21st Century Literature discussion

The Vegetarian
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2016 Book Discussions > The Vegetarian - Whole Book Discussion, Spoilers Allowed (July 2016)

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message 1: by Marc (last edited Jun 30, 2016 10:02PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
This thread is for discussing the entire book and spoilers are allowed.

Some starter questions (feel free to start off with your own reactions, insights, or questions):
- What would you say this book is about?
- What role do violence and desire play in this book?
- How did your impression of Yeong-hye change throughout the book?


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
I found the final section very moving and a little disturbing - it definitely changed my perceptions of the rest of the book - towards the end Yeong-hye's renunciations of everything outside her inner world seemed almost reasonable. I don't think I can talk coherently about the meaning yet - being neither a woman nor a vegetarian I am not best placed to empathise...


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Anita | 104 comments I have to admit I have no idea what the meaning of the book was. lol But I couldn't put it down. My first thought was this was a woman dealing with mental illness, which manifests itself differently in different people. (I do not believe vegetarianism is a mental illness.) I found the writing beautiful. I am looking forward to rereading it after this discussion.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
There's a pretty long historical record of women's sanity being questioned if they don't get in line with cultural expectations and/or men's desires. It sounds like both of you felt Yeong-hye seemed less "crazy" in this part of the book--is that fair to say?

I think this is the type of book that doesn't have a clear cut answer to what it means. In a sense, it felt sort of like Yeong-hye kept moving toward becoming a plant. I know, that sounds kind of crazy. But she stops eating meat in the first part, allows herself be be painted with flowers in the second part, and begins standing on her head and feeling like a tree in the third part. It's like a renunciation of the flesh and the violence of animal life.

How would you describe her sister's reaction to all this?


message 5: by Gabby (new)

Gabby | 4 comments Marc great analogy of this book. Found it very thought provoking and u questioned the sisters reaction good question, I think her reaction is pure guilt, if only she had protected her against the abuse she had suffered as a child, and so on, yes tremendous guilt.
I also think that becoming a vegetarian was her way of trying to free herself from the nightmare she was living, sadly without success and this book clearly depicts an entire family's demise relating to mental illness. Excellent book.


message 6: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 62 comments I've finished this now and would say that it is one of the most unsettling books I've read in a long time (ever?) though I can't put my finger on exactly what made it so, or what it all means!

It felt like once Yeong-hye had renounced eating meat, it opened the gates for her to renounce other norms of Korean society and that her behaviour became a total rejection of all restrictions and violence, and that she pictured that happening by becoming as a tree. Her vision seemed actually quite beautiful to me.

I felt very sorry for In-hye. She was clearly carrying a lot of guilt about not doing more to protect her sister from their father, and had moulded that into her having to be the capable one for ever more, relegating her own needs in the process. The scene where the medics were trying to force feed Yeong-hye made me cry and feel sick. Imagine watching that done to one you love.

I would definitely read more from this author/translator. Powerful stuff.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
I think I agree with all of that Viv, and can't think of anything coherent to add


Dianne | 224 comments - What would you say this book is about?

I think this book reflects cultural and gender expectations, the possible contribution of those influences to mental illness, the appropriate roles of adults in society (parental, working, social, etc), and the author depicts a deliberately exaggerated response to the resistance of those expectations and influences.

- What role do violence and desire play in this book?

The violence in this book was especially disturbing because it was portrayed as almost normal. The husband confesses his rape of his wife, and while in passing acknowledges that it is wrong, does not give it or her much thought. It is unclear how much the violence in general is intended to be portrayed as cultural, or whether it just happens to be part of the lifestyle of some of the characters in the book. In any event, it appears that resistance to societal norms is vehemently opposed, and not just in a 'frowned upon' fashion. Yeong-hye perhaps cuts her wrist because violence is the only language in which she can be heard. The desire portrayed in this book is equally disturbing because it is so depraved. In no section is it described as a normal or functional part of a relationship between humans but in each instance seems to be a manifestation of the most dark and criminal impulses of those who harbor it.


- How did your impression of Yeong-hye change throughout the book?

