Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Love

By Adam Johnson

Love

In The Orphan Master's Son, Jun Do begins life as an orphan, unloved and expendable, and spends a good part of his time floating around without anything to lose. But at the moment when the Captain tattoos the face of Sun Moon on Jun Do's chest, an idea takes root in his heart. He begins to wonder what it means to have people care about.

While he focuses his curiosity on romantic love at first, he doesn't stop there. He understands that loving people (and being loved) forms an important part of character and identity. Without love, he is nothing, like the Interrogator. But when he makes crucial connections, his life takes shape and opens up to the possibility of something greater.

His plans may never be realized as he wants them to be, but he still gets the opportunity to choose love over obedience to the state. And that, to riff on a phrase from the immortal Pink Floyd, means one less brick in the wall.

Questions About Love

  1. What does love mean to Jun Do while he is at the orphanage? How about later, when he meets Sun Moon?
  2. How does the Dear Leader conceive of love? Why does he want the American rower to fall for him?
  3. In what ways is the Interrogator's quest for love surprising? Or do you think his mystification about love is unsurprising?
  4. How does life in a tightly controlled state change how love is perceived and expressed, according to this work?

Chew on This

Although The Orphan Master's Son deals with the national tragedy that is North Korea, it's really a love story at its core.

As Jun Do's singing of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" to Sun Moon proves, the expression of passionate love is not really possible in Johnson's version of North Korea.

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