Douglas Cowie maintains that “Korea” is a kind of rural elegy or a softly-chanted lament to the subtle but significant changes in relationships between father and son on one level, and between rural Ireland and the world outside its borders on another.’ Although “Korea” is only five pages long, these are just some areas that can be investigated in order to analyze the complexity of the themes of the story.
Consider writing your essay on one of the following topics:
This essay highlights the themes of the story written by John McGahern entitled Korea. The story is set in 1950s Ireland and thus deals with the poor socio-economic situation that was prevailing during the therefore mentioned period. The story brings to light themes of death in war, death of the youth, in the case of the son, and death of rural Ireland. The Father was captured during the Irish Civil war fighting for the Irish Republican Army against British Forces.
Furthermore, the story shines a light on the strain that ensued between father and son as the son overwhelmed by the realization that the youth, in general, faced the prospect of facing limited opportunities after completing education, and certain death if they emigrated to the United States of America: Because they would be conscripted into the US army to fight in Korea. During the 1950s there was war between North Korea and South Korea whereby the United States was fighting in support of South Korea.:
A father who was a former Prisoner of War narrates to his son his experiences of death during the Irish Civil War; he was captured in an ambush late 1919 fighting for the Irish Republican Army against the British forces. Thus we observe that the author uses descriptive imagery to illustrate the extent to which the traumatic experiences of death that the father witnessed when he was a Prisoner of war (POW) during the great war. For example, the father tells his son that the prison guards were shooting prisoners of war in Mount joy; he had witnessed the execution of a boy aged about seventeen years old and a thirty-something man (J McGahern, 1992:45). We can argue that incidents such as that execution of the two had left long-lasting memories on him. For example, The son had noted that his father was very reluctant to talk about his life and his experiences during the war and it appeared he was only talking about because his son was spending his last summer with him on the river (J McGahern, 1992; 46)
In 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed and thus independence was granted to the Republic of Ireland. This signaled the partition of the Isle of Ireland into two parts namely; The Republic of Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland, which remained as part of the dominion of the British crown the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (www.bbc.co.uk/countryprofile/ireland). However, in the 1950s Ireland was experiencing socio-economic problems, and as a result, there was a lack of opportunities and the death of rural Ireland. This situation resulted in most of the youth to migrate to the United States where they were mostly conscripted to serve in the Army. Those who remained were earning their livelihood in the agricultural sectors and some were into fishing though the government was increasingly placing restrictions on coarse fishing with the intention of expanding the tourism sector.
The death of rural Ireland is discussed in the story when the father attempts to encourage the son to go to the United States when he points out that the son would have a better chance of having a bright future after completing his education; he points out that their main livelihood, which was fishing was under threat from more government regulations. He says that’ It was uncertain his fishing license would be renewed because the tourist board had opposed his last application by indicating that local fishermen were impoverishing fish stock. Which would attract tourists from England to Ireland and that there was no guarantee that his license will be approved in future (J McGahern, 1992:48) and furthermore, he argues that in Ireland there was no room for ambition because was a `poky place with only room for making poles in pints of porter,` whereas America was a land of opportunities(J McGahern, 1992;47
It is in view of the above mention prevailing conditions in Ireland during that period, that we note from the story that the father tried to persuade his son to immigrate to America. The father was of the view that if his son went to America he may have good opportunities in life; this state of affairs was compounded by the fact that 1950s Ireland`s socio-economic situation was bleak and as a result, the youth tended to emigrate to America in search of greener pastures. However, the conversation that the son heard between his father and a local cattle dealer led the son to decide against the option of going to America. He realized that he would face the same fate that had befallen other local youth such as Luke Moran whose funeral procession he had seen (J McGahern, 1992;49)and above all he heard his father discussing the financial gains parents were entitled to when their children served in the US army and when they died, dissuaded him from agreeing to his father’s proposal.
In conclusion, we have observed that the experiences of death the father witnessed during the Irish Civil war had negatively affected him that he was reluctant to talk about them. Furthermore, the socio-economic downturn that was prevailing in 1950s Ireland appear to have contributed to the death of rural Ireland and as a result, many youths were forced to emigrate to the United States where they were conscripted into the army which was engaged in a war in Korea. We learn that the son overheard his father discussing with a cattle dealer that parents were entitled to payments of sums of money if they had their sons serving and also if they were killed in the Korean War and as a result, there was a strain in the relationship with his father. The son thought his father`s idea of sending him to America was motivated by financial gains