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A theme in The Vegetarian is the exploration of the two “sides” that exist in every human being. The more primitive part of our being that deals with our wants and needs is selfish and doesn’t consider the effects that our actions will have on the people around us. Then there is our more socially acceptable side that is concerned with how we fits into the society that we belong to. This side of us is more aware of the circumstances that surround us and attempts to blend in, leading us to ignore or deny our more primitive side.

I want to point out that I didn’t say that this environmentally aware side is more logical than its counterpart. The distinction made in The Vegetarian is not the same as the West’s habit of dividing cold hard logic from wildly uncontrollable emotions. An article by Lori Feathers states that the theme of The Vegetarian is, “Existence precedes essence.” Yeong-hye removes her essence from the world by becoming plant-like, needing only water and sunlight and completely cutting herself off from the more environmentally aware side of her and embracing her primitive side. That said, she does not lack either emotions or logic while she is in this state of pure existence. Emotionally, Yeong-hye smiles for her sister in the hospital and seems to hold some affection for her. Is it distant affection? Absolutely, but the emotion is not altogether erased. As for logic, this is harder to see because we do not directly hear Yeong-hye’s voice and cannot get inside her head as we do with the other characters. That said, I think that In-hye finding meaning in her sister’s actions provides the reader with a sense of the logic of Yeong-hye’s choices.

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