In the first section it is difficult to really capture what Yeong-hye is about, and you just hear the whiny complaining by her husband about her torpid demeanor and bland affect. In the second section you see a bit of life emerge, as if she is a seed and is striving to be nurtured, by the sun, by water, by elements that are primary but yet somehow not sufficient in her daily existence. While she appears increasingly insane throughout the book, it seems to be that she exists as a living objection and counterpoint to the pressures she has been subjected to throughout her life. The discussions of her repeated beatings by her father in her childhood were telling, and lend more weight to how the incident where she was forced to have meat in her mouth and hit in the face by her father ultimately 'broke' her from the world of the human.


message 9: by Caroline (last edited Jul 05, 2016 08:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
I also found this book unsettling and felt very sad by the end of the book. I felt incredibly sad for Yeong-hye, In-hye, and Ji-Woo (especially in those last few pages). I'm not sure if I can make much sense of the book either but found Kang's depictions of mental illness to be incredibly powerful.

According to Wikipedia, Kang came across and was inspired by the following quote from Yi Sang, a South Korean writer, "I believe that humans should be plants." From there, she wanted to write a story about a woman turning into a plant, which would also touch on "questions about human violence and the (im)possibility of innocence."

What really makes this book stand out for me is how Kang didn't choose to depict Yeong-hye as literally transforming into a plant in some surrealist manner, but instead has her go through a trying and painful mental and physical struggle to cast off her human form. Perhaps we must view her from the outside to understand that she is still human because she is no longer capable of understanding that for herself. It seemed as though her husband saw her as an object and social necessity so a plant wouldn't do as a wife. Her brother-in-law was fascinated with humans as plants as well, but for not-so-innocent reasons. And In-hye, who seems to suffer from depression, saw Yeong-hye as both her sister, someone she loves and needs to protect, and as a warning sign for what could happen to her if she lets herself slip too far.

One question I have is why the husband's section is told from the first person while the other two sections are told from the third person perspective. The only reason I can think of right now is that in the first person he is able to refer to her as "my wife" instead of as Yeong-hye, which makes her seem like more of an object than a person.


message 10: by Whitney (last edited Jul 06, 2016 11:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Whitney | 2204 comments Mod
Good find and insight. I think those things you point out are the source of so much of our discomfort. Like everyone else, we only see Yeong-hye mostly from the outside. To anyone not in her head, she is clearly mentally ill, so she is treated as such. And this means continuing to treat her as someone denied her free will and forced to conform to what others demand. Is the abusive father shoving meat in her mouth fundamentally different from the doctors shoving a feeding tube in her nose? They are both imposing their own ideas of proper behavior on Yeong-hye – literally shoving it down her throat.

It’s hard to argue that someone who few would doubt is severely mentally deranged should be allowed to starve herself to death. But our definitions of mental illness have always been tied up in what society considers normal or acceptable. WWII soldiers with what’s now recognized as PTSD were given lobotomies (along with many others). Hysterectomies were once a common treatment for ‘hysterical’ women. The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental illness up until 1974.

You point out that In-hye sees what happened to her sister as a warning sign, but I’m inclined to categorize it more as a realization; one that started when she (In-hye) had her uterine polyp, and that was more completely brought home after she witnessed the horrific force-feeding. In one passage, before she considers how she might easily have been the one vomiting blood, there’s this from In-hye “The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure.” How much of (what we define as) mental illness is people who are simply no longer able to just endure what’s imposed on them?


Robyn | 17 comments I started reading this on Saturday, and Sunday my mother-in-law was hospitalised for a chronic condition that she refuses to really deal with. (While not a mental illness, there is a mental component to it.) I couldn't read the rest of it without the frame of what was happening in my personal life; this made the questions of personal autonomy - at what point do we no longer get to make decisions for ourselves? - in the book incredibly vivid for me, especially in the last section. Yeong-hye no longer wants to eat; does she get to choose death? (My mother-in-law doesn't want to treat her disease, do we let her?) It was really unsettling - I think it would have been no matter what, but in the circumstances...

According to Wikipedia, Kang came across and was inspired by the following quote from Yi Sang, a South Korean writer, "I believe that humans should be plants."

I thought this part was fascinating. A real element of science fiction; what if she really had developed the ability to photosynthesise?

I had more comments but I'm a bit fragmented at the moment. Regardless, I am really glad I read this one.


message 12: by Whitney (last edited Jul 09, 2016 04:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Whitney | 2204 comments Mod
Wow, the book definitely got personal for you. Hope that things work out with your mother-in-law.


