Saturday, September 17, 2011
The Status Quo Does Not Benefit All
The novel centers around the years 1830-40, as seen through the eyes of its two protagonists, who are not Catholic but are able to see the problems of the society from having traveled widely and benefited from the status quo. They realized that this stratified society of privileged and disadvantaged citizens has to be be broken; this goal to break the status quo gave the novel its name.
Catholicism brought into Korea a belief system that spoke about the equality of all. This thinking was not absent in Korea but Catholicism was showing how this could be achieved by putting into practice its beliefs. It was because Catholicism was breaking down the status quo that brought about the persecution.
Sister has a doctorate in oriental philosophy, studied in Taiwan and has taught in universities here and in the States. Her intention in writing history packaged in a historical novel was to make available her more academic works in a genre that would be of interest to all. She did this by introducing to us two protagonists whose primary concerns where not for themselves but for all of society. They could see the world as bigger than their own life situation.
Both Catholic papers reviewed the book, one review quoting the words of one of the protagonists, who at the end of the novel whispers to his son: "Those who adhere to only one way will not allow for change. But when we don't have change only a few will live well and the rest will live with anguish and without meaning. Change means to look for a new way. That is the way you should go. It is the way to find meaning in life." It is this message the sister wants to leave with the reader. (The word used in the title of the novel is the word I translated as change in the above paragraph.)