Monday, February 5, 2007

Duality in The Interpreter

One of the first things that stood out to me upon finishing the novel was the sheer amount of dualities that were present throughout the entire novel. There were some basic and pretty obvious ones and some that were more subtle, but I think that all of them served a very important purpose.

The first thing that I felt was important to point out is how the word “interpreter” suggests a duality all on its own. By becoming an interpreter Suzy embraces the differences between many things such as her new world (America) and her parent’s old world (Korea), the differences between poverty and privilege, and the difference between language and understanding. Suzy is often faced with interpreting the truth exactly as it is said or by smudging it slightly as to reflect what she feels the person is trying to say. Suzy notes that there is a distinct difference between what is literally said and what is meant, and this relates to the very distinct differences between American culture and Korean culture in America. During her interpreting for the courts she comes across the difference between the culture of her generation and the culture of her parents. She speaks of being a 1.5 generation where she and others like her are still stuck between Korea and America, those who were born in Korea but who were raised in the states. It is particularly hard for her to adjust because she still feels a tie to the life that was but an urge to live an American life like the others around her.

Some other dualities that can be found in the novel are home and family, love and sex, work and success, the self and the other, and betrayal and guilt. To Suzy there is a difference between what it means to go home to the physical place in which you live and to go home to your family that you love. I don’t feel that Suzy ever really connected to her parents or sister and so to her she was home but she never really had a family. Suzy also portrays the difference between love and sex, in that she found herself in relationships with men for a purely physical attraction knowing that she could never have them because they already belonged to someone else. Suzy was a kept woman and she enjoyed this because it again kept her in a neutral position, she was able to keep herself detached from the situation. The duality of work and success is also present in the book. Suzy works but does not feel successful because success implies some sort of relationship to what you are doing and a degree of liking or even enjoying your work. At certain times in the novel Suzy can see herself as a separate entity from the rest of her life, she talks about what life is like for her and her wants and needs, and in other parts of the book she refers to herself as the other woman.

All of these dualities can be applied to other aspects and other characters in the novel and doubtless there are many other dualities that one can find throughout this piece of work. In the end an important thing to remember is that through everything Suzy manages to keep herself detached from everything going around her. An interpreter’s job is to stay neutral; to ask questions and give answers exactly as they are said without changing them or putting in any personal meaning. Suzy tries to be detached in all other aspects of her life, always staying on the outside, never getting too attached or too personal.

No comments: