Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Critical Essay Example on Coming Home Again

Free Critical Essay Sample

In the essay Coming Home Again by Chang-Rae Lee, the author tells of his deep connection with his mother through food. Through Lee's eyes, his mother is a woman whom he deeply loves and respects. She is very involved in his life. As close as she is involved in his life, the author implies that he and his mother are never particularly on the same level. Lee's mother wants to give him an edge in life as an American by sending him to a boarding school in New Hampshire. In doing this however, Lee's mother sacrifices the relationship she has with the author. The author, who is oblivious to his mother's feelings at the time when he was away at Exeter, reevaluates at the end of the essay whether becoming successful in an American society is worth the time lost between his mother and his Korean culture. Through native Korean foods, such as "Kimchi", and the simple preparation of the recipe "Kalbi", the author feels as if he can truly relate to his mother and their culture. Lee conveys these ideas through the use of first person point-of-view, symbolism, and imagery.

By using first person point of view, the author makes the reader feel the bond between him and his mother on a more profound level. The author uses point of view most effectively when he describes the actual process of preparing food. "I would enter the kitchen quietly and stand beside her, my chin lodging upon the point of her hip. Peering through the crook of her arm, I beheld the movements of her hands"(450). The first person point of view gives the reader a sense of being in the same room witnessing the food preparation, which then in terms leads to the understanding of the author's strong feelings behind cooking and his mother.

Symbolism plays an important role in this essay. The author includes the procedures of making the "Kalbi" to symbolize numerous things in the essay. Such things are the relationships of both mother and child to one another, some events that occurs and the characters in the essay as well. The phrase "with the point of her knife cut"(450) and "she thrust her hands in and kneaded the flesh"(450) symbolizes a conflict in the author's relationship with his mother. The word "bone"(450) symbolizes the author himself and the "barest opaque layer of tendon" symbolizes the author's relationship with his mother as being feeble. The way a part of the essay is written also mirrors the procedures in the recipe. Such likeness are seen in the phrase "She wiped her hands and took out a bottle of sesame oil, and, after pausing for a moment streamed the dark oil in two swift circles around the bowl"(450). The first paragraph on page 454 starts the two conflicts that the author talks about in the last part of the same paragraph and in the following paragraph. The wiping of hands, and taking out a bottle of sesame oil reflects how the author removes his childhood attitude and shifts to a teenage one, which is referred to as the "dark oil", which is "dismissive and bitter"(454) The "two swift circles" represent the two conflicts the author does to his mother during his childhood. On one of the quotes the mother says while the author was observing her, ""the meat needs the bone nearby," she said, "to borrow its richness,"" tells us that the mother needs his son (the author) nearby, because that is the person she gets her happiness from. The phrase "She wiped her hands clean of the marinade"(451) symbolizes how the author tries to forget about the conflicts he and his mother had. On the other hand, he doesn't forget about the wonderful moments he had with his mother, which is represented on the phrase "except for her little finger"(451). The phrase "which she would flick with her tongue from time to time"(451) symbolizes the author's often visits to the highway where his mother died. And finally, the phrase "because she knew that the flavor of a good dish developed not at once but in stages" represents a portion of the essay showing how the author shows us how he develops the importance of his mother to him, which is stated on the following phrase, "but those years I was away at boarding school grew more precious to her as her illness progressed"(457). The recipe is a combination of the mother's current life, the conflicts and how she succeeds in gaining the strong relationship between her and her son and through these, the author relates to his mother.

Lee uses imagery to an extent where situations in the essay give the reader a better feeling of what is occurring. One reason why he uses imagery is to relate to his culture. An example of this is in the scene where he and his parents were in the motel, and the author opens the container with radish kimchi, as shown in the following sentence. "I opened a container of radish kimchi and suddenly the room bloomed with its odor, and I reveled in the very peculiar sensation of simultaneously drooling and gagging as I breathed it all in" (456). These images show how Lee's culture gradually conquers the atmosphere of the room. The food served in Lee's welcoming dinner, found on the third paragraph on page 456, shows images of how his mother tries to bring their culture back to Lee's mind through serving authentic Korean dishes. Another purpose of imagery in the essay is to show the death of the author's mother. "He then heard a strange sound from her, a kind of muffled chewing noise, as if something inside her were grinding its way out." This sentence shows Lee's mother's death that shows imagery that creates a mourning atmosphere. Most of the images that Lee includes in his essay are representation of how his culture slowly comes back to his memory, and how his mother's death affects him.

Lee created his essay to commemorate his mother. He includes the conflicts to show how he treats his mother, the recipe to symbolize his mother's current life with him, and to show how he manages to have a better bond in their relationship, and specific images to give the readers a better feel of the situation. The author's main point in putting some Korean food was made is to show how those things eventually brought him back to his culture, even though his culture changed while going to school in America. On the other hand, his objective of writing the procedures of making Kalbi in detail is to represent his relationship with his mother. With the use of first person point-of-view, symbolism and imagery, the author manifests his purpose of relating to his mother and his culture through a simple yet meaningful recipe called Kalbi and other Korean dishes mentioned in the essay.

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