This study aims to compare the characters of Jusaengjeon and Mujeong and discuss the relationship between the two works from the perspective of literary history.
Jusaeng and Hyoungsik are similar in that they are socially alienated, have no will and ability to actively explore their alienated situation, interpret the world as they want, and act impulsively. These characteristics homogeneously led them to feel anxiety. However, their causes of the anxiety are somewhat different. Jusaeng is concerned with how to publicize and implement his decision, while Hyoungsik is worried if his choice is reasonable and worthy. Despite these differences, their worries and concerns commonly drive the lives of women in ruins.
Baedo and Yeongchae both with tragic family history, became courtesans and eventually made self-destructive choices (reflexive violence) in front of the men who seemed to abandon themselves. Their self-destructive choice similarly has a significant influence on the mind and behavior of the male characters. In this sense, their story is not the ‘consequence’ of the tragedy. Their actions carry deep meaning throughout the works. From this fact, it can be said that they have ‘agency’.
Seonwha and Seonhyoung are with higher social positions and intellectual levels than Baedo and Yeongchae. In spite of their advantageous status, the former group was jealous of the latter women. It is noticeable that while Seonhwa was driven by a strong desire for Jusaeng, Seonhyoung had little interest in Hyoungsik. This difference shapes the endings of these two novels.
This comparison leads us to ask why the characters in these two works with a huge gap in time are so similar. The similar characters in these two works were inevitable products of the transitional, cataclysmic realities in which the artists lived. In this sense, the characters can be analyzed from the perspective of literary history. Yet, it is noticeable that the attitudes toward reality the male and female characters show are quite different. Their similarities and differences should not be simply considered to be originated from their premodernity or modernity. Therefore, more comparative studies on these two works are needed in the future.