Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 2, Pages 388-407

By Adam Johnson

Part 2, Pages 388-407

  • Ga waits for Sun Moon to return from her rendezvous with the Dear Leader. He reviews his life.
  • Ga hears a dog barking at the zoo and thinks of the dog he left on the beach in Japan, barking after his kidnapped owner.
  • But Ga's also thinking about the roles he's played in his life—and he anticipates that the next step is going to be the worst, because it's going to bring everything together.
  • Ga thinks about how North Korea makes people. There's no sense of self-determination or free will.
  • Ga doesn't understand how Comrade Buc's wife can accept it all and do what she feels must be done.
  • Ga feels like he's missing something—some crucial bit of information—so he begins searching the house.
  • Ga thinks the movies might help, but Americans don't seem to know about the North Korean experience. They can't offer any advice or solace for his situation.
  • Sun Moon finally returns and gets into bed with Ga. He's anxious that the Dear Leader has hurt her. She tells him no, but he did give her a sense of what her future would be.
  • Ga sees Sun Moon's costumes hanging in the room and is disturbed to learn that she can't wear her silver dress tomorrow. Again, there's no hope of self-determination.
  • Ga asks Sun Moon whether she's changed her mind, or whether she's still going through with the plan. Sun Moon reminds him that the plan is about them, not just her.
  • Sun Moon sees that the can of peaches is missing and wants to know why. Ga lies and says he's thrown them out. They're not going to choose that "path."
  • Sun Moon decides that she wants to be intimate with Ga—but it means more than physical closeness. She wants to tell her story, but not until they are on the plane.
  • At the moment, Sun Moon's going to tell all the secret things—things even unknown to the State.
  • Sun Moon explains that the real Commander Ga and Commander Park were plotting against the Dear Leader.
  • Sun Moon also eases Ga's mind by saying that she pretty much hates everything about her time with Kim Jong Il. And she confirms his suspicions that she had starved as a child.
  • Sun Moon speaks of losing her baby sister, of how her mother played music during that night, and of how her father steamed herbs to keep her with them a little longer. This is the sister that Ga observed her reaching for in the night.
  • Sun Moon says that the Dear Leader knows the facts but not the real story. He doesn't know her inner life.
  • Sun Moon talks about her grandmother, who was the comfort woman in Japan, and about how she used her music to convey her emptiness.
  • Sun Moon tells Ga the real story of how she met the Dear Leader for the first time. She and her mother were in separate train cars, being herded to "redeemability camps" after her father had defected. She sang a song so that her mother would know she was well.
  • The Dear Leader's train rested on the tracks alongside hers, and he heard Sun Moon singing. When he heard and then saw her, he decided he wanted her for the movies. She agreed—if he promised to keep her mother safe.
  • Sun Moon remembers that Kim Jong Il said he would "cancel" the other actress he'd intended for the roles. She now understands what that means.
  • Finally, Sun Moon speaks of the future. In America, she intends to perform her grandmother's songs—only she will tell the world the truth about North Korea in them.
  • Ga tells Sun Moon that the world already knows the truth about Kim Jong Il and North Korea. But Sun Moon is not deterred. Her song will be powerful.
  • As they get closer, Sun Moon wants to see Ga's tattoo, but Ga is afraid it will freak her out. She teases that she might also get a tattoo and asks what it should be of.
  • Ga tells Sun Moon that she must tattoo an image of whatever she wants to remain in her heart forever.
  • Ga and Sun Moon begin to kiss and touch, and Sun Moon says there is a song in her mind. Ga asks her if she really never sang for pleasure.
  • Sun Moon tells Ga that all songs in North Korea are about violence, nationalism, or sacrifice. How can there be pleasure in that? Even love songs are in the service of the State.
  • So Ga sings the one song he knows that stands outside of these categories: "The Yellow Rose of Texas." They sing the first lines together (that's all Ga knows), and Ga tells Sun Moon that the song is about a man who will do anything to get to the love of his life. He also says that it doesn't matter if they are separated, because she is always in his heart.
  • Sun Moon knows that the man in the song is Ga. She's pretty caught at this point, and pretty soon, they are making love.
  • A little different from the Party version, isn't it?
  • As the Interrogator's work life has completely fallen apart (Jujack is dead, and Q-Kee is with the Pubyok), he wanders around Pyongyang. He can't really remember what he's been doing.
