Have you ever gotten into an argument with friends when you were convinced you were right and they were wrong and you kept insisting, claiming that if asked, everyone nearby would agree with you? The book Vegetarian teaches us that no one is perfect because everybody is unique. ‘Han Gang’, author of ‘Vegetarian’, received the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. Her book is the perfect harmony of beauty and horror in a compressed and delicate novel. Sound odd? Well, after reading the book, you’ll completely understand.
Meaning of Normal
The novel Vegetarian centers around ‘Young Hye’, a vegetarian, and people close to her. ‘Young Hye’, at the start of the novel, however, was not a vegetarian. She later decides to become a vegetarian after a horrifying dream where she finds herself eating fresh bloody meat. Waking from the nightmare, she worries it may become reality, so she decides to become a vegetarian. She gets so caught up in the vegetarian lifestyle that she can no longer stand the smell of meat. That initial nightmare was the just the start of plenty more to come. Interesting, the reader later discovers that the dreams are actually replays of her experiences as a child. She suffered exposure to violence as a child both among people in and outside of her family. She believes that eating meat harm others life. Not wanting to harm others is the reason behind her becoming a vegetarian. She doesn’t want to become an assailant like others in her life. No one in the book senses that Young Hye has succumb to any psychological damage from the violence in her environment since the environment of the society made people’s actions justified.
This SMT reporter sees 'Young Hye' as an ordinary young lady suffering from a mental illness brought on by people around her. Her father is extremely abusive and also attacked her often. Her husband didn’t truly love her, but married her anyways since he needed someone to cook for him, care his work, and iron his clothes. Her brother-in-law also was abusive sexually, justifying his actions on her as art. While many will wonder why she didn’t resist or fight back, but readers need to consider that she grew up in a violently abusive environment so she likely sees her current situation as ‘normal’. The book made the reporter ponder the actions of society members as a whole and realized that the story in the book could actually be happening to some poor people in real life. Our ‘normal’ behavior in current daily life could actually be ruining one’s future life.
Violence in Society
“What I believe is my breast. I like my breast. With breast, I can kill no one.” These are lines spoken by 'Young Hye' in the novel. Breasts are not sharp and do no harm to others, so when looking at an area of her body in which to take pride in, she speaks of her breasts. ‘Young Hye’ is a victim of society, a society that considers something normal only if it fits social values. And such social value is usually beautified though it contains the terrible violence of the society.