Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 2, Pages 366-387

By Adam Johnson

Part 2, Pages 366-387

  • Ga, the children, and Sun Moon are really wrapping things up. They harvest everything in the garden and make a feast. The children start to tell stories, but they are all grim.
  • Ga decides to tell the story of the space dog from Pyongyang. The children get into the spirit and begin to add parts to the story of the brave little dog that went to the moon.
  • The dog wanted to leave because the mean zookeeper fed him badly, and the moon was his friend.
  • Ga asks the kids if the scientists ever told the dog that he couldn't come back once he reached the moon. The boy says no: the scientists betrayed the dog.
  • The story continues, Ga steering it to make an allegory of their imminent departure.
  • The children keep the story going, and Ga takes it all in: it's a real family moment. Perfection.
  • Sun Moon makes up a ballad about the brave dog, and Ga is even more affected.
  • Ga knows he will have to give them all up in the morning. He thinks back to his time in Prison 33, when he really learned how to give up everything that mattered.
  • Ga realizes that he's already letting go of his family, and it physically pains him. He tries to remember his pain training so that he can keep them all in the glow of the fire while his heart hurts.
  • Ga realizes that Sun-Moon-as-pain-reserve will save him from the loss of Sun-Moon-as-woman. After the children go to bed, Ga asks her if she's having second thoughts. But really, it's Ga who's having the thoughts.
  • Ga asks Sun Moon what if this is their last moment together? She thinks he's just trying to get her in bed—okay, and maybe he is—but he's also really asking.
  • Sun Moon tells Ga that he still doesn't really know her, but Ga reveals observations about her that show how much he really does know.
  • Ga guesses that Sun Moon must have had a sibling as a child, because she reaches out for a hand in the darkness every night. He knows that she must have worked hard, because there are scars on her knees.
  • Ga also knows that she'd tasted flowers before, because she'd been hungry before.
  • While Ga is holding Sun Moon on the balcony, a car from the Dear Leader pulls up at the house. It's there to collect Sun Moon.
  • Ga is devastated when Sun Moon leaves. He feels as though Kim Jong Il is taking away the one thing that matters.
  • The children ask where their mother has gone, and Ga tells them that he has a serious story to share with them. But first, he's got to talk to Comrade Buc.
  • When he gets to Buc's house, Ga notices all the family paraphernalia from many generations on the walls. He hadn't seen them before.
  • Buc's wife is making a new white dress for a daughter, who had outgrown hers. She tells Ga that her hope is to grow old and mark her life by all the white dresses that never got worn. She reminds Ga that he made a promise to her husband to keep him out of danger. Ga renews the promise to her—he won't be going anywhere.
  • Buc's wife tells Ga that she never imagined making white suicide dresses for her children when she got the sewing machine as a bridal present.
  • Ga asks why it matters what the girls wear. Buc's explains that their whole world has fallen apart and become uglier. She won't let her daughters die in an ugly way.
  • Ga tries to tell Buc's wife about the tradition of quiltmaking in America, but she's in no mood. She's mad at Ga for putting them in danger.
  • But Buc's wife feels a little compassion for Ga as he leaves and tells him that Sun Moon is most definitely with the Dear Leader.
  • Ga asks what Buc's wife tells the children when she's dressing them in the suicide dresses. She says that she would never tell them the truth—it would take away their future.
  • Buc's wife has groomed her children for this moment by protecting them from something else. Since the ice cream vans in the city snatch children for labor camps, she's always told her kids that peaches are the best dessert. She's promised them they will have the last can of peaches in North Korea on some special day.
  • When Ga returns to the children for their serious talk, he makes sure the peaches are on the mantel where he left them.
  • Then Ga tries to tell the kiddies about what he's done to their father. He doesn't want his own personal propaganda to be all that they remember about him.
  • But Ga finds it impossible. Instead, he answers the kids' questions about their mom: she is with the Dear Leader.
  • When Ga attempts to tell his story, he realizes that the children don't even have the vocabulary to understand the basics of the tunnel situation. What they really want is a dog story.
  • So Ga decides to tell them an allegory, something that they can remember when they are older and unlock the true meaning of when the time is right.
  • Ga begins a story about a search for two dogs: one is the smartest and the other the bravest in North Korea. But the scientists couldn't find these types of dogs.
  • The children start to contribute again. They skew the original intent of Ga's story, and he changes the purpose: he can make the dog teach the kids about defecting.
  • In the end, the story becomes so spontaneous that it has no purpose—it's just for fun. And everyone feels better.
  • In the end, the boy wants to tell Ga his name. Ga tells them that they don't have to, because names aren't forever. He confesses that he doesn't even have a real name.
  • And then, Ga tells the kids that he was an orphan. Wow. Ga explains that the children should never remember someone by a name; they should remember by keeping that person in their hearts.
  • Ga tells the kids that he can never forget them. But the kids don't like his tone: it sounds like he's going away.
  • The voice on the loudspeaker announces the next installment of the Best North Korean Story. It opens at the Central Cinema Studios, where the Dear Leader is preparing for the Americans.
  • There is Tex-Mex food cooking and a strange array of child gymnasts who will help load the food aid on pallets in style.
  • The Dear Leader tells Sun Moon that he has a treat for her. He leads her to a display of three beautiful choson-ots (in red, white, and blue)—but this isn't the surprise. These are merely the dresses she is to wear during the Americans' visit.
  • Sun Moon is dismayed because she'd picked her own dress.
  • The Dear Leader hands Sun Moon tickets to the premiere of her suppressed movie Comfort Woman. He wonders whether if, by some random chance, Ga were to get sent on a mission, would she accompany him to the premiere?
  • The voice says that Sun Moon is overwhelmed by the Dear Leader's attention and generosity. He also wants to talk of her next film, which he informs her will not be Ultimate Sacrifices.
  • Kim Jong Il has Dak Ho, the movie producer, remove a cover from the first of three easels. On it is the concept for the first new movie: a reverse Stockholm syndrome storyline.
  • The second easel is uncovered. It's a movie called Floating Wall, and it's about the first female Pubyok. Sun Moon protests: she can't act with such short hair.
  • The third movie stays covered because Sun Moon breaks down. She says it's because her own mother won't be able to see Comfort Woman.
  • Sun Moon explains that she's never seen or heard from her mother since she was retired to Wonsan. The Dear Leader promises to fix this: she will have letter from her mama tomorrow.
  • Sun Moon marvels over the Dear Leader's power. He reminds her how he found her and named her. He also reminds her that she keeps no secrets from him. What does she need?
  • And then Sun Moon drops the bomb: she wants her mother to attend the premiere of Comfort Woman.
  • The Dear Leader gives Sun Moon his word. The voice says that only something totally unpredictable could keep her mother from showing up—like a natural disaster or a train accident.
  • Kim Jong Il tells Sun Moon that he absolutely needs her back in his life. He's kept his end of the bargain, after all. He promises they will play all their old games together, and he will amuse her children.
  • The Dear Leader asks if Sun Moon has brought the board game (chang-gi) so that they can pick up where they left off—and she has. After playful banter, the two are reconciled.
  • Comrade Buc appears on the scene, and the Dear Leader commissions him to make a portable changing station for Sun Moon at the airport so that she can get into those dresses.
  • As happy as a lark, Kim Jong Il leads Sun Moon off to watch a Western. She stops him and asks him to promise not to hurt her replacement husband.
  • Kim Jong Il tells Sun Moon that no such promise can be made.