Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Family

By Adam Johnson

Family

When Jun Do sees the hallway full of family pictures in the Senator's home, he makes an important discovery: families can be happy. It's revolutionary for this orphan not only to see generations intact, but also to imagine a place where a family can thrive without prison camps, abandonment, disappearances, spousal reassignments.

Family ties aren't just something that the state manipulates in order to regulate the behavior of its citizens? Who knew?

It doesn't take Jun Do long to figure out that everything he'd come to accept about family in The Orphan Master's Son just isn't right. His quest for self-knowledge—especially his desire to find his mother—becomes a desire to establish a proper family, to be good husband. It's ironic that he begins this process by killing Commander Ga and ends it by losing Sun Moon and her children to the place that showed him what family could be.

Questions About Family

  1. Why does Jun Do insist that he is not an orphan? Why does he believe that the Orphan Master is his father?
  2. Why are orphans shunned in Jun Do's country?
  3. In what ways is the parent-child relationship complicated in the world of this book?
  4. In what ways do other relationships in this book replace familial ties? Are these substitutions successful?

Chew on This

Jun Do refuses to believe that he's an orphan in order to justify his ruthless actions toward the other boys in the orphanage.

Comrade Buc's wife's making of the white suicide dresses may be kind of morbid, but it's also a sign of her great love for her daughters.

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