shattered family, rebuilt and then broken once more, into even tinier shards. The pastor loses his first wife, marries a second, and returns to Seoul, where it all ends poorly. The images of religion described in “The pastor’s Son” is not a solution nor savior, but another objects that merely drifting by external violence.
The first paragraph of The Believer is another example of Lee’s brilliant prose: God was there, God was everywhere. She saw Him in the penumbra of her father’s doubt and her mother’s anger plummeting out rust red. She saw Him in the vast, ululating dreams of all the people she met, and the nebulae that she sometimes woke ecstatically to, a monster gliding along the sea’s black floor, traveling tirelessly despite the weight of human catastrophe, its prehistoric face the face of all time, the face of God.
The writing is brilliant, an unusual composite of Breece D’J Pancake and early Clive Barker. Unfortunately God is in the details, and most of the details in The Believer are of the horrorshow sort. This story manages to fit two gruesome plot twists, into a relatively short meditation on God, sin, and a vast and empty universe and future. The title story is Drifting House and it is, there is no other word for it, brutal. It would ruined by too much explanation here, but in setting and topic it presents a world utterly without sentimentality or sympathy.
It is described in a way that might be called delicate if it wasn’t in the service of such a brutal plot. No reader will walk away from this story without considering what it says about North Korea at the present time. A Small Sorrow is a story of infidelity, possibly hope, and also contains the only typo I found in the book, when ‘naval’ is substituted for ‘navel. ’ The quotidian nature of this story allows the reader to surface for air before the next story The Believer returns the book to its socially and psychologically dystopian roots.
The final story is Beautiful Women a coming-of-age story, and perhaps a story of children revisiting the mistakes of their parents, told across a background of foreign soldiers. Beautiful Women seems, in some ways to be of a different piece than the other stories in Drifting House, and if these stories are chronologically arranged, may suggest a slightly different focus for Lee in the future. As an unfortunate sidenote, the booksleeve reveals how impoverished the idea of Korean literature is as it compares Krys Lee to another Lee, Chang Rae, who couldn’t be a worse comparison.
The comparison seems made solely on the basis of shared ethnicity, as if there were no other legitimate comparisons to be made. One other cavil is that Lee occasionally throws in Romanized versions of Korean text, words that no English-language reader will be able to understand or look up, since the Hangeul is not present. This is a kind of in-between stance that doesn’t make sense to me. A small cavil, anyway, in the case of this book, brilliantly realized and written, if only to be read in the absence of gas-lines, sharp objects, or rope.