The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian by Han Kang was written and published in 2007. Originally from South Korea, the book was then translated into English in 2015. The text which is a novella-like book remains to be one of the most captivating books up to date not only in South Korea but the rest of the world. This paper seeks to give a review of the book and explain how the writer contributes to the way family location can influence cultural norming.

Reading the book, one gets to understand that it is not really about the consumption of flesh. On the contrary, it gives more elaboration on humanity and the violence associated with it. Han Kang uses three individuals to narrate the story of the books main character, Yeong-Hye. The first is her husband who walks into his house to find her throwing away all meat related foods into the trash. She explains that after having a dream on the brutality of humans towards animals, she n longer wants to be associated with meat and will only eat vegetables. Unable to control her, her husband reaches out to his wife’s family hoping they can find a solution to this ‘madness.’ At home, while having a meal, Yeong-Hye’s father attempts to force her to eat meat, and she refuses. She retaliates by attempting to commit suicide when she slashes her wrists and is taken to the hospital. This is the beginning of a hard time for Yeong-Hye whose marriage is destroyed, her mental state unstable, and her interaction with society cut short. Secondly, Han Kang uses Yeong-Hye’s brother in law who is an artist and specializes in making erotic films. He has a vision of a man and a woman having intercourse behind a wall painted with flowers. On learning that Yeong-Hye has a birthmark shaped like a petal, he is convinced that she is the woman he dreamt about and becomes obsessed with her. He is able to convince her to have sex with him but at a cost. This leads to the end of his marriage and a bad relationship with Yeong-Hye who has now become fully unstable. She has not only refused to eat meat but has also shut herself from society. Yeong-Hye is convinced that she can no longer be human. It is full of violence, greed, lust, and inequality which are all the things she doesn’t want. Lastly, Han Kang uses In-Hye who is Yeong-Hye sister. In-Hye states that her sister’s adoption of vegetarianism has become a psychological issue. She no longer eats meat but has also refused to interact with human beings. Her father is the primary contributor in this case. Yeong-Hye feels that the only way to avoid the brutality that humans inflict on each other and animals is to become a plant. In the end, Yeong-Hye announces her decision to become a plant and can be seen among trees which she feels infinite love for.

Culture is defined as the way of life while norms are certain practices that society either agrees with or not. In the book, we can see that the family has a significant influence on the choices we make both at a cultural and norm perspective. First, when Yeong-Hye decides she can no longer consume meat, she goes against her family culture of consuming flesh. This is seen in how her house fridge is full meat and when her father tries to force her to eat. This act only intensifies her reasoning to become a vegetarian. Here, we understand what she views as human brutality. She is convinced that humans are violent, greedy, and unfair and does not want to be associated with such traits. Another way in which this is validated is when her brother-in-law takes advantage of her mental condition and has sex with her. According to cultural norms, this is an evil act as both are married and are hence committing adultery. This act leads to the destruction of his marriage and a bad relationship between them. It is clear that Yeong-Hye’s reasoning and view of humanity are valid. Eating of flesh may mainly not be a good reason as it is a way of seeking food and surviving.  However, she is correct in defining humanity as brutal and violent towards their kind. This is seen in how her father forces her to eat meat; her brother-in-law takes advantage of her condition to satisfy his erotic desires and her husband who feels she is no longer suited to be his wife and divorces her.


The Vegetarian by Han Kang was written and published in 2007. It talks of a lady by the name Yeong-Hye who decides to become a vegetarian. She can no longer stand the violence and brutality associated with human beings. Her family does little in supporting her, first by forcing her to consume flesh, and her in-law who takes advantage of her condition to satisfy his desires. It is clear that family can contribute to cultural norming as seen in the book. It is, however, true that humanity is associated with brutality and selfishness.