Julie (readerjules) | 197 comments Those are some good questions Robyn. They are things that have been on my mind lately too, after reading things like Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End and with being a part of the life of an alcoholic with health issues. Addicts are certainly people who don't always make the best decisions for themselves.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2397 comments Whitney wrote: "The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her [In-hye] by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure.” How much of (what we define as) mental illness is people who are simply no longer able to just endure what’s imposed on them?"

Good question. I think that much mental illness is exactly that - too much to endure. In-hye seemed to have better defense mechanisms than her sister, at least for the childhood abuse. But the burden of caring for her sister and the knowledge of what her husband did seem to have pushed her to the edge and made me thing her defenses were cracking and wondering if the needs of her son and sister could keep her from falling to pieces.


Portia Recently, I heard someone state that she absolutely disagrees with Mother Theresa's famous quote, "I know God would never send me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much." I wish I could remember the source. I think this book, and the personal stories being shared here, all make the point that there is such a thing as too much.


message 16: by Jan (last edited Jul 10, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Jan Notzon | 102 comments A lot of extraordinary insights into this novel, and let me say that I read most of them even before I got my copy (I don't think this is a story that can be "spoiled"). I'm very glad Whitney reminded me of that description of In-hye; it strikes me as very telling. Also, the inference that Yeong-hye is trying to escape the horrendous demands of a history and culture that won't allow her to have a separate identity. A tree strikes me as (of course an escape from those unreasonable demands and abuse) but also something solid, rooted in the earth, alive but rather immutable.
I find it interesting that she will only consent to sex with the brother-in-law if he is also painted with flora: as though she is not having sex but rather being pollinated.
If it's true that this is a treatise on inhumane cultural demands (and abuse affects everyone, even those who are bystanders) then I wonder if the brother-in-law's obsession with Yeong-hye comes from his dependence on In-hye. Pardon the Freud, but this is in what appears to be a rigidly patriarchal society. A plant is passive, after all. Does the brother-in-law take as much advantage of In-hye as he does of Yeong-hye? So that he can be a care-free artist with little responsibility?
Intriguing read and exceptionally stimulating discussion. Thanks to all.


message 17: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
As Robyn and Portia aptly pointed out, humans do seem to have a breaking point. In-hye seems to be the only one who hasn't quite reached that yet, but the way she has held on is to do what's expected of her. To fulfill a role without really questioning it.

When we first started discussing this, I thought it would be a higher priority to know about South Korean culture and expectations (and I'm sure someone living in the country would have a deeper reading of this), but the book does a remarkable job of putting the characters into context for the reader (we may not know how generalizeable the viewpoints are, but there's no mistaking what Yeong-hye's husband thinks or how her family reacts).

How much freedom should individuals have? I guess this is a question every culture continues to struggle with (abortion, suicide, euthanasia, public nudity/affection, pornography, marriage laws, etc.).

Echoing Jan, I very much appreciate everyone's insightful and personal contributions to this discussion.


Portia Being familiar with the culture in which a book is set is certainly clarifies any art. I saw this particularly with this group's discussion of The Sympathizer. We older types who had been around during the Vietnam Nam Era and when "Apocalypse Now" was being filmed had a different perspective from younger readers.

Yet, the universal human experiences cross generations and genders. And, in my experience, family has no ethnic:)


Robyn | 17 comments Whitney wrote: "Wow, the book definitely got personal for you. Hope that things work out with your mother-in-law."

Yeah, it was a really strange intwining of personal circumstances and book. Everything should be as fine as it can be. The well wishes are appreciated.

Julie wrote: "Those are some good questions Robyn. They are things that have been on my mind lately too, after reading things like Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End and with bein..."

Oh, I loved that book - such an important read. I'd assign it to everyone if I could.


Portia So would I!


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Anita | 104 comments " I'd assign it to everyone if I could."

Especially medical school students!!!


message 22: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
Viv pointed out in the Part 2 discussion thread that this book was originally published as three separate "novelettes". In the single volume I believe most of us read, we have these three parts:
* Part 1--The Vegetarian (told in 1st person perspective by Yeong-hye's husband)
* Part 2--Mongolian Mark (told in 2nd person from In-hye's husband's perspective)
* Part 3--Flaming Trees (told in 2nd person from In-hye's perspective)


How did these parts fit together (or not) for you? How would the story have been different were they presented in a different order (e.g., in reverse)?


message 23: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
Robyn, very glad to hear things are as well as one could expect in your circumstance!


Robyn | 17 comments Thank you, Marc! (Y'all are so welcoming - this is a lovely group.)

I feel like for me, it would have been a completely different story read backwards. In the first section, Kang certainly had me empathising with the husband to some degree - seeing the social problems it was going to create for him, etc. It also felt more like a whimsical choice (again, to a degree; it becomes clear fairly quickly that more is going on) than the symptom of madness that it does in the later parts. (This also has something to do with the choice of first person narration, I think.) If I'd read the third novelette first, I don't think I could have approached the first with the same innocence I did, and I would have picked up on the inklings of 'this is not just a simple choice' far more quickly.


message 25: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
There is a clear chronological order to the three parts, and parts two and three refer back to events in part one - I don't think anything is previewed/foreshadowed the other way, though there are a few hints to themes that get expanded on. So maybe the original Korean publication was more like a Victoria serialised novel.


message 26: by Marc (last edited Jul 18, 2016 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
I was just curious as to whether any parts stood out more than others for readers. I do think the chronological order adds to that "innocence" Robyn mentioned--you read not knowing anything and wondering what will happen next. Whereas, a reverse or just mixed order would have you trying to piece together how things got to be the way they were. I remember finding the third part a little slower/less engaging than the other two, but I think this had more to do with the reading time I had for this part (a bit more rushed) than the first two parts. All three parts had very distinct feels to me.

She has a very unique writing style that I had trouble putting into words. Perhaps because it seems to oscillate between wonderful sparseness and poetic richness (thinking of the dream sequences and art "project" for the latter).


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2397 comments I hated what happened to Yeong-hye in the first two parts - how she was used and abused by her husband, father, and brother-in-law. Then the third part helped explain the first two parts and what has brought Yeong-hye to want to escape reality. It was sympathetic to Yeong-hye and allowed her to be seen, in some manner, as a person rather than someone else's tool. Part 2 may by the one I remember the longest because I hated the brother-in-law and what he did to Yeong-hye, his wife, and his son. What a worthless piece of !@#$.


message 28: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 102 comments It's hard to be sure, but I don't ever remember being sympathetic to the husband (perhaps that's only because I read the novel in 2 sittings in 2 days).


message 29: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
But how do you really feel about the In-hye's husband, Linda?!! :p

Do any of the men actually have names in this book? I couldn't quite recall whether the brother-in-law ever gets mentioned by name. Why do you think Kang chose to handle their names this way?


Calzean I assume a number of themes in this book relate to the pressure to conform and behave within South Korean society. When the husband discusses his wife's behaviour with her family, they apologise to him - they have given him damage goods. The men all want gratification and to live their lives the way they wish. The women are permitted to have the role the man allows.
Being vegetarian in Korea is difficult, it is hard to find pure vegetarian dishes in restaurants. So Yeong-hye takes a very difficult choice to follow and one in which is well outside of the main stream.
The book could have been about a person who wanted to be a plant but Kang takes it further and looks at how those who are different are treated, how the vulnerable are preyed and questions what is normality.


message 31: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 62 comments Marc wrote: "
Do any of the men actually have names in this book? I couldn't quite recall whether the brother-in-law ever gets mentioned by nam..."


I think the not mentioning names may be a cultural thing. According to this wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_name) "The usage of names is governed by strict norms in traditional Korean society. It is generally considered rude to address people by their given names in Korean culture. This is particularly the case when dealing with adults or one's elders." I think that may explain the lack of names a little. So, while it seems oddly dehumanising to us in the West, I guess it is not the case here.


Veronique This third part was probably the hardest for me. It was so heart-breaking to see In-hye take responsibility for the whole family and yet so beautiful and sad in her love for her sister. She feels guilt but she is not guilty. What could she have done when she was a kid anyway, and hindsight distorts everything. The force feeding once more was horrible and as many have said, where is the difference with the violation from her parents and husband. I did think she had anorexia (this is not 'real' vegetarianism, which is of course not an illness) but the schizophrenia takes it way further into another universe. The doctor mentions a power struggle with a domineering mother for instance and this could explain how she went against everything that was nurturing, biological, and into the vegetal (vegetative state)... As for In-hye, I guess her sister's experience has open her eyes to her own life and hopefully she can adjust so she doesn't get to her breaking point. I think she is angry that her sister has "shuck off social constraints and left her behind, still a prisoner". It is not easy to finally really see your life.

