The Popular Novel: the Confusion and Fantasy
This essay examines the characteristics of so-called "cheap" popular novel and its historical condition, which has long been excluded in the study of South Korean modern literature. By using the concept of "confusion" and "fantasy," I analyze three popular novels, "Saving My Life"[Chŏlchŏpongsaeng], "The Tears of North Kanto"[Pukkanto ŭi nu], and "The Dream of Golddiggers"[Hwangkŭm ŭi mong] produced in 1910s and 1930s.
In particular, despite each texts' different periodical and political circumstances, these three novels aptly delineates the confusion and practical difficulty that common people had, and speaks especially the desires of the male subjects including the generations of fathers and ruined aristocratic class who were not able to be "modern" subject, however, had they such desire. These three novels capture the moment of difficulty that these male characters are confronting and expresses "the sorrowness of males," which is differenciated from that of womans'. In addition, by adapting themselves in the fast-changing social atmosphere with their own favoritism, they regain their lost socio-cultural status. The use of "fantasy" becomes the literary strategy to overcome the narratives of "hardships of old male generation" and subverts their reality by dreaming the recovery of patriarch in the text.
The narrative structure of this "cheap" popular novel provides the clear picture of common people's life which is not found in any other historical materials. Although these novels has been despised and neglected in the world of academia, due to it coarseness of narrative style and "lack of seriousness" in its thematic convention, they should be re-evaluated in that it reflects the "reality" of people's life and their taste.