Type of Document Thesis Author Hong, Juli URN etd-12112003-233319 Title Behind Closed Eyes Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Robert Olen Butler Committee Chair Christopher Shinn Committee Member Elizabeth Stuckey-French Committee Member Keywords
- Flat-lidded Eyes
Date of Defense 2003-12-11 Availability unrestricted AbstractMy thesis, entitled Behind Closed Eyes, is a novella that intends to explore the struggle for identity that an American-born Korean must contend with—the issues of assimilating in America while yearning for roots. There is the innate desire to fuse and balance both western and eastern cultures to gain self-acceptance. This thesis considers whether this balance is indeed possible and if there is a price one must pay for identity.
The main character, Chrissy, is a young woman who has denied her Korean heritage for most of her life. Even her mother recognizes Chrissy’s assimilation by predicting that she will marry a white man. Years later, Chrissy is married to an American named Julian. When the novella opens, the reader witnesses the growing irritation Chrissy has towards Julian’s lax regard for Chrissy’s other culture. She begins to feel that Julian only acknowledges her as an American, not as a Korean.
At the height of her irritation, she meets a Korean man, David, at a dinner party she and Julian are hosting and becomes drawn to him. This sensation is foreign to her, since she has been uninterested and even repulsed by Korean men in the past. She has always wondered what this aversion signifies about the way she views herself and her place between her two cultures. Therefore, she expresses an uncharacteristic enthusiasm for this newfound attraction.
When Chrissy mentions David to her mother as a new acquaintance, her mother, oddly enough, rejects the idea of their interaction, arguing that it is improper for a married woman to carry on such relations with another man alone. On the other hand, Anna, Chrissy’s best friend who is also an American-born Korean, advocates that Chrissy get in touch with this side of herself. Although she has no knowledge of Chrissy’s feelings for David, she urges Chrissy to view Korean and other Asian men with more respect. Meanwhile, Julian begins to notice the subtle changes in Chrissy’s behavior, but does not understand what has caused the sudden distance.
Through David, Chrissy desires to find a link to her heritage that she has been seeking, an acknowledgment that both her husband and mother have failed to give her. She wants David to see her Koreanness, a culture that she herself doubts that she has. To obtain this, she is willing to risk her marriage by attempting to have an affair with him.
Chrissy’s persistence with David leaves her feeling more alienated, and at the end of the novella, she calls upon both of the men in her life to see her as she is, Korean and American. As the story closes, Chrissy’s future circumstances remain ambiguous, but she leaves the reader feeling hopeful.
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