How much of (what we define as) mental illness is people who are simply no longer able to just endure what’s imposed on them?
Totally agree with you Whitney.

I think this is the type of book that doesn't have a clear cut answer to what it means.
I agree and I guess the book allows for various interpretations, literally and figuratively: the role of women and men in society, the objectification of women, patriarchy, social standardisation, mental illness, obsessive behaviour, primal desires, etc. By not having a clear cut meaning, it disturbs, makes us feel and think...

Robyn - sending you more well wishes. Cannot be easy.


Caecilia Saori Anita wrote: "I have to admit I have no idea what the meaning of the book was. lol "

That sums it up well.
I read this book earlier this year - and it left me, kind of confused. Well, not really confused in the sense of not being able to follow. But it had me wondering if perhaps, it's due to cultural difference that I couldn't really understand the actions of the protagonists.

It was a weird read. That, I remember.


message 34: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
Caecilia wrote: "But it had me wondering if perhaps, it's due to cultural difference that I couldn't really understand the actions of the protagonists. "

When I first read it and the discussion began, I wondered the same thing, Caecilia, but it seems relatively self-contained to me. You can tell by what happens (anger of husband/family, institutionalization) which norms are being broken and the larger issues seem rather universal.

Unsettling is the word I keep coming back to. And it does defy easy interpretation.

As it goes along, many of the characters' behaviors are harder to relate to but their sense of alienation and resistance to control/confinement is more palpable.

Veronique, "vegetative state" certainly takes on a whole new meaning in this novel. I hadn't really thought of how sad the third part was, but Yeong-hye has attempted to exert control over the only thing she has--her body--and is still met with resistance. And loyal In-hye can do little to help.

All this has me thinking of each part as a separate take on oppression/control of women: Part 1 as family/social. Part 2 as cultural/sexual. Part 3 as institutional/state.


Michelle (topaz6) I'd never really thought about the third part and Yeong-hye trying to keep control of her body. It's really interesting and sad how she loses even her autonomy in that respect, and the part where In-hye nearly lost it as well was heartbreaking!


message 36: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
It is heartbreaking, Michelle! By asserting control, has she lost even more of what little she had?

Another couple questions we might discussr:
What significance do dreams play in this novel? What are the repercussions of making decisions based on dreams?


message 37: by Marc (last edited Jul 28, 2016 09:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
Just ran across this LitHub Interview, which answers some questions about her motivations/inspirations for the book. Added a handful of other interview links to the first post in the "no spoilers" thread, too, for those interested.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2397 comments Marc wrote: "Just ran across this LitHub Interview, which answers some questions about her motivations/inspirations for the book. Added a handful of other interview links to the first post in the "no spoilers" ..."

Thanks for the link Marc. I enjoyed learning what the author was doing in Part II, especially.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2397 comments Marc wrote: "
What significance do dreams play in this novel? What are the repercussions of making decisions based on dreams? "


Are the dreams the person's desires? Do you mean the repercussions in the novel or in general? Certainly in the novel, those decisions had some drastic consequences. As to in general, you question reminded me of how when I was real busy at work I would dream about the project. In the morning, I would have to remember to check whether items I had dreamed about had actually been done! If I just believed the dream, I would have been wrong about as often as right and that would have had repercussions.


Veronique Marc wrote: "It is heartbreaking, Michelle! By asserting control, has she lost even more of what little she had?
I guess so. In one way, I wish she could have done what she wanted, but the question is whether she really wanted this or if it is the illness 'speaking'.

Your point on oppression types exemplified in each section works really well too.

What significance do dreams play in this novel? What..."
Dreams seem here to present some deep seated desire or need. I suppose dreams usually help us deal with deep emotions, and our subconcience process these in that 'safe' fashion. To act on dreams I would hazard is more often than not dangerous, especially here.

Off to read th interview


Lesley Moseley | 60 comments I really enjoyed this book, and will look for other books on the Man Booker International long list.
I almost didn't read past the first section, but then 'I got it'..


message 42: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
You read me right, Linda, I was mainly concerned about the repercussions in the novel, but I think that message extends to real life as your examples pointed out.

