Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son What's Up With the Ending?

By Adam Johnson

What's Up With the Ending?

What does it mean that the state gets the last word on Impostor Ga/Jun Do's death? Does it matter? After all, we already know the truth and can call the state out as a liar. Is it depressing? After all, the voice blaring from the loudspeaker has once again co-opted the truth, forcing more communist rhetoric on the citizens of North Korea. There's a sense in which the lies put out by North Korean propaganda decimate everything—including a story and a character we've become attached to.

There are also questions about the state's interpretation of Commander Ga's incredibly macho death scene. Is there truth hidden between the lines of this fantastical narrative? We are told to picture Ga "in a perfect light, glowing like an icy mountain flower"—a reference to the blossoming flower seen by torture victims at the pinnacle of their distress (441). This is perhaps the glorified retelling of Ga's death by torture device.

The voice on the loudspeaker also says that Ga has been "handed" from "one Glorious Leader... to the next," essentially meaning that Kim Jong Il has handed him to his father, Kim Il Sung, in heaven. It sounds like a flowery way to say that the Dear Leader had a very direct hand in creating this new martyr-hero.

The irony of the ending is that our hero—who fought to keep his individuality from being taken by the state—is now enshrined in the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery, all set to become a new name choice for another generation of orphans—as well a profitable source of propaganda for the Dear Leader.