Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 1, Pages 75-90

By Adam Johnson

Part 1, Pages 75-90

  • As Jun Do recovers from his tattoo experience, he thinks about his nocturnal rower girl. He finds her signal and learns that she and her partner are in trouble—their guidance system is broken.
  • Jun Do hears the rower girl saying that there is a ship without lights by them; she has shot a flare. The rowers need rescuing, but Jun Do can't do it (since he is actually a spy, not a fisherman).
  • Jun Do hears something like gunfire on the broadcast and runs to see if he can spot the flare. He can't.
  • Jun Do is freaked out about "his" rowers, but he can't do anything for them. Instead, he pours seawater on his aching tattoo to prevent infection, and he sends a silent message to the rowers to hang on.
  • The routine on the Junma kicks in: the crew catches sharks and listens to the radio at night.
  • Jun Do wants to hear from the rowers, but the Captain likes hearing Russian workers on oil rigs singing.
  • Jun Do scans the radio waves and hears someone reading English sonnets, which helps him practice his spoken English. Basically, he's killing time till he can hear from the rowers.
  • The crew starts talking smack about the female rowers. They make all kinds of innuendos based on the women's strength and "obvious" masculinity. Jun Do is not amused.
  • The First Mate cuts up a shark that has shark pups inside it. The Captain kicks them into the water.
  • Despite his disappointment about the rowers, Jun Do feels like part of a team when he's working near the rest of the crew. It's a sense of belonging that is rare for him.
  • As he continues to scan the radio, the Second Mate picks up that his "ghost Americans" have turned up again. This time, the American is playing chess with the Russian—and there's a Japanese accent, too.
  • Jun Do and the Second Mate still think the voices are coming from under the sea, so they unhook the antenna and aim it about, trying to find the source. But they hear nothing from the water. The Captain points to the sky, where there is a light moving through the stars. They fix the antenna on that, and the broadcast comes in strong.
  • These guys have been tuning in to the International Space Station. The Second Mate is in disbelief, since these men—their enemies—are hanging out together, just playing a game.
  • It's not as Jun Do said. The Americans and Russians not conspiring to do harm to North Korea. They don't even care about North Korea. The Second Mate realizes they really are together for peaceful purposes.
  • Jun Do awakes one morning to see the Second Mate floating in the life raft off the side of the Junma, loading it with provisions. He's in the process of defecting.
  • Jun Do tries to tell the Second Mate that bad things happen to people who try to defect and are caught. Also, the guy's wife will be sent to a labor camp.
  • But the Second Mate doesn't really care about her, since she doesn't really want to be his wife, anyway. He also doesn't seem to care about what will happen to the rest of the crew.
  • The Second Mate's encounter with the sounds of the crew on the International Space Station really changed his understanding of the world—and North Korea's place in it. He wants something better now.
  • The crewmembers now have to decide what to do to save their own skins after the Second Mate's defection.
  • They begin to concoct a story that the government will like.
  • After several revisions, they decide to say that the Americans came back for the Second Mate and threw him to the sharks. The crew threw the life raft to him, but the sharks ate it.
  • The Captain adds an important embellishment: one of the crewmembers bravely jumped into the shark-infested sea in an attempt to save the Second Mate.
  • It becomes clear that Jun Do is earmarked to be the brave one who jumped into the shark fight. The Captain tells him it's because he needs to learn a lesson in loyalty.
  • The Captain emphasizes that the crew is Jun Do's family, and he needs to prove his loyalty to them by getting a convincing shark bite on his arm.
  • So the crewmembers catch a shark and let it clamp on to Jun Do's arm.
  • Jun Do knows that the story they've made up is unbelievable—but it's one that the authorities will just love.
  • The crewmembers of the Junma radio in about their unfortunate encounter and are met at the port by, well, everyone.
  • A doctor examines Jun Do's shark bite and gives him a pint of blood, which Jun Do has to hold up by himself.
  • Jun Do gives a short version of the story to a Minister and reporter, but then the scary old man from before appears. It's his turn to "work" with Jun Do.
  • Jun Do and the old man go to an abandoned cannery, where Jun Do tries to figure out exactly who this guy is. He learns that the old man was a soldier and then an "inspector."
  • The old man tells Jun Do that they found the Second Mate that morning. So, basically, he knows that their story is a lie. Jun Do knows he needs to stick to his story, since he has nothing else.
  • The old man tells Jun Do that the Second Mate will never be seen again—but Jun Do sticks to his guns and tells him that he should have respect for his dead, heroic friend.
  • Next comes the interrogation. Between blows, the old man tries to get Jun Do to go back on his story. But Jun Do not only sticks to his story, he also gives it realistic details.
  • In his mind, Jun Do recalls training with his pain mentor, Kimsan, who likened pain to an encounter with the flame of a candle.
  • But the old man still tries to break Jun Do by telling him that he and his fellow crewmembers are going off to the labor camps.
  • Jun Do keeps on with his story, describing what it was like to jump into the ocean and be bitten by a shark.
  • The old man keeps beating Jun Do and telling him that his story is a load of hooey.
  • Jun Do focuses on his pain training and retreats so far into himself that he sees a little boy there, smiling away, with no knowledge of what Jun Do is going through on the outside.
  • Jun Do's gotten so far into his own reality that he actually believes his own story. He begins to cry about not being able to save the Second Mate from the sharks.
  • But Jun Do makes a mistake when recounting the Second Mate's last words: it conflicts with his first assertion that he died praising the Dear Leader.
  • Jun Do admits that the whole thing is a lie. But he's so emotional and convincing that the old man feels he has enough to confirm his story. After all, he's not after truth; he just needs a good story to bring back to his superiors, who need a good story to broadcast over the loudspeakers.
  • Jun Do wants to know what will happen to the Second Mate's wife. He learns that she's not going to Pyongyang as she had hoped—she's going to be assigned a new husband in the sticks.
  • Now Jun Do is a hero: the old man is pleased with his story. Jun Do is stunned, since his story is obviously a lie. The old man tells him that facts don't really exist.
  • Jun Do's mind wanders, and he asks where "they" are—referring to the rowers.