Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Learning Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details


Language and identity in Chang-Rae Lee's Native Speaker

Duckhee Shin.

"Language and Identity In Chang-Rae's Native Speaker"
Henry Park in Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee is a spy for a private intelligence agency specializing in watching ethnic groups. Despite his perfect accent, Henry Park is not a native speaker of English and this novel thoughtfully explores what it is like to take on a new language, to be the child of immigrants, to grow up with cultures tussling within you. This story, which is about being Korean in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, is a psychologically painful and impressive poetic accomplishment about acquiring a dual identity.

Henry Park loses his sense of identity after a series of tragedies: his son dies, his wife leaves him, his father dies, he botches an assignment. As he struggles to rebuild his life, he examines himself , others like him, and the immigrant experience in America. His emotional involvement in his last assignment as a spy is the catalyst allowing Park to recreate himself.

Lee uses the spy as an effective metaphor for Asian-American experience in America who lives on the outskirts of society like a spy. In the process of his finding his true self, we find Korean heritage positive and negative impact on Henry, the bizarre death of his son, the constant elusive struggle of love and estrangement between Henry and his American wife. In the paper I'd like to explore the function of language for ethnic Americans in building a dual identity and also in recreating their genuine identity.


Duckhee Shin  (United States)
Assistant professor
English deparment
Millersville University

  • Language
  • Identity
Person as Subject
  • Lee, Chang-rae

(30 min Conference Paper, English)