2014 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Senior third place

Our Twisted Hero by Yi Munyol paints a sobering picture. Although modern society seems solid and secure, there are weaknesses that even a single mind can exploit. Om Sokdae’s class is like a society in itself, made of young children, which caves to Sokdae’s threat of harm and humiliation. Lord of the Flies by William Golding has a similar premise. A group of marooned children, led by Ralph, try to build a small society on a lonely island, but it breaks apart due to imagined terrors. Both novels contain a warning about fear, the weakness of society; security is destroyed quickly when humanity succumbs to terror.

Fear was the main weapon of Om Sokdae’s in Our Twisted Hero. It was effective on the protagonist, despite his respectable Seoul upbringing, as well as every other student in his class. This is because it played on a weakness shared by all people. Early humans, as well as other prey animals, were dominated by fear, constantly beleaguered by phenomena they could not understand. Civilization often assumed they were the work of a god and tried to gain favor by worshipping and sacrificing, just as the class in Our Twisted Hero praised Sokdae. Although humanity has risen from that pit to form a secure society, fear lingers like a rotten floorboard, ready to plunge a person back into shadows.

Sokdae dealt with the protagonist of Our Twisted Hero very strategically. Using his already-established control over the class, he indirectly made the transfer student’s life miserable. The protagonist feared, amongst other things, being ostracized, being beaten up, getting in trouble with the teacher, receiving extra work, and falling in his grades. Sokdae was the cause of all of this, but there was never any proof. It was impossible to blame him. However, there was an understanding that if he submitted to Sokdae, these worries would go away. The protagonist could not hold out long, and Sokdae won him over. The relief was immediate; suddenly, the transfer student was the center of attention, at the top of the class, and on good terms with the teacher. Even when the protagonist had the chance to reveal Sokdae’s misdeeds, after he discovered Sokdae cheated on exams, he took no action. His fears, each insignificant on their own, only had to be applied correctly to make him submit.

In Lord of the Flies, fear came from a different source. As Simon heard during his hallucination, the monster plaguing the children was “part of them”, not something they could hunt and kill. The “beastie” they feared did not exist; the creature that they glimpsed was only a dead man in a parachute, moving in the wind. Even though Ralph and Piggy, the oldest, knew that the monster did not exist, the boys became more and more afraid of the apparition. Just as in Our Twisted Hero, an insignificant fear was blown out of proportion. Jack insisted that they could be strong and kill the monster, providing an appealing alternative to hiding in their ramshackle shelters. However, the promise of power and strength came hand-in-hand with violence and the lack of self-responsibility. Unlike Our Twisted Hero, there was no one like Sokdae to offer relief. The boys, instead, swayed to the appeal of violence and donned the mud masks of a barbaric tribe. They became so carried away in their revelry that, believing Simon to be some monster, they beat him to death.

The protagonists in both Our Twisted Hero and Lord of the Flies represent the forces of reason and law. Whether they try to reveal a class monitor’s corruption or keep a rescue fire burning, they attempt to keep their society strong and uncorrupted. However, the children in these stories are not capable of withstanding pressure without an adult’s aid, whether it is oppression from Sokdae or an imagined “beastie” hiding in the jungle. Fear, acting on undeveloped minds, brings them back thousands of years to the age of temples and imaginary gods. They even make sacrifices. In one story, the offering is a gold-plated watch. In the other, it is a freshly killed sow’s head.

Though the adult world is better equipped to deal with these situations, it only takes a larger terror to intimidate it. After all, in first-world countries, many people are used to living comfortably and securely every day. Could they persist if faced with the threat of harm or death? At the end of both Our Twisted Hero and Lord of the Flies, an adult steps in to take care of the problem. However, in our world, when dealing with real-life Sokdaes, there is no such relief. Dictatorships, wars, and corrupted governments do not go away on their own. Humanity only progresses if people take stands and refuse to bow to fear. While the protagonists in these novels ultimately failed, people in the real world have a chance of prevailing. Brave individuals like Ralph and the protagonist of Our Twisted Hero must always exist. If people can act like them, then the progress of society, though maybe set back, will never halt.