Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 2, Pages 209-232

By Adam Johnson

Part 2, Pages 209-232

  • It's back to Commander Ga's point of view.
  • Ga thinks about his "pain reserve"—the place you go to when you're being tortured, apparently. It's a protected place that no one else can access.
  • Ga first tried to use the Junma as that place, then the song of the opera diva he'd kidnapped, and then even the beautiful yellow dress of the Second Mate's wife.
  • But it was Sun Moon who really provided a useful reserve. Whenever Ga is faced with physical adversity, he can escape into fantasy with Sun Moon.
  • Ga remembers when he first thought he might really meet her. It was when he left Prison 33 wearing Commander Ga's uniform and carrying Mongnan's photos.
  • Ga had also managed to keep the digital camera and the DVD of Casablanca that Comrade Buc had got for him.
  • Commander Ga's driver is startled to see someone else wearing his employer's uniform, but the new Ga challenges him: if he wants to serve the other Ga, the new Ga will take him back to the old Ga's body in the mine. Clearly, the driver prefers the change of employer.
  • The new Ga asks to be taken home to Sun Moon. On the way, he looks through Mongnan's photos. They are the inmates' entrance and exit photos, clipped back-to-back. There are thousands, and Ga observes that this is North Korea's White Pages.
  • When Ga sees his own entrance photo, he flips it over to make sure that there is no exit photo—no picture of his corpse drained of blood.
  • Ga tears up his picture, effectively erasing himself from existence.
  • When they reach Pyongyang, Ga goes into a hotel and takes a bath. He feels his body and mind coming together again, and he prepares himself to meet the real Sun Moon.
  • Like most obsessed fans, Ga wants to be close with her. He feels that he already has a connection with her.
  • Ga gets used to the real Commander's haircut, cologne, uniform, guns. When he arrives at the house, Sun Moon opens the door. She's wearing a dirty robe. And she thinks that he's a messenger from the film studio, coming to bring her a new script. Yeah, but he's wearing her husband's uniform and cologne…
  • Ga tells her that he is Commander Ga. Sun Moon thinks it's a sick joke on the part of the studio.
  • The thought of being rejected by the studio brings out the diva drama queen in Sun Moon. She falls on the grass, weeps, and smokes a cigarette.
  • Ga loves Sun Moon's innocence. She has no clue about real suffering.
  • Sun Moon pleads with Ga to take a message to her real husband, to tell him to make up with the Dear Leader in public so that she make another film.
  • But this Ga is operating on a different level of reality. He tries to impress on Sun Moon that he's not going anywhere, that he's her husband now. Oh, and would she just speak those lines from her movie to him? It would mean so much.
  • Ga lets slip that he was in prison, and that freaks Sun Moon out completely.
  • Ga confesses that he killed the real Commander Ga that morning, after the latter attacked him. At least, he thinks he's killed the real Ga.
  • Now Sun Moon is properly scared. But at this moment, there's some relief: a dog appears at the door. The new Ga calls out "Brando!"—and the dog comes running to him.
  • Ga's in disbelief that Sun Moon really got the dog he brought from Texas.
  • Sun Moon insists on knowing who this guy is, and Ga tells her that he is "the good husband."
  • Sun Moon looks dismayed that she's somehow been given over to yet another man without her consent.
  • Now Commander Ga, in Division 42, wakes up of his memories, and he notes that Sun Moon has saved him again. He's way above feeling any pain.
  • The loudspeaker delivers the news and the promised Best North Korean Story. The story begins with Sun Moon.
  • The voice asks citizens to ignore the rumors they've been hearing about Sun Moon and to remember her as the patriotic actress she will always be in everyone's memories.
  • Sun Moon is painted as an ideal wife and citizen, canning kelp against famine, caring for her perfect children—all that jazz.
  • The voice recounts the moment when Sun Moon hears a knock on the door and opens it to find Commander Ga there. But this Commander Ga is impure because he looks at his wife with lust.
