The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

Adam Johnson (writer)
This Study Guide consists of approximately 65 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Orphan Master's Son.
This section contains 626 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel Summary & Study Guide Description

The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel by Adam Johnson (writer).

The novel, "The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson, tells the story of two North Korean men, both of whom rebel against the country's tyrannical government. Through their stories, the reader gets a glimpse of what life is like in this part of the world. The people, and their lives, are held at the whim of a selfish leader who has his people kidnap, steal and cheat to get him what he wants. Other themes addressed in the novel include the development of true love, loyalty and the truth.

The main character of the novel is Pak Jun Do, the son of an orphan master. Jun Do names himself after a Korean martyr heralded for his loyalty. Initially, Jun Do works as a tunnel soldier in the Korean Army and then is sent to serve as a spy on a fishing vessel. When one of the shipmates defects, Jun Do distracts attention by letting himself be mauled by a shark, thus preventing his shipmates from being sent to prison. With his wounds still fresh, Jun Do is sent to America on a diplomatic mission. Since the mission does not go as planned, Jun Do is condemned to a work prison.

When Jun Do surfaces again, he has killed Commander Ga and taken over his identity. As Commander Ga, Jun Do helps Sun Moon, who is the real Commander Ga's wife, and her children escape to America. Jun Do had first become interested in Sun Moon when the image of her face was tattooed onto his chest. This was part of the ruse employed to fool any Americans who might have boarded the fishing vessel where he was stationed into believing he was married. In the prison camp, Jun Do is allowed to watch one of Sun Moon's movies and he falls in love with her. She becomes his refuge from pain. When he is able to kill her cruel husband and escape from jail, he decides to help save her from her life of misery.

The interrogator who questions Commander Ga/Jun Do in Division 42 has a life that closely mirrors that of Jun Do. He has served his position in Korea without question, believing that one day the department in which he works will transform into a less violent way of interrogating its prisoners. He is disturbed by his parents, who have become paranoid and distant in their old age. In addition, one of his interns is taken into custody by the Pubyok while another - to this violent interrogation division, causing him to lose faith in his vision for his future. The narrator seeks the truth from his subjects, spending days and sometimes weeks transcribing their biographies. The narrator seems to lose complete faith in his country when he hears the story of Sun Moon and Commander Ga being broadcast over the national loudspeaker system. This story angers him not only because it has been falsified but also because he has not even gotten the true story out of Ga yet.

In the end of the novel, the narrator kills his parents by feeding them a can of peaches infected with botulism. In this way, he does not have to worry about them being sent to a work prison in their old age. He also hooks himself and Ga up to a machine called the autopilot that clears a person's mind of their memory. While the narrator wants only a quiet life on a work farm where he might have a wife with whom to share his woes, Ga no longer wants to be a part of the Korean society. As the narrator's machine is beginning to work, he notices that Ga turns his setting up to the highest setting.

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This section contains 626 words
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