Kim Wǒnju's "Death of a Girl" is a work with a thesis. The short story represents the author's sharp criticism of traditional Korean family structure and practices, which, she believes, have had deadly ramifications on Korean society's young, especially females. Kim drives her message home by having the exemplary young heroine of the narrative commit suicide in defiance of the horrifying and dehumanizing demands of her parents intent upon selling her as a concubine. In so doing, Kim underscores the compelling urgency of reforms in dictatorial parental authority over children, in polygamy and male philandering, and in the commercialization of the female body prevalent in the early decades of twentieth-century Korea. In short, the story promotes Kim's vision of an ideal society, which, freed of coercion stemming from familial and gender hierarchy, would allow its members freedom of individual choice, basic human dignity, and, ultimately, personal happiness.


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pp. 24-33
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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