Hi folks! Today’s bookish review is brought to you by a guest blogger. IG handle – @book_dude
I can not agree more with his view on Han Kings, The Vegetarian. – G.C.
The Vegetarian is a short novel, told in three sections by the vegetarian’s (Yeong-hye) husband, brother-in-law, and sister. It’s a difficult book to describe. Just read a few reviews, and you’ll see how many various interpretations there are of it. Here’s mine, and it may be considered slightly “spoilery”.
The Vegetarian is about women who see themselves as living through the eyes of the men around them, and how the lack of knowing themselves ruins their lives.
The first sentence of the book, as told by the husband, reads, “Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.” Not exactly a love letter, but then we get a glimpse of Yeong-hye’s dreams in which she describes “intolerable loathing…I’ve always tried to mask with affection.” She doesn’t refer to her husband directly, but it’s not hrs to see who she is thing of.
The second section is told by the brother-in-law, an artist who is inspired by his lustful feelings…and a distinctive birthmark (an imperfection?) to use her as his canvas, and thus ruin his own life. And why risk so much? Consider HIS feelings towards his own wife, Yeong-hye’s sister, In-hey…”right from the first there’d been something about her that left him feeling vaguely dissatisfied…and unable to put his finger on just what it was that he felt she was lacking, he’d made up his mind to marry her.” Even his compliments of her show his disdain, “she’s a good woman…the kind of woman whose goodness is oppressive.”
The last section is told by In-hye, who contemplates her unhappy life, time wasted on years with her husband, and realizes she’s never really “lived in this world”, only endured.
So how does all this relate to vegetarianism? To me, this rejection of meat is her way of rejecting he male-dominated life, to be able to live how she wants…as insane as it becomes by the end. Yeong and In-hye live at the whims of husbands, fathers, male psychiatric doctors and gynecologists, and even male children. Their realization of this and the methods they use to cope with it…that’s the tragedy and real horror of the story.