Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 2, Pages 251-271

By Adam Johnson

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Part 2, Pages 251-271

  • Sun Moon and Ga drive the vintage Mustang into Pyongyang to attend the party. Sun Moon explains that the Mustang, too, was a prop from a movie of hers. In the movie, MacArthur used it to escape from the North Korean Army.
  • Sun Moon and Ga drive past the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery, and Sun Moon sees families stealing flowers to eat. She is indignant at their behavior, saying it is insulting to the ancestors.
  • Ga is ticked off and asks Sun Moon why she thinks they would steal the flowers from a cemetery. She doesn't appear to know.
  • As Sun Moon and Ga make their way through Pyongyang, something heavy crashes onto the car. It is a baby goat that has fallen off the roof of a building.
  • Sun Moon and Ga are stunned, but a clever citizen steps up and helps herself. That's good eating right there.
  • When Sun Moon and Ga get to the Grand People's Opera House, the people around Sun Moon pretend that she hasn't been missing from the fashionable set for a long time.
  • But Sun Moon can feel the tension, especially when everyone sees impostor Ga with her. She has to psych herself up to pretend to be a talented actress just hanging out with her husband.
  • Commander Park approaches, and Sun Moon senses trouble. Ga is oblivious, of course. The conversation between Ga and Park ends when Park punches Ga in the stomach and leaves.
  • Sun Moon explains that Park was Commander Ga's best friend.
  • As they try to recover from that display, a woman approaches Sun Moon and Ga. She seems desperate and is pocketing live shrimp (the shrimp that Jun Do and crew risked themselves to get).
  • The woman is begging for information about her husband, who had been sent to the prisons. She had heard about the new Ga's past and thought perhaps he had seen her husband in prison. She tries to tell Ga her husband's name, but Sun Moon stops her.
  • The woman also conveys the rumor that men are given lobotomies when they are taken into the prisons.
  • Ga tells the woman that lobotomies aren't necessary in the prison camps to make prisoners work like slaves.
  • Soon, a show begins. The band is playing "The Ballad of Ryoktosan," which is about a kwan who defected (or was murdered, according to the state).
  • A comic figure emerges from the stage and engages Ga in a "mock" fight—but Ga thinks it is the Dear Leader in disguise and is afraid to defend himself or fight back.
  • Ga takes a beating from the creature, who turns out not to be the Dear Leader. It's just another one of the Dear Leader's pranks. Everyone congratulates him on a good joke.
  • After causing impostor Ga pain, Kim Jong Il publicly acknowledges him to be the real Commander Ga. End of discussion.
  • Sun Moon knows it's for real after this: her husband has just been replaced. She's feeling pretty devastated and compares her feeling of emptiness to the hunger that must be felt in other places, like Africa.
  • Ga is disgusted by Sun Moon's lack of understanding and her denial of the reality of North Korean life.
  • Ga decides to teach Sun Moon a lesson about hunger and forces her to eat a flower petal—just like the starving families in the cemetery. She kind of hates him for doing this.
  • We hear the loudspeaker's official version of Sun Moon and Ga's evening after leaving the Dear Leader's party.
  • Pyongyang is dark so that its citizens can sleep in peace (not, apparently, because the electricity is limited), unlike in America, where there is light all night, and everyone has to work or engage in immoral activity.
  • Sun Moon and Ga see a man stealing an ostrich egg from the zoo. Ga asks if Sun Moon feels sorrier for the poor man or for the guards who have to chase him. She feels sorry for the bird.
  • Ga likes the car and regrets that he has to give it back (not because Korean cars aren't super, but because life is short and he can't hold on to material things).
  • Sun Moon wonders if she's just acting a part in another movie. The narrative voice says to stop being so melodramatic.
  • Then, the loudspeakers deliver a "trailer" for the next installment of North Korea's Best Story: there will be sex, so make sure the kiddies don't listen in.
  • The voice also reminds all female citizens that it isn't convenient to mourn the loss of a husband once a replacement has been found. The replacement should be comfort enough.
  • The voice then encourages all citizens to join him in a rousing chorus of encouragement for Sun Moon.
  • Back to the objective narrative: at home, Sun Moon inspects Ga's injuries from the "party."
  • Sun Moon tells Ga that he kind of deserves it, since he chose to impersonate her husband. He tells her no: her husband chose him.
  • But Ga doesn't want to be exactly like the old Commander Ga. He can tell that the children were terrified of that guy.
  • Sun Moon is still troubled by the woman looking for information about her imprisoned husband. Ga tells her there are no such things as "lobotomy prisons." He's lying to make her feel better.
  • Ga offers to tell Sun Moon the whole story about his encounter with the real Commander Ga.
  • Instead, Sun Moon briefs him on his duties as her husband: he needs to pour the wine and keep her supplied with cigarettes.
  • While looking for the wine, Ga finds the DVD collection. He and Sun Moon contemplate one called Schindler's List. Probably a bad choice in their current situation.
  • Sun Moon explains to Ga that she's never seen any of these films, because she is "pure" actress.
  • Sun Moon says that she doesn't act for money; she acts for the nation.
  • Sun Moon is sad because no one in America knows who she is, even though the Dear Leader promised that she would act for the world.
  • Ga is worried about more practical things. He wants to know how the real Ga watched those DVDs. Sun Moon reveals that there is a laptop somewhere in the house. But where?
  • We learn that Comrade Buc's gifted can of peaches resides on the mantel above where the children sleep in their bedroom.
  • Now that they are in the bedroom, Sun Moon outlines the rules: the new Ga will dig a proper escape tunnel, and the children will tell him their names when they want to.
  • Ga's also not allowed to use force on the kids or test them. And there will be no touching.
  • Ga begins to tell Sun Moon the story of how he met her husband in the prison camp. He had lined up the prisoners and was checking their chests with a Geiger counter to see who had been exposed to radioactive rock.
  • When Commander Ga came to him, the Geiger counter went ballistic. He also saw that the prisoner had a tattoo of his wife Sun Moon on his chest. Because Ga needed the prisoner, he chalked that indiscretion up to patriotism.
  • Ga decided he wanted the prisoner to be his "eyes and ears" in the mine.
  • Commander Ga made the Warden hold up a twenty-five kilo chunk of rock as a demonstration. He also told the prisoner (soon to be imposter Ga) to tell him if the Warden dropped the rock.
  • The Warden had to hold the rock until Commander Ga returned a month later.
  • Sun Moon tells Ga to stop his story. She recognizes her husband's cruelty.
  • Sun Moon also wants to see the tattoo, but Ga's afraid she will be freaked out. She isn't.
  • Sun Moon understands how the rest of impostor Ga's story will play out once her husband returns to the mines.
  • We're back with the Interrogator, who tells us that he suspects his parents aren't as blind as they say they are.
  • The Interrogator asks them why they never found him a wife. They spout off Party rhetoric about their first duty being to their country.
  • Though his father is speaking along Party lines, the Interrogator can see the old man's fingers twitch. That is a sign that the old, loving dad is in there somewhere.
  • The Interrogator heads out to the night market. He wants to find a charger for Commander Ga's cell phone.
  • The Interrogator tries to pass himself off as a tough member of the Pubyok, but the black marketer isn't buying it. Still, he'll give him a charger for his ID badge.

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