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Korean Literature: Cho Se-hui

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In the 1960s, the powerful process of industrialization started in Korea (Se-hui, 1990, p. 328). It accomplished extensive social and economic changes. All the spheres of human life were involved in this process of transformation. Thus, the epoch of bureaucracy and authoritarianism has been launched causing the violent methods of the control over the society to be used. The individual human rights were not under consideration. With the help of the pressure over the personality, the authority has abolished almost all types of public freedom. The society of Korea suffered from political disparity. The industrialization functioned like a mighty machine using people like small insignificant details, which could be changed in case of troubles. This powerful “meat grinder” has broken thousands of human lives. The aim was to accumulate the capital. The position of a women in the state was in the worst conditions. They worked for miserable payment in the places with bad ventilation. Moreover, all these factors provoked great ethnic and cultural diversity.

Many Korean writers try to reflect these events through the literature, using the phenomenon called surrealism. It appears in the atmosphere of disappointment and depression of human consciousness. Many authors use this depiction in their works. Cho Se-hui is one of them. He uses surrealism as the revolutionary transformation appealing to the human nature willing to break free from materialism. Cho Se-hui shows the strained life of the society in Korea with the help of symbols in order to disguise the revolutionary context in his popular story “A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball”. In this novel, the author depicts the social relations in spite of the social distribution of wealth. The inequality is shown as the social phenomenon that has provoked cultural and ethnic diversity due to profits. It is depicted as an example of the tragedy of one Korean family. The author raises many problem, some of which are reflected with the help of surrealism, while others are illustrated through the means of deep symbols. The story shows the diversity of the background of mass despair and deep depression. An inability of a person to change any event is also described in the story. The writer also aggravates the main topic by horrible details, such as the suicide of a girl, the terrible fate of the parent-dwarfs, the loss of the house, the atmosphere of tears and unbelievable anguish. These issues are also intensified with the help of the following keywords: man-servant, ordeal, everyday battle, serf, and others. The author finds this theme significant regarding it deeply and devoting his works to it. Thus, it is of great importance for the state to cherish the memory of those people and that period. It is a good example for the new generation, which warns them and helps them to avoid such phenomena in the society.

Generally, Cho Se-hui raises the problem of the downtrodden civilization by depicting one family’s tragedy. It has all the opportunities to be happy, but the pressure of the regime makes it feel disgust towards life. Family member consider their existence as the symbolical war of an everyday battle. Their consciousness is the consciousness of the serf. “Serfdom was abolished three generations ago” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 333). Therefore, there is a question: why do they feel and behave like serfs? Why do they obey the terrible rules, and why do they keep silent? The author explains this problem, as it is an issue of the mass serf consciousness. It has spread from generation to generation through not only one family, but also the whole society. The lives of slaves become habitual, as they live this downtrodden life and they do not see another way of existence. It is very hard to transfer the slave consciousness into the consciousness of the free personality. That generation has no education and experience, but the new one is afraid of something new, as it has a great rear of free life. Being free means being defenseless and unprotected. They are afraid of being alone without their abusive master. Their first failures in the independent life make them return to their burden, since one generation of the manservant engenders another serf-servant generation. The ethnic diversity is the consequence of the transference of the serf consciousness from generation to generation, because people have been afraid of changes and a new free life, what is illustrated by this example of one family. The author clearly depicts the suffering of the new young generation.

Cho Se-hui pays much attention to young people disappointed by their lives. They are the future of the country, as they can change everything, but the situation is too difficult for them. All children should be happy and should see happy parents, devoting enough of their time to them. They should feel pleasure from all the things surrounding them and enjoy their childhood. Instead, they do not have any childhood at all. They feel terrible hunger, which the author shows several times depicting the young hero and his friend Myonghui dreaming about food. It is obvious that good nourishment of the children is the guarantee of the healthy nation, which engenders the next healthy generation. However, they cannot buy good food. The children must work because of the lack of money. “Father is too tired,” said mother. “Understand? Don’t depend on your father now. You must work on father’s place” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 338). Thus, the author raises the problem of young people forced to work. It is the result of the diversity within the society, since all the children should be provided for by the state in case of parents’ inability. Moreover, there is another problem of diversity - the absence of the childhood and inability to study.

