Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Suffering

By Adam Johnson

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If you've spent any time with Greek tragedies, you might come to the conclusion that suffering helps us gain knowledge and grow as individuals and as a society.

Well, maybe that's true in a fairly normal society, but the society in The Orphan Master's Son is anything but normal. Jun Do tells Sun Moon a truth that she doesn't want to hear: suffering, at least in their context, is pointless and lonely. Jun Do also understands that suffering can be provoked quite easily: it only takes the will of one person to inflict torments galore on an entire nation.

Ultimately, the characters have to construct new versions of reality to preserve themselves from the intensity of the anguish they experience at the hands of a state that seems to value misery above all else.

Questions About Suffering

  1. How do the characters in The Orphan Master's Son view suffering? Do they have a common understanding of its purpose and how to deal with it?
  2. Why does the Interrogator feel that his work is more humane than that of the Pubyok? Is he right?
  3. What is the most painful thing for Jun Do to endure in this book?
  4. Why do you suppose that certain characters (like the family in the woods outside the Martyrs' Cemetery) deny their own misery?

Chew on This

Suffering serves no particular purpose in this book, except to show how much it can alter a person's humanity.

Physical pain is seen in this book as an opportunity for spiritual growth and an outlet through which personal identity is discovered and shaped.

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