  • It's an impostor Ga, a man with half his build. Sun Moon does not believe that he's her husband, but because he's wearing the uniform, she knows it's her duty to obey.
  • Sun Moon has the impostor sleep in the tunnel outside with the dog for two weeks. He's only allowed in the house to wash, and she feeds him only once a day.
  • The dog, on the other hand, takes a real shine to the new Ga. The new Ga is able to train him quickly with praise, while the old Ga could do nothing with threats.
  • The voice tells how Sun Moon finally gets a little share of adversity after a life of thinking that suffering is a fairy tale.
  • The new Commander Ga still has to live in a tunnel, but at least he can hear what is going on in Sun Moon's house and fantasize about being in there with her and the children.
  • Then a messenger delivers word that Commander Ga is to return to work. So off he goes to the "modern" Building 13, fully equipped with vacuum tubes for sending messages.
  • Soon, a message from the Dear Leader himself comes through the system for Ga. It requests a meeting with him.
  • Ga picks up a Geiger counter from his desk and climbs onto a tree outside his office window to give to an old woman who is scavenging for food. He tells her to sell it at the night market.
  • The narrating voice tells the citizens that there is no such thing as a night market, of course, but that the story shows that the Dear Leader must have wanted Ga to do this.
  • It must also be the Dear Leader's idea that North Korea will have two Commander Gas.
  • On the way to speak with Kim Jong Il, Ga sees Comrade Buc, who gives him a thumbs-up. The narrator tells us that this is wrong, wrong, wrongitty wrong: too much like the Americans.
  • Ga gets into an elevator and is taken all the way down beneath Pyongyang. When he emerges, there is Kim Jong Il, who is portrayed as a divine presence.
  • After Ga bows, the Dear Leader tells him that he's cooking up something for the Americans and needs his help.
  • The voice winds up the segment by asking what the Dear Leader could be up to with this plan.
  • We now get another point of view on the story told over the loudspeaker. Ga takes the elevator to Bunker 13 to meet Kim Jong Il.
  • The encounter with Comrade Buc feels dangerous for Ga, as if his two lives are overlapping in ways that were not useful.
  • When Ga arrives, he's searched and compelled to give a urine and hair sample. Kim Jong Il plays right along, saying how much he's missed Ga.
  • Kim Jong Il tells Commander Ga that he ought to be angry about that whole burned prison mine and the 1500 dead workers. Still, he's going to give Ga another chance.
  • Kim Jong Il has a plan, and he wants help. He gives Ga, ironically, tiger meat jerky. He promises to write a new role for Sun Moon.
  • The two descend further into the bunker, where the Dear Leader reveals that the Americans will soon visit North Korea.
  • The Dear Leader also outlines another problem: an orphan soldier has gone escaped from Prison 33. This soldier had visited Texas.
  • Kim Jong Il needs the details of that mission so that he can plan his humiliations for the Americans. Had this soldier/inmate spoken to Ga of these details when he visited the prison?
  • The impostor Ga takes his cue and says that he has all the details, since he and the orphan spoke often.
  • Kim Jong Il shows Ga a revolver that is made to look like the American revolvers that the Minister had shot with on his trip to Texas. Ga suggests some details to make it a better replica.
  • The Dear Leader wants to show the Americans that the North Koreans can make their own guns bigger and better.
  • Ga wants to know how he will get the Americans to visit.
  • Kim Jong Il has an ace up his sleeve. He takes Ga further down, into a dungeon-like hold. He shows Ga a room with an American woman in it. Ga recognizes her as the nighttime rower.
  • The Dear Leader tells Ga that a fishing boat picked her up after she killed her mate.
  • Ga speaks to her in English and learns from her that her mate was killed when the North Koreans tried to board their craft.
  • Ga asks her if she wants to meet a Senator, produces his digital camera and takes a picture of her.