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In The Vegetarian, Han Kang deals with the extreme desires of Yeong-hye.  Yeong-hye becomes vegetarian, and by the end of the novel we learn that she wishes to become a tree.  Not only does she want to become a tree she believes she already is one.  She even stands on her head for hours at a time, convinced that her “roots” will sink into the earth.  She believes that she no longer needs food, that the earth will provide her with sustenance.  Kang has noted that she wrote The Vegetarian after she became obsessed with the quote “I believe humans should be plants.”  Kang has taken this simple idea and twisted it into a dark reality for Yeong-hye.  Kang does this throughout the story.  Kang discusses sexual extremes as well.  Yeong-hye’s brother in law is obsessed with Yeong-hye and wishes to fulfill a sexual fantasy revolving around Yeong-hye’s Mongolian Mark.  Kang asks her reader to address uncomfortable extremes time and time again.  In the case of the artist, it is to address sexual desire.

Raymond Carver does the same thing in Fat.  Carver’s main character is obsessed with a customer of hers that is obese.  The whole story, which is only three pages in length, is all about the fat man yet, this story isn’t about the fat man at all.  In the last few sentences the main character says she feels depressed.  Every time she and Rudy has sex, she begins to feel like she is so fat that Rudy is “barely there at all.” Carver uses these extremes to address this irrational fear.  But the last few lines of the story are confusing.  The character suddenly exclaims that everything is going to change.  What is about to change?  The whole story has this frantic feel to it and the last few sentences heighten this feeling.  It is almost like time is running out.

Kafka’s The Hunger Artist deals with extremes to address the hunger artist’s desire for attention.  He feeds on the amount of people who watch him fast.  As the people fall away (and the attention towards him fades), the hunger artist wastes away.  No longer surrounded by admirers, he can no longer live.  He believes that attention is the only thing that feeds him.  This is very similar to The Vegetarian where Yeong-hye believes that she is a tree so she now requires sustenance from the ground.  Both of these characters are disillusioned as to what will keep them alive.  Both of these characters cannot be fulfilled by “normalcy.”

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