Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A first-generation Korean immigrant, Yong-Ik Kim came to the United States in 1948. He has published many stories and three novels, The Happy Days (1960), The Diving Gourd (1962), and Blue in the Seed (1964). The novels have been published in several languages. Several of Kim’s works describe a first-generation immigrant’s observations and experiences in the United States. They enable readers to look at the United States through the perspective of a new immigrant.

Typical of Kim’s writing style, “They Won’t Crack It Open” intermingles memory with reality. The narrative jumps back and forth from the present to the past and from the United States to Korea. The approach is effective. By juxtaposing the “fairy stories” about the circus Dick tells the blind Korean students and what Cho discovers in the United States, Kim is able to highlight the conflict between illusion and truth and between memory and reality. It also reveals the narrator’s concerns for his students and his strong tie with his home country.

The narrative pace of the story is slow, deliberate, and almost leisurely. It follows the narrator’s innocent view as he struggles to determine which America is the real and which one is the fake: the America he has heard in Dick’s stories and the America he sees with his own eyes. Cho’s misconception about the United States is subtly suggested in the beginning of the story. When he is waiting for Dick, he thinks that his Asian face should get someone’s attention at the bus station. He is forced to face his own false conceptions of the United States, however, when “no one at the station” gives him “even a curious stare that might invite a foreigner to ask a question.”