Nobody knows : adolescence and adulthood

This has been a long time, since I wrote an analysis about a drama. But this one got my attention as it focuses on two major topics which are quite interesting. How can children and teenagers become good adults? It is thanks to the parents or to the friends or to the school and their teachers or to their social status? Actually, the drama is trying behind the serial killing to answer these questions. Don’t expect here a summary of the story, in order to understand this analysis, you need to have watched the drama.

In this story, the viewers see a lot of different kind of parents: a single mother who is raising the protagonist Ko Eun Ho (KEH), another single father who abandoned his son DM, a rich mother who would do anything for her son HMS, a normal family with mother and father. Striking is that many parents are shown in a bad light which actually convey the following message. Just because they have parents, the teenagers or children don’t have it necessarily better than orphans. The parents can become a negative influence for their own children.

KEH’s mother is neglecting her son as his own existence reminds her that she failed to keep KEH’s father by her side. She actually fears all the time, KEH will abandon her as she had always prioritized her love life over her son. She gave KEH the impression that he was a burden hence he couldn’t get close to her. Since she neglected KEH, the latter was on his own and the result was that she realized after his accident that she knew nothing about her son: his friends, his dislikes, his size… She never saw him growing up. Striking is that HMS’s mother represents another form of bad parenting which contrasts so much to the behavior of KEH’s mother.

HMS’s mother is the exact opposite. She has expectations from her son HMS, she fears that he might not succeed in keeping his first or second position hence she asked for the answers. She forced her son to cheat for the next test. She controls her son’s life so much that he is suffocating. Remember that he has a booth in his home so that he spends so much time for learning. That’s why he keeps hurting himself… this is the only thing that his mother can’t control. His room at CDH’s flat reflects his desire to escape from his prison, it really shows that despite being 15 years old, HMS is still a child. CYJ was right to remind the caregiver KTH that KEH is still a child, since he is only 15 years old hence he should be treated as such. KEH’s “freedom” contrasts so much to HMS’s prison, the latter is forced to act like an adult…

Striking is that his mother is a bad person as she forces her son to commit wrongdoings: cheating, lying… KEH could grow up as a decent teenager because he met his neighbour Cha Young  Jin (CYJ), our female protagonist who lost her best friend as she was a high school student. We don’t know much about CYJ, yet since she is always shown on her own without any friend and family, only in the episode 13 we see her with her grandfather. Therefore we have to assume that she had lost her parents and was raised by her grandfather, which explains why she has no relative later. Strangely, KEH and CYJ connected so well right away, she helped even KEH’s mother as she was abused by one of her lovers. From that moment, KEH always sought her out, when he needed someone to confide and find some peace. CYJ accepted him and let him enter her own flat… asked him to take care of a plant. All these little moments made the young boy realize that she made him feel secure and good. She was such a good person in his eyes that she became his model. And here we come to the next aspect: the friend.

Just like KEH, CYJ had the chance to meet the detective Hwang who was investigating the serial killing “Stigmata murders”. The latter became her mentor and all this time, he has remained close to her. The writer shows through KEH and CYJ’s life that in order to become a good adult, parents are not necessarily needed, as the parents can give false advice or even neglect and abandon their children.

This view is even reinforced with the novel that is shown many times during the drama. The title of this novel in French is called “la vie devant soi” (Life ahead). It is a book written by Romain Gary under an alias Emile Ajar. He won an award for that book, prix goncourt. 

