Captain Lee is the author’s persona. Like Lee, Richard E. Kim, dislodged from academic life when the Communists entered Seoul, became an officer in the army of the Republic of Korea. Lee’s observations of war and civilian suffering reflect Kim’s personal experiences.
Lee is drawn in the text as one committed to truth but tolerant of religious beliefs that he cannot share. He is sustained in his conduct by his growing realization of a profound love that comprises friendship, devotion to homeland, a deep sense of duty, and compassion.
Mr. Shin is the novel’s focal character. He is a minister whose faith is not in the God of his preaching but in the faith itself of the people to whom he preaches. His faith in the reality and efficacy of faith, as opposed to faith in the reality and solicitude of God, has various parallels in modern literature: These include Søren Kierkegaard’s knight of infinite resignation; Albert Camus’s Tarrou in La Peste (1947) The Plague, 1948) Pär Lagerkvist’s Tobias in The Pilgrim, who, like Lagerkvist himself, is en troende utan tro (a person of faith without faith); and, especially, Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo’s Saint Manuel, a Christian priest who nurtures in his parishioners the faith that he does not himself have.
Colonel Chang, a fashioner of propaganda, wants the people to be strengthened in their faith, but only in the interest of political unity....
(The entire section is 455 words.)