  • The Interrogator remembers recruiting Jujack at university and telling him that interrogation wasn't violent anymore. He's kind of torturing himself with the memories of his past, and he's thinking about the fact that he really has no future anymore, personal or professional.
  • The Interrogator loses track of time and feels his memory of the last few days slipping away. And he kind of likes it. Reality just sucks.
  • The Interrogator returns to Division 42 after his wanderings. Q-Kee is cordial to him, and Sarge seems positively chipper.
  • The Interrogator sees Commander Park limping past with some bloody biomaterial in his hands. He sends whatever it is in a vacuum tube into the bunker below.
  • Sarge gives the Interrogator another Pubyok ID badge so that he can take the reserved cars on the subway and avoid being drafted into another work detail. He also asks him to join the Pubyok again.
  • But the Interrogator still has Ga to attend to. Sarge shows him something peculiar: it's the large branding iron from the Texas ranch set-up.
  • Sarge tells the Interrogator how the iron works. He also says that they're planning to use it on Commander Ga at dawn in the soccer stadium.
  • The Interrogator puts two and two together. Commander Park is there to retrieve something to ease the grieving mind of the Dear Leader.
  • The Interrogator runs to Ga's room, where his fears are confirmed: Park has cut the tattoo off Ga's chest. And Ga knows about the soccer stadium.
  • As Ga and the Interrogator talk, it's clear that Ga is still upset by the news of Comrade Buc and his family. He'd endured all of this—including the loss of Sun Moon—just to keep them safe.
  • The Interrogator tells Ga that Comrade Buc died "on his own terms," not in humiliation.
  • Sarge comes in and taunts Ga more. He blows into his wound to cause pain. He tells the Interrogator that it's time to get Ga's confession.
  • But the Interrogator is after more: he wants Ga's biography. And then Sarge breaks it to him—this is the last biography. There will be no more interrogations, just old-school thuggery.
  • When Sarge leaves, the Interrogator promises Ga that he won't allow them to carry out their plans at the stadium.
  • The Interrogator heads back to his apartment. On the way, he keeps seeing the brand marks destined for Ga on everyone's body, saying "Property of..."—they're all property of the State.
  • When he arrives at home, the Interrogator's paranoid mother and father are alarmed. They yell at him as if he were a thief, promising to sic their torturer son on whoever is there.
  • The Interrogator tells his parents that he's there to cook them a meal, since he's going to have a long night. He takes down the special can of peaches, and then tells them that he wants to tell them his biography. He wants them to know who he really is.
  • As he speaks, the Interrogator feeds his parents the peach slices, one by one. The listen to the loudspeaker and thank Kim Jong Il for the good peaches.
  • The Interrogator tells his parents they do have the Dear Leader to thank for this moment—but they don't get it. He tells them about his new friend at work (Ga), and about how he has made the ultimate sacrifice for love. They have no idea what to say to this. And they've had just about enough peaches. Why doesn't he save some for himself? He tells them that way would be too easy for him. His mom starts to understand.
  • The Interrogator tells his parents about his difficulty in trying to write his own biography. He understands now that he was worried about his audience. But an audience isn't necessary for a biography, he's learned. It's just like with a tattoo: it's personal.
  • The Interrogator begins to narrate his life to his parents, even the parts they know. Then he tells them how he was loyalty-tested in school, his military service, his meager sexual experience, and the cruelty at work. He explains that the loyalty test was really the thing that sent him into his profession: he became suspicious of everyone.
  • The Interrogator's parents become alarmed at his casual mentioning of Commander Ga as his new friend. They know him as an impostor and enemy of the State.
  • The Interrogator is confused: how do his parents know this? They explain that Ga's story has been the subject of the Best North Korean Story, which has been aired on the loudspeaker.
  • Somehow, Commander Ga's story was being written the whole time—and it was running ahead of the Interrogator. Now, the story is making the man.
  • The Interrogator is so enraged about this that he pulls the loudspeaker out of the wall. His parents are terrified, but the botulism is already taking hold.
  • The Interrogator continues talking to his parents, telling his story, until they are in their final death throes. Then he kisses them goodbye and heads out.