Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
with May Yuen, Kevin Perkins, et al.
Christianity plays an important role in the lives of the protagonist's parents. The church, which provides a meeting place and inspiration for the revolutionaries, is a sanctuary for Hyon's mother. She depends on god to help her through life's trials and, after her husband died in a demonstration as a martyr, she waits for the day when she can be with him in heaven. It must be difficult for a widow to raise a child without any emotional support except when she experiences her husband's presence at church. She is at once a traditional East Asian woman who endures hardships with grace and, despite her submissiveness, and admirable character of fortitude.
Hyon's grandfather, by contrast, is a staunch believer in geomancy. Throughout the story, Old Man Ko struggles in vain to improve his family's fortune by burying and re-burying his predecessors at different sites. Only when he sacrifices himself for Hyon's life, does he experience "a feeling of liberation from predestination." His transformation from a stubborn, old man to a compassionate grandfather instills a sense of hope in the reader.
As for Hyon himself, he wavers between action and passivity. The plot revolves around his indecision and his retreat from confrontations, but it culminates in his resistance against foreign encroachment in the Korean War. Hyon challenges the "noisy arguments" of those who have humiliated his country, reducing it to a serfdom. It is this awakening that both author Sonu Hwi and translator Peter Lee celebrate.
"History, for all its ambiguity and betrayal, demands action, an impassioned involvement in the shaping of the destiny of a nation and a people," Lee says. Neither a fate-accepting Taoist or world-renouncing, submissive woman can take up such a challenge. A hero seems to be a humanity-serving Confucian who has blended Christianity and Shamanism into his philosophy. "We must banish the insane contractors and await a new world, belonging to the meek," Hyon says in a state of euphoria at the end of the story. His vision reminds the reader of the Biblical verse, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Sonu, Hwi. "Flowers of Fire." In Flowers of Fire: Twentieth-Century Korean Stories.
Copyright © 1996 by the authors. Information from this article should be attributed to the authors.