Coming Home Again Commentary

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Critical Essay
The Introduction
In the personal story “Coming Home Again” by Chang-Rae Lee, the author describes his link with his mother via cooking and food. Lee cares for and respects his mother. Yet the author doesn’t always see eye to eye with his mother. Lee's mother intends the best for him and sends to a New Hampshire boarding school. Sadly, there is a small tear (or distance) in their relationship because of his stay away, a tear that is never fully mended.

Content and Purpose
The author successfully expresses his connection and awareness of this connection using first person point-of-view, food as symbolism, and vivid imagery of the food preparation process. Near the end of the essay, he ponders whether success in America is worth the connection he loses with his mother and his own culture. This was a sentiment his mother also held --“I made a big mistake... I should never let you go there...I didn’t know I was going to die.” It is via Korean food and the making of "Kalbi" that the author feels most connected to his mother and to his culture.

Imagery, Symbolism and Diction
The author uses symbolism in the essay to express key aspects of the mother-son relationship. The process of making "Kalbi" is comprised of tactile words that conjure a feeling of emotional tension and friction -- "she thrust her hands in and kneaded the flesh". Words such as "barest opaque layer of tendon" expresses how tenuous his relationship with his mother could be. Yet the author expresses his deep need for family and for his mother as “the meat needs the bone nearby to borrow its rich. The use of imagery also effectively paints a powerful picture of his culture. "I opened a container of radish kimchi and suddenly the room bloomed with its odor, and I reveled in the very peculiar sensation of simultaneously drooling and gagging" . The paradoxical juxtaposition of the diction “drooling and gagging” not only is an effective olfactory expression but also reflects the...
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