In a Remote Korean Village by Chang Soo Ko – Commentary by Danni Wang
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must learn to fend for themselves. In a Remote Korean Village by Chang Soo Ko reflects the ability of an individual to continue to grow despite the absence of a guiding figure in his or her life. Through an extended metaphor, and the use of peaceful imagery, suitable for a time of self-discovery, the speaker shows how the progression of a tree through the seasons reflects the progression of the speaker through a critical point in his life.
A tree cannot grow new leaves unless the dead leaves are gone first, and in the first stanza as the “gentle gardener” shakes the tree “with a strange passion,” the gardener’s act seems threatening and violent, but in reality, he does this out of strong affection for it. From there on, the tree is left empty, and Chang links this independent growth of a tree to a time in his own life when he felt alone, described in the second stanza as “the lost river of my existence.” He feels “lost” because he has been abandoned, but one has to hit rock bottom before being able to grow from the experience and move on. In the end, the tree “glowed again with golden leaves,” showing the success of the tree to thrive again on its own, just as the gardener intended from the start. Like the tree, the speaker realizes that he is able to move on as well.
Chang’s use of an extended metaphor is carried throughout the entire length of the poem, using the outward changes occurring to the tree to symbolize what he is feeling inwardly, as he goes through this difficult period in his life. At first, with the gardener present, the gingko tree is described to be “like a peacock spreading its feathers,” personifying the tree as being proud in its glorious display. The speaker himself was likely content with himself and his achievements at one point, while still under the guidance of a “gardener,” symbolizing someone who once supported...
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