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A feminist-narratological study of Pak Wan sô’s short story P’omalûi chip (House of Bubbles).

Posted By admin On May 21, 2013 @ 1:57 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Eunah Kim, lecturer and researcher

Dept. of Oriental Languages

Stockholm University

In the proposed paper I intend to analyze Pak Wan sô’s short story through a feminist-narratological approach.

In the 1970s, Korea underwent remarkable rapid economic growth and modernization during the rule of a repressive authoritarian regime. It was a time of contradictions and confrontations between ideologies – urban vs. rural, modernity vs. tradition. During a relatively short period of time many aspects of the lives of ordinary Koreans changed. But certain values that for Koreans constitute their distinctive identity have been firmly preserved, such as the importance placed on the institution of the family. Just like in Western societies industrialization and urbanization brought about a change in the family structure, with an increase of nuclear families. This in turn facilitated the family wage system and implementation of a gender-based division of labour. Men were solely responsible for supporting their families while women stayed at home and took care of the household and the children. But when it comes to the concept of nuclear family there are differences between a traditional family in Korea and the Western breadwinner model, such as a married woman’s responsibility for her parents-in-laws and the Confucian notion of women’s subordination to their husbands and their families. The Confucian ideal of filial piety did not only serve as a model for relations within the family but also for the hierarchies of social status, patriarchal structures of political authority and for gender-based demarcations of public and private sphere of life. With the decrease of extended families, for a woman, marriage and family was the only safety net and modernization and economic prosperity meant both liberation and oppression at the same time.

Pak Wan sô was one of the most established contemporary female authors in South Korea and she often discussed the downsides of modernization and Western influence, and how the Korean traditional values were being challenged. She also described how socio-cultural changes affect the lives of women, and the patriarchal oppression they have to endure in everyday life.

In one of her short stories, P’omalûi chip (House of Bubbles, 1974) the main character is a middle class housewife who lives with her teenage son and her mother-in-law. It’s been almost three years since her husband went to the US in search of the American dream while the rest of the family is waiting for him to get permanent residency so that they can reunite. Meanwhile, confined to home, the main character tries to safeguard her family and carry out her duties as a devoted wife, mother and daughter-in-law. But her rebellious teenage son who barely speaks to her and a mother-in-law who suffers from dementia makes her feel insufficient. Lacking an identity of her own she struggles with the urge to free herself from the imprisonment by her family. However the only way to resist and break out from her predetermined roles is to turn to escapism, adultery and psychological disorder.

Feminist narratology is a part of the reconceptualization of narratology which occurred in the 1980s, recognizing the connection between social identity of the author/narrator and narrative form. In P’omalûi chip the narrator is homodiegetic and the story is focalized through the female protagonist. The narrator/main character is telling her own story so she has the possibility to analyze and reflect on her experiences. When it comes to women’s roles as authors and narrators the issue of absence is also important. Authority can be given to a particular point of view by repetition and emphasizing a single character’s stance. By focusing on strategies addressing the narrator and by highlighting certain narratological devices, I argue that Pak communicates the narrator’s stance and the story’s ideology through narrative technique.

Article printed from NAJAKS – Nordic Association of Japanese and Korean Studies: http://www.najaks.org

URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=921