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‘Is there another way?’

Posted April. 13, 2022 08:08,   

Updated April. 13, 2022 08:08


Sometimes literature mirrors gloomy world to awake readers to the reality. “Central Station” by author Kim Hye-jin is such a mirror. It depicts the homeless, who can be seen anywhere in the world.

The following is one of the gloomiest scenes in the story. An ambulance arrives in a square in the middle of the night. Somebody is lying down, being unconscious. The lying man is an elderly homeless, and it is too pathetic to watch him. The situation demands urgency, yet no hospital emergency room wants to take the old man in, for there is no guardian to look after him, no documents, no letters verifying his eligibility for homelessness assistance. At the third hospital, an ambulance worker throws the man into the emergency room and runs away. Isn’t it too reckless? The ambulance worker replies to the narrator who accompanies the old man, a homeless person himself, by saying, “Is there another way?”

The same scene occurs, implying that such a scene is closely related to the theme of the novel. There is another homeless person, a woman who is having severe stomachache. She also has no guardian, no paper to prove her identity. No hospital wants to take her in. The reply of the ambulance worker is almost identical to the previous one. “She needs treatment. It is first to push her into the emergency room!” When somebody complains who gave permission to lay the woman down on bed, the narrator denies knowing her, even though he has affection for the woman. He refutes knowing her three times, like Peter who denied Jesus, and runs away. This is the only way to get the woman treatment.

We also want to assert that this is really none of our business. Turning our back on somber reality mirrored back by the novel, we want to keep our eyes on only the bright side of the world. However, the novel somehow captivates readers while laying out before us grim realities of the world. Confusing and unorderly realities trapping the homeless are woven into a well-constructed story. The novel looks at the reality where lowly individuals have to endure both objectively and lovingly at the same time. The ethicality of the novel is acquired by this very balance.