Katherine Min's Courting A Monk

1039 Words5 Pages
Reed Sanders
Ms. Voller
EN 1173-04
8 September 2016
What Is the Sound of a Life Not Lived? Katherine Min’s short story, “Courting a Monk,” deals ostensibly with how the narrator, Gina, met, courted, and married her husband. However, Min uses the story to explore issues of cultural identity, the nature of Buddhist belief, the tensions between her and her father, and ultimately, the meaning of life. Throughout the story Min uses images of stillness contrasted with rapid movement and activity, and also uses people’s attitudes as words and language, including silence, to convey her main themes. From the first sentence of this story the narrator stresses her husband-to-be’s stillness. He is motionless, while she goes “flying by him” (), engaged in an energetic game of Ultimate Frisbee. She admits, “What I noticed about him most was his tremendous capacity of stillness” (). “He looked so rooted there,” while the narrator “began to feel awkward in my exertion” (). In one sense the narrator is like her father who has moved, perhaps more sedately, to America after the Korean War and whose difficulties with the English language will be examined later. The narrator, Gina, by contrast with Micah, is associated with movement. When they
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She ends the story with a koan – a Buddhist-like riddle which has become a standing joke between Micah and Gina during their courtship. The koan, or question that cannot be answered, that ends this story is this: “What is the sound of a life not lived?” (). In the context of this story, this invented koan can be seen to refer to Micah. If he had pursued his dream of becoming a monk, it could be argued that he would not have lived his life fully as a husband and father; however, it can also stand for Gina, for if she had followed the Korean way of being a “submissive doormat,” she would not have become the independent American woman that she

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