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Chang-rae lee’s ‘native speaker’s main character

Chang- Rae Lee is a first- generation Korean-American writer born in Korea in July 29, 1965. When he was 3 years old, he left his country and went to live in the United States with his family. He was raised in Westchester, New York and went to school at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Lee graduated from Yale University with an English degree and with a MFA in writing from the University of Oregon. He worked for a year as a Wall Street financial analyst before turning to full-time writing.

Lee instructs creative writing at Princeton’s program. (Lee Chang-Rae 34) Lee’s initial novel, Native Speaker, published in 1995 won the PEN/Hemingway Award and is perhaps one of the most superbly written books of the 20th century. Printed when Lee was merely 28 years of age as his MFA thesis project, the novel is a touching and often agonizing explanation of the migrant/1. 5 age group experience in the U. S. The story centers on an industrial spy of the Korean-American origin.

Whereas the narrative shifts back and forth between Henry Park’s life as a detective and his association with his alienated wife, Lelia, the underlying subject encompassing the whole story is that of the dislocation and invisibility of Asian-Americans in the United States. The novel looks into subjects of betrayal and alienation as experienced or perpetrated by first- generation inhabitants and migrants, and played out in local political affairs. Wonderfully written and fascinatingly plotted, the narrative intertwines love, political affairs, family as well as loss as park begins to make sense of his life’s rhythm.

The narrative deals with ethnic predicament which is a peculiar feature of American society and bravely exposes the alienation of contemporary citizens. (Lee Chang-Rae 42) Chang- Rae Lee’s Native speaker’s main character, Henry Park is the exemplary Korean-American. However, a large amount of his Korean legacy resounds through his voice, persona as well as beliefs. Henry Park’s Korean upbringing is still manifested in his adulthood. Like lots of American migrants seeking to find an identity in an unfamiliar land, Henry is an “…emotional alien…stranger [and] follower…” Park feels cut off from the nation from which he came.

Even though he is almost totally americanized, he has difficulty adapting to the U. S. in which he lives. He is an example of a second-generation migrant dealing with his disparity in American culture. There are lots of challenges that come with fitting into American life due to the disparity in beliefs, traditions, behavior, and the wish to still hold onto one’s legacy. The following is a highlight of a number of the difficulties he must deal with and how he comes to terms with these difficulties. (Lee Chang-Rae 63) To start with, Henry has to deal with the challenge of ethnic and cultural differences.

He has to deal with ethnic as well as cultural differences between the Americans, Asian-American, Scotch- Americans, as well as other cultures found in America. Henry is faced with a number of challenges given that he is an Asian-American living in an American culture. (Lee Chang-Rae 112) The author also created an interracial relationship connecting Henry and his Scotch-American wife, Lelia. This relationship is liberated from the fetishism and/ or exoticism frequently found in narratives involving interracial relationships.

Whereas, there is little uncertainty that Henry adores Lelia, their relationship frequently causes him to experience feelings of self-contempt and lowliness as he fears his Korean traditions, Asian race, as well as perceived flawed English mark him as less than an equivalent spouse. While Lelia is free with her feelings and desires for Henry to respond in the same manner, his upbringing in a rather cruel as well as verbally repressed family unit frequently causes him to react to emotional circumstances with stillness and stoicism.

Therefore, while Henry and Lelia are completely matched in several ways, they should still reconcile their disparities in society and culture. (Lee Chang-Rae 152) Thus, Henry Park has to deal with the racial and cultural disparities that the he and his wife face. These differences are possibly most obvious in their differing ideas on how to bring up their son, Mitt, who is of mixed race. Eminently, Henry’s mind-set of inferiority surface as he fears that his child will look very Korean and will not talk ideal English, as well as being subjected to the same type of mistreatment he himself suffered as a youngster.

On the contrary, whilst Lelia turns out to be extra aware of her whiteness and the benefit it brings after turning out to be a mother to a Korean- American child, Lelia is the one who encourages Mitts learning regarding his society as well as the Korean language. (Lee Chang-Rae 265) It can be said that, with the creation of Henry and Lelia’s son, Mitt, the author gives an observation and his personal take on the Eurasian character so frequently portrayed in Asian-American as well as in Anglo writing as the “tragic” Eurasian, “ yellow peril,” or the “best of both worlds.

” The author’s expedition into expanding the explanation of Asian-American starts with Mitt as the Hapa child as well as the first mixed youngster born of both family units. (Lee Chang-Rae 166) Henry Park is faced with the tribulations concerning alienation, self-identity crisis as well as the isolation that the migrants face as the minority and outsider in the American society. In addition to Henry having a distressed marriage to his American wife, he also has a distressed relationship with his traditional Korean father not to forget his confusion incapability to express live to any of them apart from through silence.

