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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.2, 255 ~ 275, 2019
Title
The Traumatized Protagonist and Cross-cultural Contexts in Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker
Geumhee Park
abstract
The purpose of this study is to explore the ways in which socio-econo-political ideologies of both native and adoptive countries are traumatizing immigrants and how immigrants’ trauma is shared between generations. This has been done by examining such traumatic experiences represented in Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, which features the melancholic and self-isolated protagonist Henry Park, by using Michelle Balaev’s theory of trauma as a disease that can be transmitted to others through narratives. The result of the analysis is that Henry’s father’s authoritativeness and economic-success-obsession, influenced by Korean Confucian careerism, are important factors causing Henry’s melancholy and self-isolation. Also, a diasporic life as a model minority in the United States is another predominant socio-political factor burdening Korean Americans and causing them to live a melancholic life, as observed in the career of John Kwang, who experiences a disaster after his prideful regression to a Confucian androcentric lifestyle and by being blind to the “big picture” of America despite his econo-political success. As revealed in the novel, Korean Americans’ focus on Confucian careerism and designation as a model minority are responsible for their familial and national trauma. This coss-cultural trauma eventually makes the successful acculturation of Korean Americans more difficult, aggravating their maladjustment. These findings may provide all immigrants, especially Korean Americans, with new momentum to identify the problems of econo-socio-political ideologies in both countries, and therefore escape the influence of such ideologies and enjoy a free and independent diasporic life.
Key Words
Native Speaker, Trauma infection, Michelle Balaev, Confucian careerism, Model minority
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