By Han Kang
Reviewed by Eden
“When a person undergoes such a drastic transformation, there’s simply nothing anyone else can do but sit back and let them get on with it.” – The Vegetarian
Why are some people, apart from yourself more knowledgeable when it comes to the matters of your condition? They seem to know that something is not right with you even if you don’t open your mouth to say a word. They give you a tap on the back. It’s just a tap for them but you feel it striking you like an iron bar. They look at you with pity and sometimes distaste. You interpret this gesture as an insult. They offer help and would always make you believe that you’ll get better because nothing is unfixable. Most of the time, since not everybody speaks up these people has already done some damage to you before they even find out that there is nothing wrong in the first place.
(In order written in my notebook) (LOL)
YEong-hye- She was described by her husband as a run-of-the-mill kind of woman. She likes to read books that look so dull. She doesn’t like wearing bra. She couldn’t stand wearing a bra because of the way it squeezed her breasts and how constricting it felt.
Mr. Cheong – He is the husband of Yeong-hye. He likes the way that Yeong-hye is a very ordinary woman but never fails to be a good wife to him. When her wife switched into a vegetarian, he becomes very suspicious as to what’s going on. He speculated that the only reasonable grounds for altering one’s eating habits are:
- Desire to lose weight.
- Attempt to alleviate certain physical ailments.
- Being possessed by evil spirits.
- Sleep disturbed by indigestion.
In-hye- Older sister of Yeong-hye. She is the only one empathetic to Yeong-hye’s situation. Many times she questioned herself as to why her sister is undergoing such unbecoming, but when she look back at her life, she would see just a little bit of similarity.
In-hye’s husband (I can’t remember if it was even mentioned in the novel. HAHAHA)- He is an artist whose theme tended towards realism. He is very much (secretly) turned on with YEong-hye’s Mongolian mark which was described as a blue-pataled (weird that Word won’t recognize the word petaled) flower in her buttocks.
The story is divided in three parts: The Vegetarian, The Mongolian Mark and The Flaming Trees.
The Vegetarian (Creepy)
After Yeong-hye had a dream, she deprived herself of eating all kinds of meat. This caused the household refrigerator to only have vegetables and this caused her husband to resent her. Things completely changed as the days go by. Yeong-hye has been actively avoiding sex. She is not sleeping. She repulses her husband’s meat smell. Her body turned into a skeletal frame of an invalid. She would not wear bra anymore around the house or even around her husband’s colleagues. When her husband reached his tipping point, he asked help from Yeong-hye’s family. Picture a lunch together with your loved ones. It’s supposed to be happy, right? Only in her case, she was doomed to eat meat by her family.
The Mongolian Mark (Sensual)
Now Yeong-hye, a divorcee, was visited by her sister’s husband. At first, the motive was to know how she’s doing after she tried killing herself one sad lunch a few years back. Then she was asked a favor if she can model for his next video art where she will be filmed naked apart from the painting of flowers that will cover her entire body. She agreed. A second time she was asked to be filmed with a man who will also be painted naked with flowers. The man backed out when they were told to have coitus. Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law then decided that it was he who needs to do it. She would only agree to do it with him if he would be painted with flowers too. This part ended with In-hye discovering the video where her husband is having coitus with her sister. (I first heard coitus used in the Big Bang Theory and I love the series so much. ^___^)
The Flaming Trees (Metaphorical)
What struck me most in this part is Yeong-hye’s statement to her sister that she believes that she is a tree. She said that she is only finding out now that trees stand with both arms in the earth. In the psychiatric hospital where she now resides, she would often be found standing on her head with her legs up in the air spread apart. She refused to eat anything now with the notion that trees only need water.
The book is honestly very disturbing but I enjoyed reading it. I mentioned earlier that I think it is unfair that some people are so omniscient when it comes to your own feelings. When they notice something is off, they would always try to do some troubleshooting as if you’re a machine. It doesn’t look normal, what Yeong-hye has been practicing, but that is only because the majority doesn’t consider it as normal. If I were Yeong-hye’s sister, I would have tried everything to not let her lose her sanity. I would persuade her to eat again. I would help her come home from that hell hole of a hospital. In the past, I have tried to save someone because I assumed something is not right with ______. HAHAHAHA. I won’t reveal even the pronoun. I thought ______ is depressed so I tried to cheer ______ up. I ended up losing ______, all the same. LALALALALALALALALALA. Moral lesson: Back off. I know that most of the time, you want to do something for the person you love, but really it’s not always about you. How I wish I could say this to my naïve self.
The big question is what was the dream all about? What made Yeong-hye change her way of living? Well, you guys need to read it. You can do it in one sitting because it has about 188 pages only, and since I was slow-reading practically my whole reading life; I finished it in five days. Or five business days, I forgot. LOL. I rate this book a five out five stars.