Nevertheless, young generation uses all possible means to get an education themselves, for instance, they read books during work. Such degradation of the young generation leads to the declination of the nation. This process can provoke mental problems and inability to change the situation in the country. Suicide is one of such problems. It is the way to escape the real hell in order to lose the sense of continuing a battle. The story depicts suicide of Myonghui as her voluntary decision. She committed it because of deep depression, disappointment, and despair, caused by cultural and ethnic diversity. The girl had many dreams, but all of them were doomed to be broken, and she knew it. The writer represents suicide as a result of social disorder. He tries to warn the young people against such decisions, since it is not a way out, but just an escape from the problem committed by the weak person. The problem is still without the solution. Hence, even the smallest efforts can help the worst position in the society. Thus, the social consciousness directed in the wrong way can cause global transformations. It is the declination of the personality at the background of industrial prosperity.

Quick and successful development of the economy puts pressure on the personality. Human existence becomes a part of the powerful system. This system operates broken human lives and it does not stop because of someone’s death. The worker can be easily substituted like a mechanical detail. The fact is that people create such systems themselves. They serve these systems instead of subduing them to themselves.

Moreover, the author shows serf consciousness through the depiction of the story of one family, all the members of which behave like serfs. “One day mother said to me, ‘Because you happened to have been born my son, your life is full of suffering’” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 333). This wrong thinking builds a chain for generations. Moreover, the sense of the problem is that the ancestors were the real slaves living in the slave order, but after the abolishment of the serfdom, people continue the chain of wrong perception. Thus, the author hints towards the issue: “Society was primitive to a shocking extent” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 339). However, people destine their existence to serfdom and anguish of their own accord. This issue can be represented by one interesting cultural element – the clothes without pockets. There is no need for them, since the slaves have nothing. This symbol represents the connection with the cultural tradition. It shows the disability of the society to get rid of these slavish thoughts.

The tragedy of the family is connected not only to the wrong comprehension of the world and the inevitable social status, but it also concerns the physical defect. The parents are the dwarfs. Both of them suffer from abnormal growth patterns. Why does the author depict the parents in such a way? They have unbelievably hard lives full of sufferings and disappointments, and this detail transfers their existence into an ordeal. However, the general idea is much deeper, and using the example of parent-dwarfs, the writer tries to show the low position of the person in the society because of its diversity. It is the inability of the person to fight with the system. The author also shows through this symbol people’s belonging to the class of serfs. It is not their fault, as they have been born like this. The writer wants to reflect their feelings through the feelings of the dwarfs. The dwarfs are the slaves of the cruel nature, and there is no way out for them, they cannot get rid of it. It is not a disease, and there is no treatment for the problem, thus people cannot resist it. The only way is to accept it and obey it. The dwarfs are afraid of being scorned, as they feel shame. At the same time, they fear that people can feel pity towards them. These are the problems of the people living in the society with class diversity.

The author pays special attention to the image of the father. It is really a special image. Cho Se-hui fills this image with exclusive sufferings. In addition to all the above-mentioned problems, he also suffered from terrible physical pain. “Father felt resigned and fell into depression as he realized the twilight of his life was upon him. His aching teeth kept him awake many nights” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 337). The father dreams about the work on stage, but his dreams are broken. Thus, the problem of a hateful job is illustrated in the novel. The body and soul want to do something, but it contradicts possibilities and circumstances. Such people are the slaves of not only the system, but also conditions. The happy person is independent, but it is utopia. All people in the world depend on something: on their family, money, circumstances, or possibilities. The writer shows the fate of all fired workers as an example of the father. Such situation provokes complete despair. In this case, it was suppressed with the help of alcohol. However, death is the final step, regarded as freedom. The author describes the father’s anguish to show that only anguish can create a real personality, who is ready to rise against the system. The father in the story has a particular desire to read a lot. This activity illustrates his passiveness and helplessness. When the writer discloses the kinds of books that he likes to read, the reader understands that the ideas of revolution can be born even in such a weak body. The reading of the father is another interesting detail of the story, even if it seems to be an insignificant element. He reads scientific and philosophic books dreaming about flying to the moon.

