Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 2, Pages 272-292

By Adam Johnson

Part 2, Pages 272-292

  • In the morning, the Interrogator gets waylaid by a "Grass into Meat" project at his building: he's conscripted into moving tons of soil to the roof to make a grazing space for goats.
  • The Interrogator tells us that he narrates the events of the day in his head, like he's writing his own biography. But by the time he tries to write it down, it all feels insignificant.
  • The Interrogator really wants to get back to Division 42 and Commander Ga, but he gets pulled into more community service. This time, he's got to carry the goats up to the roof.
  • After that, the Interrogator sells Commander Buc's wedding ring but gets little for it. He does, however, get a little feast for his elderly parents.
  • Commander Ga's phone is finally fully charged, so the Interrogator starts fiddling with it. He gets depressed when he thinks that he has no one to call. He's lonely.
  • The Interrogator tries to think of people from his family's past that his family would like to contact, if they could. But all suggestions of this type make his parents paranoid. They think their son is testing them.
  • The Interrogator remembers the moment when his father explained what family love and loyalty looked like in North Korea: you might be denouncing a loved one with your mouth, but really you're holding hands with them on the inside.
  • As a child, the Interrogator's father would mock-denounce things with his son. It was like a game until one day, when he put real feeling into it and denounced his son in public.
  • His father wasn't really denouncing the Interrogator. He was demonstrating his philosophy: betrayal on the outside, solidarity on the inside.
  • The Interrogator is obsessed over how Commander Ga was able to so thoroughly change his own identity. How did he evade the watchful eye of the State?
  • The Interrogator puzzles over whether the change was wholly external—was Commander Ga on the outside and his original self on the inside? Or had he gone all the way and reformed his inner landscape?
  • The Interrogator stays up late searching Buc's file for any ideas on Ga. And then the cell phone beeps.
  • A picture comes up: it's Ingrid Bergman's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This has no meaning for the Interrogator.
  • The Interrogator turns to Comrade Buc's file and begins to look at the pictures there. Sure enough, his daughters were found wearing white dresses.
  • The Interrogator remembers Buc's warning to "always have a plan in place" for your loved ones. Suddenly, he knows what that means. He thinks about having such a plan for his parents.
  • Then the Interrogator notices the can of peaches in the pictures of Comrade Buc's dead family—and he realizes that he left Commander Ga with another such can of peaches within his reach. Bummer.
  • When the Interrogator gets back to Commander Ga, the man is still alive—and his can of peaches is nowhere to be found.
  • The Interrogator demands to know if Ga killed Sun Moon with peaches.
  • Ga realizes that his peaches are gone and is alarmed. The Interrogator has to get them back before real harm is done.
  • But the Interrogator wants to know what an Ingrid Bergman is first. Ga ignores him.
  • The Interrogator asks Ga how he got Sun Moon to love him back even though he was an impostor. Ga introduces him to the concept of intimacy: not keeping secrets from each other.
  • The Interrogator's mind is blown by this idea.
  • The Interrogator sees Q-Kee bustling through the hallways—at 3 a.m. He knows something's up.
  • Q-Kee's carrying a device that could, say, pump a stomach. He follows her into the sump and realizes that Q-Kee has given Buc the peaches with botulism. Buc is already dying.
  • Q-Kee had overreached: she tried to get Buc's confession on her own, and she wound up making a bad deal. She gave him the peaches before he made his confession.
  • And then Buc did something strange. Just like Commander Ga, Comrade Buc asked whose peaches they were: his or Ga's?
  • Q-Kee says that she never gave Buc the answer.
  • Inspired by the knowledge that there's a tainted can of peaches lying around Division 42, the Interrogator begins the search. He finds it among Comrade Buc's things—and then he goes home.
  • We're back with impostor Ga at home with the children. He had seen Sun Moon hide the pistol high up in a kitchen cabinet, so he begins to search for others. The children see him.
  • Ga asks the kids how many guns are in the house. There are three. Ga makes sure the kids know not to touch them. Good fake dad.
  • But then Ga asks the kids to help him find mummy's ciggies before she wakes up. He finds a loose piece of molding, behind which is a carton of her cigarettes.
  • The boy finally understands that he's looking for hidey holes—and he leads Ga to the portrait of Kim Jong Il. Bingo: laptop, U.S. dollars, testosterone.
  • Ga cooks breakfast for the family and then tells them about life in America. The children want to know if you have to pay for food and other basic things there.
  • The boy wants to know if dogs really have their own food in cans in America. Ga thinks this is preposterous—at least, he hadn't seen such a thing.
  • Back at work for the Dear Leader, impostor Ga prepares for the American delegation by creating an American menu. They are going to reconstruct the Senator's Texas ranch from movie props.
  • Other finishing touches have a distinctly North Korean touch: a scythe instead of a weedwhacker, puppy-skin gloves instead of calfskin ones.
  • On his off days, Ga teaches the children how to snare birds and do real work, like finishing up the escape tunnel. They love it.
  • Ga also takes time to check out Commander Ga's laptop. He finds photographs like Mongnan's on there.
  • Sun Moon also receives a new movie script written for her by the Dear Leader. It's called Ultimate Sacrifices. It upsets her because it is really the story of her existence with imposter Ga.
  • Sun Moon is depressed by the sameness of all her roles. They're all about survival and endurance: nothing more. Ga tries to cheer her up by saying that her acting inspires people. It makes them feel like there's a purpose for their suffering, even when there really isn't. A backhanded compliment, perhaps?
  • But Sun Moon isn't buying it. She knows that the Dear Leader is doing this to humiliate them both. He would love to see her acting in a role about submission—and then never release it, like he did with her last movie.
  • Ga assures Sun Moon that he only wants to humiliate the Americans. Sun Moon takes the opportunity to school her new husband on Kim Jong Il. When he wants you to suffer, she says, he gives you something to lose. And he doesn't need reasons to destroy.
  • Ga tells Sun Moon that they should use her former husband's laptop to rewrite the script. Sun Moon warms to the idea and begins offering changes.
  • While Sun Moon and Ga are deep in editing mode, Brando barks. The children's bird trap has worked. Ga takes the children outside and shows them how to dress—and eat—a little bird on the spot. They think he's totally awesome. A little gross, but awesome.
  • The voice on the loudspeaker blares the news and asks all citizens to make sure their neighbors' loudspeakers are working, just in case there is another sneak attack from the Americans.
  • And we continue with the official story of Sun Moon and Commander Ga. This time, they are going on a picnic in the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery to honor Sun Moon's great uncle.
  • Sun Moon tells Ga that she only has her mother left—and she's at Wonsan in retirement. Sun Moon wonders why she never writes.
  • Ga assures Sun Moon that the old people in Wonsan are probably having wayyy too much fun to write to anyone. She shouldn't worry about her mother's silence.
  • Ga takes the children through the cemetery to look at the busts of the martyrs. He can tell the story of each one, including Pak Jun Do and Un Bo Song.
  • Sun Moon is quite turned on by all the stories of sacrifice and patriotism, so she sends the children into the woods so she can have some "quality time" with Ga.
  • Sun Moon and Ga enter into a hothouse that grows kimilsungia, and, in one of the greatest socialist love-making scenes ever written, they get busy.