Hwang Sun-Won

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Discuss the importance of family relationships in Hwang’s The Descendants of Cain. To what degree, if at all, do blood relatives enhance or inhibit Ojaknyo’s and Pak Hun’s efforts to create better futures for themselves? Why?

In The Descendants of Cain, the specter of Hun’s mom and the presence of Ojaknyo’s dad appear to inhibit the characters' abilities to make a better future. Both figures need to be confronted for them to live fuller, enhanced lives.

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In a way, Hun’s mom seems to inhibit him. His adoration of his mother appears to prevent him from acting on his sexual desires for other women, mainly Ojaknyo. The narrator seems to make a connection between the breasts of Ojaknyo and the breasts of his mom. Hun writes about his mom’s breasts as a site of “warm coziness.” For him, breasts symbolize security and not sexual desire.

The desexualization and inhibition of sexual desire is reinforced when Ojaknyo displays her breasts to Hun even though she won’t let her own husband see them. Perhaps Ojaknyo is less concerned with Hun seeing her breasts because Hun’s relationship with his mom has prevented him from developing a sexuality that could pose a threat to her.

However, through Ojaknyo’s blood relative—her father—Hun looks like he's able to overcome his inhibitions and create a more autonomous future for himself and Ojaknyo.

At first, Ojaknyo’s father, Tosop, serves as another reminder of Hun’s delayed development and inhibited state. When Hun sees Tosop assaulting a farmer, Ojaknyo, not Hun, intervenes. However, by the novel’s end, it could argued that Hun demonstrates his enhanced, independent character by felling Tosop. Now, Hun can be thought of as the top dog. He might have finally taken his future into his hands by acting in accordance with aggressive, masculine stereotypes.

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