There is one more surrealistic element of the story - the notion of space. The society is obsessed with material welfare. Moreover, the space is the symbol of inaccessibility, as it is contrasted to uselessness and pettiness of the personality in the society, which is divided into classes. The books, which had some revolutionary context, caused these dreams about space. The father reads the philosophy of Francis Bacon, who has proclaimed that the aim of the science is in the power of a human over nature. In such a way, the author appeals to the human desire to escape from materialism. The phenomenon of materialism in the society can provoke disappointment and deep depression among the humanity. Cho Se-hui shows this issue in the story by stating that the pressure of industrialization and materialism have smashed individuality. Thus, the author depicts it at the beginning of the story in order to prepare the consciousness of the readers to the difficult problems reflected in the narration: “…the five of us lived in hell, we dreamed of heaven: not a day passed without thoughts of heaven” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 328).

The author reminds several times that life is a war. After reading the book, the reader can make a conclusion that the life of Korean nation of that time was a real war. The author compares that period with the notion of the battle. Some people lost that battle when they were fired. There is no other way to survive in those conditions. This metaphorical fight will never finish, since the enemy is more powerful than the society, and there is no use in resisting it.

Life is an ordeal for one category of people, and satisfaction - for the other. Thus, the writer raises the problem of impasse. Various people comprehend problems differently. Some people begin to drink alcohol as the way to escape from reality, while some people may commit suicide, and others let themselves go to the level of amorality. Moreover, the seriousness of all these problems causes the global social crisis, which is the result of class diversity. However, the author expresses one more reason for the problems in the country: “A nation with no expression of dissent is the nation in ruins” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 346). The author proclaimed these words like the formulation of the prospective society. It is obvious that free nation can be based on the contradiction. Thus, freedom and independence can exist only on the collision of different principles. Otherwise, when people have no dissent and lead their lives like serfs, they form a nation of serfs. In such case, there is an excellent chance for the authorities to establish authoritarianism. It is the main characteristic of the countries, which are isolated from the whole world.

“Centuries and generations have passed us by without effect. In our isolation from the world we have nothing to contribute or teach them” (Se-hui, 1990, p. 346). Thus, the author raises the issue of total isolation of the Korean nation. People live in the cage without the possibility to get information from the outer world and to spread it. The authority finds this situation very beneficial, since the general isolation of the country is the most important condition for keeping order and regime of total control and repression. The ethnic diversity in Korea is the result of this isolation, because the population can observe the life of people from other countries who enjoy absolute democracy, which can provoke a revolution. Moreover, Korea cannot contribute to the artistic heritage of the world for new generations that will establish democracy and social equality.

Thus, the author establishes many problems, which are the result of only one social phenomenon, which is ethnic diversity. The writer leaves the space for readers to find the main ideas of the story and summarize them in order to come up with ideas for solving them. The story is very hard to read because of its strained context. The readers can feel sorrow and companion while reading the novel. It is very depressive because of the difficulties and suffering of the Korean nation depicted by the example of one family. The writer extends and complicates the theme by resorting to class inequality. Social diversity is the division of the population into the groups due to their financial status differences. Such division destroys human lives and dreams leading to the absolute degradation of the society on the background of the powerful economic development and industrial prosperity.

The author shows extreme suffering of the nation. Thus, the meaning of the topic is significant for the present time, because this generation should pass the information to the next one and warn young people against such problems. The topic is important, since it is part of huge the historical heritage of Korean nation, and new generations should cherish the memory about their ancestors who suffered from the pressure of the powerful system of industrial development, which destroyed many personalities. The topic is also essential, because its example can help the society prevent other social phenomena that can cause the nation to degrade. The main theme teaches the society to cherish moral values and to change the state of life without fear, because it shows the importance of positive changes. The topic advises the young generation not to live in anguish. People should make correct decisions in order to change situations, even if these choices could have a revolutionary character. The countries should not be isolated from each, but should take part in the process of enriching artistic heritage of the world. Such cooperation has a positive influence on the personalities of all nations preventing them from degradation. Thus, the author confirms that through the chain of facts, the consciousness of a human and the comprehension of the world can be passed from one generation to the next. That is why the suffering of young people in the story is the result of a wrong thought. Moreover, people should not fight with life, hate their existence, surrender or even fear. On the contrary, they must change their ways of life in their minds. They should fight the system, which transforms free people into slaves. Thus, the system must serve the society and provide it with the necessary benefits and, most importantly, the right to change the situation at any moment.

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