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Nothing is what it seems in “A Temporary Marriage.”  Mrs. Shin is searching for her “kidnapped” daughter in America.  She involves herself in a fake marriage and claims she is not interested in any type of relationship.  Except Mrs. Shin is not a reliable narrator.  Her actions are quite different than her words.  Mrs. Shin’s attraction to violence rules her life.  She engages only in the dangerous or the daring.  She craves the twisted relationship she had with her previous husband.

Mrs. Shin is searching for her personal freedom just like Firdaus does.  She is trying to find herself.  Like Firdaus, by the end she finds this “true self.” The two are trapped in societies where they are told they are lesser than their male counterparts.  But that is where the similarities between Firdaus and Mrs. Shin end.  Mrs. Shin is running towards violence, but Firdaus is running away.  Mrs. Shin believes what society tells her, that she is deserving of violence.  Whether she believes in men’s dominance over women is one thing, but it is clear that the violence she has been dealt has warped into pleasure.  She is addicted.

Looking at the story from a cultural standpoint, I believe Mrs. Shin’s “addiction” makes sense. Korean society, even today, has roots in Confucianism.  Women are subservient to men and men are head of the household.  The man makes the decisions; he rules over his wife; and violence is not something that is unheard of.  Krys Lee is no doubt, as a Korean-American, attuned to Korean culture.  She is examining one consequence of this society, just as Saadawi does in Woman at Point Zero.  So while these are two very different stories with different circumstances and different cultures, they explore similar themes.

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