Summary of Life Ahead

 Mohammed, known as Momo, recounts his life in Belleville at the home of Mrs. Rosa, an elderly and sick Jewish woman, a survivor of Auschwitz, who, as a former brothel owner, raises children abandoned or left in boarding schools by prostitutes. Momo thinks he is ten years old, and he is the only one, with little Moses, who does not know his parents. He considers Mrs. Rosa to be his mother. She is more and more tired and hardly goes out anymore, because of the six floors without an elevator; she is given fewer and fewer children to look after. One day, Momo learns that Mrs. Rosa is suffering from senility. She goes through long periods of absence, and thinks she is reliving her past, dressing as a prostitute or waiting, with a suitcase in her hand, for the French policemen who once handed her over to the Germans during the Vel’d’Hiv round-up. To escape these painful moments, Momo wanders the streets and meets Nadine, a beautiful young woman who works for the cinema. One day, the teenager’s father reappears, claiming his son. Mrs. Rosa, conscious that day, makes him believe that she raised her son in the Jewish religion, and that he is in fact the little Moses. Momo’s father dies in shock. Momo learns that he is fourteen years old: Mrs. Rosa was bringing him younger to keep him close to her for longer. However, his condition worsens, but she refuses to go to the hospital because she wants to die without being “prolonged”. Momo, making the whole building believe that Mrs. Rosa is leaving for Israel, taken away by her family, leads her to the basement, in the “Jewish hole” she has made for herself, in fear of further persecution. That’s where she dies. Momo lies next to her for three weeks, until the neighbours discover them, and entrust him to Nadine, to whom the whole story was addressed.

As you can observe, this book is about the longing of love and abandonment. Momo’s fate resembles KEH’s fate in the sense that he prefers wandering in the streets and even going to the neighbor than being home. His mother has abandoned him, although he knows where she is. Momo in the book refuses to be happy and have a “life ahead” as the world is too rough and hard. Mrs. Rosa is his surrogate mother, just like YJ who also loves him but is not always attentive like the ex-prostitute. however, the huge difference is that KEH is influenced by YJ that’s why when he sees a crime, he wants to stop it.  

Here, the biological mother of KEH is jealous of YJ as she senses that KEH feels closer to YJ than her. She has the impression that CYJ has become his surrogate mother, yet CYJ has to remind her that she was and is still KEH’s mother.

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Credit to @Ameera Ali from forum soompi.

She hated KEH’s gaze as she saw her own reflection: in his eyes, she could observe her own shortcomings. She neglected KEH, she kind of abandoned him as she chose her boyfriends over her son. She never thought that love from her son would be fulfilling. In the novel, the biological father of Momo appears but at the end, Momo decides to remain by Madame Rosa as she has become his surrogate mother. This difference contains in my opinion the same message: it doesn’t matter if you are the mother or not, as long as you help a child to grow up in a good way, giving him support when needed, having a listening ear as well and show understanding, even if the child or teenager did something wrong. Acceptance and open-mindedness are the qualities that adults need to be a good influence for the children and teenagers.

Then we have the school and the teachers who have a huge influence on the teenagers. Lee Sun Woo made a huge mistake in his past and has been regretting it. He mistook a victim for a bully, because the latter had a reputation as bully. After realizing his mistake, he tried very hard not to judge his students very quickly. So the relationship between the teenagers plays also a huge part in it. In the beginning, KEH is rather isolated, only DM is his friend but hides their true relationship by acting as a bully. As the story goes on, the teenagers can overcome their grudges, their prejudice and their mistakes which leads them to become true friends and this time in the open.

And then we have children and teenagers who were truly abandoned by their parents and put in orphanages. BSH, the villain, was abused by the church that supported him and no one helped him that’s how he came to the belief that people should rely on no one. And this explains why BSH turns into an avenger full of hatred and resentment. On the surface, he helps young people who were rejected by the society and turns them into his minions. He considers himself as a god, he has definitely a savior complex, but in reality, he is misleading them. He is himself full of prejudices (like f. ex. rich people will use their power in order to abuse weak people) but in reality, he is not different from them. He has not realized it yet, as he still sees himself as the weak orphan he was in the past. Unlike CYJ or KEH who were able to meet good adults, BSH had the opposite path. HE never met anyone hence he became a devil.

As conclusion, a lot of parameters are important in order to raise well children and teenagers. Parents or money are not enough, they need to have adults around them who are willing to trust them, to listen to them and support them.

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