MOTHERS ARE IRREPLACEABLE
A mother is very significant to a son, and without that motherly figure to guide you it makes it almost impossible to cope in the real world. In the essay, “Coming Home Again”, Chang-Rae Lee’s mother is very involved in his life and he respects and loves her greatly. She wants to give him the chance to live an American life by sending him to boarding school, which in turn reduces the amount of time he has with his mother because of her illness and weakens their relationship. The author copes with the death of his mother through native Korean foods such as “Kimchi” and “Kalbi” and he emphasizes his coping through the use of imagery, symbolism and first person. Lee uses imagery throughout the essay to show how his mother’s death affected him and how his culture always ends up in his memory. Imagery allows the reader to have a better understanding and sense of what is actually happening. There’s one part in the essay when he says, “whenever I cook, I find myself working just as she would, readying the ingredients-a mash of garlic, a julienne of red peppers, fantails of shrimp-and piling them in little mounds about the cutting surface” (Lee p.1-2). The imagery here shows how he refers to his mother every time he cooks and how in detail he paid attention to the ingredients she used.
The Korean food seems to fill the rooms and dinner tables every time it is mentioned in the story, which shows its importance. Lee provides detailed descriptions of the way his mother cooked and how she instructed him to do the same, which indicates how strongly his mother felt about cooking and her passion for it. Symbolism is an essential part of this essay because he uses other objects to describe the way he feels. In the essay, the mother tells us that she needs her son with her because she depends on him to rescue her out of her gloomy days. The mother said, “The meat needs the bone nearby, to borrow its richness” (Lee 1). The meat in this case would refer to her and the bone would be the son. The bone holds the meet together; otherwise, it would fall apart. A rich brownie would be a delicious brownie that satisfies the customer eating it. That is why the meat borrows the bone’s richness. This is saying that she needs him to fulfill her happiness. The use of first person puts a reader in the position to actually feel what the author feels. The author says, “From that day, my mother prepared a certain meal to welcome me home. It was always the same. Even as I rode the school’s shuttle bus from Exeter to Logan airport, I could already see the exact arrangement of my mother’s table” (Lee p.4).
At this point of the essay, Lee allows readers to understand the importance of food his mother brought upon him. Every time he came back home she had the same dish waiting for him. He wasn’t focusing on if his mother was going to hug him or ask him about grades, but he envisioned her kitchen table instead. Lee constantly uses first person, which emphasizes how strongly he felt about his mother and how he relates his stories back to her. In conclusion, Lee feels it wasn’t worth living the American life because it sacrificed him spending the limited time he had with his mother. He recalls all the memories he had with his mother, the good and the bad. Most of the memories Lee has with his mother are about food, so that is his way of reminiscing. It’s like that one song that plays on the radio, which triggers a memory of an old love, friendship or situation.
Every time he thinks about food or cooking he can remember the times his mother cooked and he thinks about her. Although Lee isn’t the best cook, he tries to make the meals his mother had once did for his father because he knew they were his favorite. He knows it’s not the same way she cooked it because it didn’t smell the same or look the same. He remembers every meal she made in full detail, which shows how he appreciated her love of cooking. His mother and he weren’t much different. Food is his way of remembering all the good times with his mother because he knew how much cooking meant to her. Martin Luther King is remembered by his voice of the American civil rights movement; Lee’s mother is remembered because of her Korean food. – END –