I was thinking more about your statement, Veronique, about how acting on dreams "is more often than not dangerous" and yet to give up meat hardly seems like a drastic measure. Certainly, contemporary Western culture seems to value choices based on logic vs. dreams/spiritual motivations for the most part.

Lesley, it's always tricky figuring out how long one should give a book if the start is a struggle (or just doesn't grab you). Probably a lot easier of a decision with a short book like this. Looking forward to hearing whether any of the other long list books are worthwhile.


Veronique Oh I didn't mean that to give up meat would be dangerous. No, just that to base decisions on dreams is usually not a safe thing to do. Additionally, here in the book, the decision to renounce meat was the first symptom of a mental illness, which is of course not the case for people who decide to become vegetarian :O)


message 44: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
Your comment just made me think about what things would and would NOT be dangerous to do based on a dream. Do any of the vegetarians in our group get treated like they're crazy because of their dietary decisions? I hope not!

I just did a Google search for "was vegetarianism ever treated as a mental illness?" and it seems I was completely unaware of the links between the two. One of them was a Psychology Today article looking at links between vegetarianism and mental health. It would seem there's a lot more stigma here than I realized!


Veronique The stigma is definitely there for any mental illness, which is very sad. Thankfully opinions are changing little by little, and books like this one allow the subject to come to the fore, and so educate people.

I hadn't realised that vegetarianism had ever been connected to illness but then I guess society is usually against anything different. I do wonder however why the author chose this title since it isn't the representation of real vegetarianism...

As for dreams, they usually are manifestations of your subconscious trying 'to digest' what it going on in your life. They can be very surreal and/or nonsensical, or just metaphorical. Obviously if you dream of killing someone or yourself or go around naked (anything negative), you wouldn't do that, and it doesn't mean you really want to do that anyway - it is just a way for your brain to deal with something. Hence why I don't think one should use that symbolic imagery to make life-changing decisions. However, if those dreams bother you then you may want to try to understand what is going on in your life that creates such dream, and then try to sort it out. This is used in counselling for instance.


message 46: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
The title kind of caught me off-guard, too... Seemed somewhat clickbait-ish.

We never get a view into any of In-hye's dreams, do we? I wonder if the implication is that she doesn't dream or simply that she doesn't act on her dreams.

You draw a very important distinction: discerning between a recurring dream motif being a sign of something that may need to be addressed vs. taking it literally or simply acting on the dream.


message 47: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 102 comments Marc wrote: "Your comment just made me think about what things would and would NOT be dangerous to do based on a dream. Do any of the vegetarians in our group get treated like they're crazy because of their die..."

It wasn't that long ago that homosexuality was considered pathological and in the PDM.


Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 122 comments I know I'm late for the party but only this month I got a chance to read this book which had been on my list since this group read it and what a read.
There are definitely a lot of things I still haven't internalized about the book and about Yeong-hye's condition.
I don't think she was always mentally ill, I think that the lack of control in her life plus the abuse from her father and husband let her to gradually disconnect from reality. I really enjoyed the second part, probably because I am an artist and I once had ideas of painting bodies as a project, and I don't think she was used as she agreed to everything, but nobody was there to defend or understand her in the end. I also found interesting how all of our narrators just vanished after their sections with Yeong-hye, like they didn't want to end up like her but couldn't go on with their current lives anymore.
Anyways, great insights in this thread, I enjoyed reading them all.


message 49: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2825 comments Mod
It's never too late to duck into a discussion, Jessica! It's definitely one of those books that takes a while to "internalize"--there are still parts of it I feel like my subconscious is sorting through. You touch on that wonderful vagueness about the book (the degree, if any at first, of mental illness; what happens to the other narrators; etc.)--it's one of those books that I think raises more questions than it answers, but in a good way. Do you think your experience or perspective as an artist changed any of the other ways you interpreted the book?


Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 122 comments Hmm that's a good question! The art section is definitely the most obvious one as I feel I understand the brother-in-law's desire to have her in his project, but maybe also how an idea or a dream can drive you to make drastic decisions in your life. I have been very influenced y dreams in the past, maybe not to be vegetarian or turn into a plant, but to a point where I don't see the waking world the same way. I think that could be a sensitivity I have for also being an artist.
I also think being a woman helps give me some perspective into this book, thankfully I was never abused by my parents but I can say they could be very strict specially because I was the eldest and a girl, so I can understand how it can be tough to keep validating yourself and meet their expectations.


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