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Book Review: the Vegetarian by Han Kang

Book Review: the Vegetarian by Han Kang

While reading this novel, we learn that Yeong-hye decides to become a vegetarian after seeing the brutal torment that animals go through in a recurring nightmare. The torment was so gruesome that it sparked a difference in her behavior and character. She began to change her eating habit because of it. Yells and howls, threaded together layer upon layer, are enmeshed to form that lump. Because of meat. I ate too much meat. The lives of the animals I ate have all lodged there. Blood and flesh, all those butchered bodies are scattered in every nook and cranny, and though the physical remnants were excreted, their lives still stick stubbornly to my insides. When she started to get rid of all of the meat in the house, her husband just took it as a phase but soon he and the father began to talk down on her which could’ve also caused her mind to slowly drift away. Mental abuse is just as hurtful as physical abuse and Yeong-hye had endure that from her own husband. “My word, so you’re one of those “vegetarians, are you” my boss asked” (pg. 23).
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Due to Yeong-hye’s father using physical force to shove meat down her throat, she attempted suicide. I believe this was the first red flag that would’ve alerted her family that Yeong-hye needed to see a psychiatrist. Instead of her husband trying to get Yeong-hye help, he leaves her and your love one abandoning you can cause anyone to fall into a depressing state of mind. Yeong-hye started out being just depressed but I believe it escalated deeper.
In the second half of the novel, Yeong-hye demonstrates her mental illness through her behavior. Three years later, Yeong-hye now refuses all and any food. Now, Yeong-hye’s sister is the only person that hasn’t abandoned her but her husband begins take an interest in Yeong-hye. She allows him to do what he wants with her and she doesn’t stop him. I believe that something in her knew she was doing something wrong but I believe mentally she just didn’t know how to speak up and say no. Her depression could have made her want the sexual attention again since she was no longer married so she gave in to him.
Now Yeong-hye is put in an inpatient mental facility, placed there by her sister to hopefully get some medical help and advice. Yeong-hye starts to believe that she is a tree by doing handstands. Look, sister, I’m doing a handstand; leaves are growing out of my body, roots are sprouting out of my hands…they delve down into the earth. Endlessly, endlessly…yes, I spread my legs because I wanted flowers to bloom from my crotch; I spread them wide… I don’t believe Yeong-hye knew what exactly she wanted in life but she needed something to up to or be like maybe .That could be a reason why she wanted people to see her as a tree instead of a human.
I don’t believe that vegetarianism is the cause for her mental illness but just maybe a lifelong endurance of pain caused by her family, made her slowly begin to lose her mind and the dreams of the animals just sparked it. The only person that really cared for Yeong-hye was her sister. In-hye was proud of herself for wanting to change her lifestyle but she soon realized that she was spiraling out of control and went and found her help immediately. Everything would be fine as long as she just kept going, just carried on with her life as she always had done. In any case there was no other way (p. 169). In the end, Yeong just wanted to be free of the pain and have her life relived in another way.In-hye understood that her sister was no longer the same and that she needed to let go. The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure. She had believed in her own inherent goodness, her humanity, and lived accordingly, never causing anyone harm. Her devotion to doing things the right way had been unflagging, all her successes had depended on it, and she would have gone on like that indefinitely. She didn’t understand why, but faced with those decaying buildings and straggling grasses, she was nothing but a child who had never lived.

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Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang. (2019, Jun 24).
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