Reading Questions for Please Look After Mom
12. Taking out the burial shrouds his wife had made for the two of them, her husband remembers her wish that he die first: "Since you're three years older than me, you should leave three years earlier" (p. 135). What is the effect of the way this passage moves from poignancy to humor and back again? Similarly, how do grief and warmth, even happiness, intertwine as he recalls his wife's generosity and her hands applying a warm towel to his arthritic knee (p. 140)?
13. Do you think Mom's husband and children would have been able to help her if they had paid her and her illness more attention? Or, given her aversion to the hospital and the way she hid her sickness, was what happens to her inevitable?
14. Discuss the return of Mom as storyteller and narrator in the fourth section. What is inventive about this choice on the author's part? What surprised you—and what remained a mystery?
15. How does Mom's feeling for her younger daughter differ from her feeling for Chi-hon? Why was she able to be more attached to the younger daughter than the elder one (p. 180-85)? How is the use of the second person here—Mom addressing her daughter as "you"—different from the use of second person in chapters 1 and 3?
16. What do her children and husband discover about Mom's life only after she disappears? How do her actions express her generosity and benevolence? Do you see some of her activities as ways of seeking self-fulfillment? Was she, through giving to others, taking care of herself?
17. What are we to understand of the fact of Mom's possibly being spotted, in chapter 2 ("I'm Sorry, Hyong-chol"), in the various neighborhoods where Hyong-chol has lived in Seoul? In Mom's own narrative (chapter 4, "Another Woman"), what is the connection between herself and the bird her daughter sees "sitting on the quince tree" (p. 175; see also p. 170).
18. At the end of the father's section, he says to his older daughter, "Please... please look after your mom" (p. 164). How does Chi-hon carry out this directive? How is it related to her feelings about the Pietà and her purchase of "rose rosary beads" at the Vatican (p. 234-37)?
19. What are the details and cultural references that make this story particularly Korean? What elements make it universal?
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