Study Guide

Q-Kee in The Orphan Master's Son

By Adam Johnson

Q-Kee

First Girl

It doesn't escape us that Q-Kee's cutesy, wickedly unprofessional name is a near phonetic match for the English word "kooky." While it's tempting to file this character under the "psychopath" tab, it's worthwhile to take a closer look at the first and only female member of Division 42's interrogation squad.

In addition to her unusual zeal for torture equipment and her enjoyment of gore, Q-Kee has an interesting backstory. She tells the Interrogator and Jujack about her connection to Sun Moon and how Sun Moon's movies helped her to take control of her destiny, despite her father's wishes. In the movie Glory of Glories, Sun Moon's character is beheaded for challenging authority. But Q-Kee takes something else away from it:

"All around Sun Moon were powerful men, yet she was without fear. I registered that. I saw the strength with which she accepted her fate. I saw how she changed the terms of men into her own. That I am here right now, in Division 42, I owe to her." (358)

We might debate whether this is a good thing or not, but we do admit that it's one inspirational story. Though Q-Kee's independent spirit is channeled into a brutal mold created by the state, she sees herself as a pioneer, a first woman in the fight toward equality and self-determination.

It's too bad that Q-Kee's acceptance by Sarge and the rest of the Pubyok hinges on her ability to act as brutally as her male counterparts—if not more so. In fact, Q-Kee is only accepted by Sarge after she slaughters her young colleague, Jujack. Her reward for such a contribution to society is fitting, then. Like the Interrogator and the other nameless faces at Division 42, Q-Kee has traded her identity for a role in the machine of state:

"You're one of us now," [Sarge] said. "You're an intern no more. You no longer have use for a name," he added as he pulled hard on her fingers, snapping the cracked bones straight for a proper heal. (364)

It's her utter lack of conscience and her ability to revive an institution that really should have died that we'll remember Q-Kee for—not her feminism, which is questionable at best.