In “Clear Commandments” (Myeongmun, 1925), a free play of imagination is on display in a story that in fact introduces God as an important character. The text begins in a realistic mode, as it explores familial strife between a son and his parents as a result of his conversion to Christianity. After death, however, the protagonist finds himself in a heavenly court, where he must justify a life based on self-righteous and self-serving interpretation of doctrine to a harshly critical and mocking Jehovah. In depicting a society in the midst of social ferment and intergenerational conflict, the story in many ways predicts Kim Dong-ni’s renowned “Portrait of a Shaman”, written a decade later, which also treats the collision of worldviews between a shaman mother and her Christian son.
About the author
Kim Dong-in (1900 – 1951), together with Yi Kwang-su, is one of early modern Korean literature’s representative writers of “pure” fiction. His debut work “The Sorrow of the Weak,” which appeared in the journal Changjo (Creation) in 1919, is considered the first Korean short story to focus in earnest on character development and psychological analysis. A clear, concise style is the hallmark of Kim’s writing. As the first author to adopt the plain past tense “-ieottda” style and to establish an objective stance in fiction with a third person point of view, he is regarded as having employed a realistic technique and well-rounded character types, in contrast to Yi Kwang-su, who saw literature as a vehicle for enlightenment and whose characters were more flatly drawn.
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