Native Speaker

The Relinquishing of Roots College

Does assimilation into American culture occur easily for immigrants or individuals with foreign-born parents? As the characters in Chang Rae Lee’s novel, Native Speaker, demonstrate, adjusting to the Western world comes with great difficulty and often ultimately results in a sense of alienation and shame. The narrator, Henry Park, a Korean-American suffering from an identity crisis, reveals the resentment he feels for his parents who relinquish their Korean roots in an attempt to attain the typical American dream.

Throughout the novel, Henry Park’s attitude is critical, frequently finding fault with others. Differing from both of his parents who lack pride in their Korean heritage and instead try blending in with the Americans, Henry personally resides more in a territory of uncertainty, unsure about the classification of himself as a Korean or an American. For this reason, Henry comments:

I remember thinking of her, What’s she afraid of, what could be so bad that we had to be that careful of what people thought of us, as if we ought to mince delicately about in pained feet through our immaculate neighborhood, we silent partners of the bordering WASPs and Jews, never rubbing them except with a smile, as if...

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