A Gesture Life
Erasure in Change-Rae Lee's "A Gesture Life" College
Chang-rae Lee’s A Gesture Life tells the story of a man of slippery character. Known by his neighbors as “Doc,” Franklin Hata is a friendly face around town, always maintaining a respectful, purposeful distance. He assimilates with the people of Bedley Run quietly and gracefully, but his peers can tell that there is more to his background, where and from what he comes from, than he lets on. Between flashbacks and reflections, Lee weaves together a narrative that explores the experiences and actions of a humble Japanese immigrant in America. In an attempt to move forward, Hata must erase parts of his past, his origins, and his identity.
Upon leaving his birth parents, Hata dissolves any evidence of his Korean-ness, abandoning the language and his Korean name - given to him by “the tanners,” as he refers to them - and adopting the name and way of life of his new, Japanese family. He works hard to prove he deserves their sponsorship and immerses himself in their culture and education, reborn into a new life, one where his past never existed . In a setting where Koreans are treated as second-class citizens, Hata renounces his native-born identity, burying his origins beneath his complacency with his new culture. When he enlists in...
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