(Lee Chang-Rae 243) Henry Park suffers from segregation as well as alienation that many migrants and their offspring faces from the American society. Through Henry Park, the author shows the disagreements between 2nd generation migrants and 1st generation America-born offspring originating from the cultural disparities as well as the mismatched viewpoint toward their lives. (Lee Chang-Rae321) Henry is full of fear that he has not being loyal to both the American and Korean worlds. He seeks for truth of his identity and exhibits strong distrust to feeling affection toward the natural world as well as to civilization.

Henry has a lack of ability to fall asleep all through the night, and the conviction of elegance under pressure. He throws the question “Who am I? ” to the author as well as to himself. Even though the author, Chang-Rae Lee migrated to the United States when he was only 3 years old, learned and got a degree from the Yale University as well as establishing himself as “Native Speaker” who makes use of English as his native language, he still believes that he is a stranger who cannot assimilate into American culture.

For this sense, we can view this story as the author’s sincere experience of his life. (Lee Chang-Rae 384) As the narrative opens, Henry lets us know of the day he said farewell to his white New Englander wife, Lelia as she board an airplane in the Mediterranean so as to have a break from him. Lelia pushes a letter in his hand which reads: “You are surreptitious/B+ student of life…. Yellow peril: neo-American…stranger / follower / traitor / spy. ” Henry is left to think about the connotations of this stinging evaluation.

Lelia moves away from her husband’s apparently emotionless response to their son’s passing away, whereas Park conducts an investigation all over much of the narrative for hints from his past that may clarify what they both think to be his exceedingly cold, detached personality. (Lee Chang-Rae 389) Henry reveals much about his history with his wife and the reader gets to know that they lately lost their seven year old son, Mitt who choked under a “dog pile” made up of white kids from the neighborhood.

Eminently, this loss has pushed both of them into re-examination of who as well as what Henry is (the inquiry on the manner in which Lelia came to be, what responsibilility she may have for their problem as well as who she is, figure little in Park’s explanation) (Lee Chang-Rae 389) Henry strives to come to terms with the difficulties he faces in a number of ways: A corresponding plot gives facts of Henry’s exploits as a detective for Glimmer and Associates, a detective group with a multicultural workforce which focuses in assembling helpful information on non-white topics for shadowy customers.

As Henry repetitively strays with his skillfully sketched reminiscences of his reserved, embarrassed ever-struggling parents as well as other pictures from his harassed past, it becomes apparent that convinced of his inculcated characteristics; a tendency to suppress his feelings, a skill at memorizing whatever he learns. As well as an inclination to put on disguises in the exasperating pursuit for social acceptance have absolutely fitted him to work as a spy. (Lee Chang-Rae 390)

Progressively itchier with the internalized restraints of his childhood, Henry loses control on Dr. Luzan’s sofa and finds himself “freely talking about my life, suddenly breaching the confidences of my father and my mother and my wife. ” Henry is pulled from the work, then offered one more chance with Korean- American City councilman, John Kwang who reminds him of his own father, and of himself as well as his stance as a detective again corrode into individual appointment with his case. (Lee Chang-Rae 412)

As Henry moves back and forth amid these two schemes; attempting to reconnect with his wife as well as attempting to dig up dirt on Kwang, his speech changes accordingly, shifting back and forwards from searching, disturbed lyricism to short, abrupt spy-speak. Both voices are rendered effectively, as well as the lack of joint narrative voice, whilst troublesome to a number of opponents, subtly indicates the linguistic plasticity of an individual who has grown up toiling to build up an identity mainly through attempting on those of others.

(Lee Chang-Rae 421) Whilst lots of Henry’s reflections concern the remains within himself of his parent’s customs, he slowly opens his eyes to the struggle supported by both Korean customs as well as American capitalism to contemplation of the human tales lying underneath the surfaces financial exchange and work relations. (Lee Chang-Rae 413)

In conclusion, Henry is a character that is faced with many difficulties in his family, love, political affairs as well as with himself given that he still has a problem with his identity. These difficulties come as a result of his cultural background given that he does not appreciate his Korean-American identity thus he betrays both cultures by not living to the standards of each of them.

In essence, he is a character who has suffered the dislocation as well as the invisibility of Asian-Americans in the United States. As a result, he looks for ways to come to terms with these difficulties which in the long run do not yield much fruit. This makes him to turn into a ‘native speaker’ of himself by studying how to ‘chant of other selves’. Works cited Lee Chang-Rae. Native Speaker. Wheeler Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1587242893, 9781587242892

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