Alaysis of Krys Lee's "Drifting House"

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Jaerin Lee

2 May 2013

Alaysis of krys Lee's "Drifting house"

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...
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