Han Kang's novel The Vegetarian is concerned with Yeong-hye, a woman who initially decides not to consume animals in part because she does not want to be complicit in killing them. This decision leads her into a broader consideration of the role of humans on earth, including whether it is right to kill and eat plants. Postmodern theory is well suited to analyzing the novel in several ways.
One prominent feature to which postmodernist analysis can be applied is narrative. Although Yeong-hye is the central character, she does not tell her own story, nor is there a single, omniscient narrator as in many traditional novels. Instead, the voice changes twice, with her husband, her brother, and her sister sequentially providing their versions of events. Yeong-hye’s voice wafts through as italicized fragments.
Postmodernism, which largely emerged in reaction to the Second World War, emphasizes the disintegration of fixed categories and the instability of the known world and fixed relations. As the newly-declared vegan moves away from consuming meat, she comes to question the fundamental issue of consumption and the right of humans to kill and consume anything—including plants—to stay alive. This existential questioning leads to behavior that others identify as self-destructive—as she apparently desires not to exist and attempts suicide—and to psychiatric diagnosis of anorexia. In its interrogation of basic categories such as human identity, the work shows fundamental postmodern concerns.