Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

July 1997


In Chang-rae Lee's first novel, 'Native Speaker,' the protagonist is jolted by the death of his son and the subsequent departure of his wife into intensification of a lifelong identity crisis. The book's guiding metaphor, figured in Henry Park's job as a spy, cleverly elucidates the immigrant's stance as a watchful outsider in American society, but Henry's double life also figures largely in his equally representative struggles to decide for himself what kind of person he is. As a child of immigrant parents, Henry is, in Pierre Bourdieu's useful terms, endowed with a bifurcated "habitus," two sets of culturally induced predispositions. By novel's end Henry has achieved an implicit resolution of his crisis, largely by identifying certain of his own habitual patterns of thought and behavior as cultural inheritances from his immigrant Korean parents, then rejecting them.