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When she came downstairs, Mr. Rhee was preparing snail soybean fermented stew and mung-bean pancakes. Mortified to see a man in a kitchen, she tried to wrench the spatula away, when she remembered where she was. This was America, she reasoned, as Mr. Rhee hugged the spatula. Hadn’t she come to live differently? ( Krys Lee, 5)

In “A Temporary Marriage,” Mrs. Shin often finds her own attitude and actions at odds with both American and Korean customs and values. When she enters the US at the very beginning of the story, we see her struggle to adjust to Mr. Shin’s more Americanized way of life when she attempts to wrestle the spatula away from him while he is cooking due to the learned embarrassment of seeing a man carrying out traditionally feminine activities. Later on into the story, it seems that despite the strangely traditional sentiments she expresses, she fully understands the ways in which American culture differs and hopes to capitalize on that in order to see her daughter again. This is seen especially at the moment where she first meets with Detective Kim.

Mrs. Shin had hoped for a second-generation with sloppy Korean, a man raised on hamburgers and fries, someone who might not have crossed the Pacific with his patriarchal ideas intact. Instead, she got Detective Kim. (Krys Lee, 6)

Mrs. Shin realizes that although being a Korean immigrant puts her at a disadvantage in some ways, it also could offer her a certain freedom from the more stringent restraints and patriarchal laws regarding child custody she lived under when still a wife in Seoul. Although her new surroundings seem to exacerbate the self-destructive behavior that has originated from her first husband’s abuse, they also seem to give her a new freedom that she hadn’t experienced before.

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