The Impact of Guilt in Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker

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Words: 1791 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Jan 21, 2020

Words: 1791|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Jan 21, 2020

In this paper I am going to argue about Henry's relationship with his son Mitt and how there is guilt involved. Moreover, the feeling of guilt is felt by Henry because there was nothing he could do to save his son Mitt. In this incidence, Henry says “ I replayed the scene of all of those boys standing in the grass about the spontaneous crèche of his death. ” (Lee 104). I believe what Henry is saying here really shows the emotion of guilt being felt. Henry feels guilty about the entire incident and claims how he constantly replays the scene every night. The persistent remembrance of the scene composes a feeling of grief as well. The fact that Henry tried to revitalize his son Mitt and was too late, but he still kept trying even with his wife Lelia yelling at him. Henry wanted to contribute to helping his son even though he knew the frightful situation has occurred. Also, Henry was not at the situation when the accident took place which makes him regret leaving to the store. That his only son Mitt was involved in an circumstance which he was not able to do nothing about it. Furthermore, when I read the quote above I also get this feeling of guilt as well as the scene shown in my mind.

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Due to the fact that, if I got home and seen my own son laying on the ground helpless and there was nothing I could do would make me tremendously guilty. The scene shows a helpless individual not capable of doing anything for his own child. What Henry is going through puts him in an emotional state that only allows a feeling of guilt to occur. With his only son dead, Henry might have constant reoccurring thoughts of what if, and maybe if he was there before or during the unfortunate incident he might have saved Mitt. Which might be a few thoughts going through Henry’s mind constantly. All together, this emotional occurrence permanently coming back to the perception of guilt for Henry. Additionally, Henry being helpless and unable to help his son Mitt also brought the feeling of guilt. Also another incidence in the story is when Henry is going through the recorded tapes of Mitt. Henry says “It was only the second time I was hearing them,” (Lee 112), I believe what Henry is saying here is that he did not listen to the recordings in a very long time. Going back to the impression of guilt which might have hurt Henry in a way to want to forget. That after all this time he only heard the recorded tapes of Mitt for the second time. Henry might have felt guilty and wanted nothing to do with the old past memory of Mitt or the accident. The tapes are something Henry and Lelia seemed to forget about in general. The fact of the matter is that these tapes brought not only Lelia bad memories, but had also brought guilt to Henry. In addition, the tapes only brought memories of their loved son Mitt and the times they had recorded with him. I believe when Henry hears Mitt’s voice he goes back to the scene where his son was laying helpless on the ground.

The state of high emotion and guilt coming back to haunt Henry because he could not do anything for his son. I think Henry might have tried to ignore the fact that there even was any tape recordings of his son Mitt. By essentially running away from the problem in a competent manner. I imagine Henry feeling this immense amount of guilt because of items like the tape recordings bringing back harsh memories. Also, Henry probably might have tried to get rid of or ignore all memories that would bring back the feeling of guilt. The fact that this is the second time he has ever heard the tape recording of his son Mitt is shocking. If I had a son that I loved and cared about who had passed I would also be in grief and in an emotional setting. Although I would want to listen to the tape recording because it would remind of my son. For Henry he is putting off and even forgetting there is even recording of his son because it brings back the recollections of his son Mitt. This guilt that has took over Henry really changed who he is as a person. Having a child pass away at a young age is sad but for Henry the passing of Mitt shows his standards of being father not fully attained. That because Henry was unable to help Mitt there is a massive sum of guilt being kept within himself. In like manner, Henry through his life only heard the recording of Mitt two times, and might have been due to the fact of a guilt trap.

Another instance is where Henry is finally working with his wife Lelia and the speech children towards the end of the book. In the incidence when Henry says “I like my job. I wear a green rubber hood and act in my role as a Speech Monster. ” (Lee 348). What Henry is saying here is showing how he is helping Lelia now with the speech children. Henry might have took the job to work with his wife Lelia because the idea of working with children might be a comfortable place for Henry. The job might be a compromise in the fact that Henry feels at peace. That working along side children helps him forget or completely resolve the feeling of guilt that came from Mitt’s death. By working with he children and helping them in a way he could not have with his son Mitt. I think Henry has taken the job because he feels at peace because he was not able to help his son, but since he is in the position to help other children he is going to do so. Correspondingly, Henry might have forgave himself for not being there for Mitt when he most needed. That the guilt finally made him want to actually do something about the help he could not give Mitt. Henry wants the children to know everything is fine and it is ok if they do not understand. They want the children to know they have nothing to fear, and that it is ok to not be perfect. All the circumstance revolve around guilt, and I think Henry tries to feel completed or at peace by helping these children. Henry was not able to help Mitt which made his feel guilty and now he might be repaying Mitt in a way by helping the children. If he could not help Mitt, there will not be another child that he would let attain such feelings of loss. Henry is an individual who has lost his son and feels necessary to help other children to replace this guilt. Which in the end seems to have disappeared or has been reduced down to a minimum. For once in a while I think Henry feels some peace in his life after having gone through a huge guilt trip with the loss of his son Mitt.

Likewise, by helping the speech children Lelia works with, Henry might have this feeling of remorse removed within himself or have gotten this feeling lessened. Henry might feel this way because he can finally help children that remind him of his son Mitt who he was not able to help. I believe Henry has purposely chosen to work with the children because it helps him remove any feeling of guilt he has felt. In the incidence also hen Henry is working with the children he says “ I take off my mask and we both hug and kiss each one. When I embrace them, half pick them up, they are just that size I will forever know, that very weight so wondrous to me, and awful. I tell them I will miss them. ” (Lee 349). I believe this part of the book shows how the children remind Henry of his son Mitt. Henry talks about how that very weight is wondrous and awful to him. What he might be saying is how the weight of the children reminds him of the guilt he had once felt. That the guilt comes back even though he feels some peace working with the children. I feel like the children are a positive and negative for Henry because they help him remember his son, and might remind him of the guilt he felt when he lost his Mitt. Uniquely, spending time with the children might be Henry’s chance to get away from any guilt. I think for Henry this interaction with the children is like going through rehabilitation for his guilt trip. Now that Henry works with his wife and the speech children this has now given him a chance to be himself and not be someone people think he is. Since he can be himself he also seems to have attained tranquility. Henry was going through a deep emotional state when Mitt has died, and was in a guilt feeling because he was not able to help. Now he has the opportunity to help children as a job with his wife.

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The guilt seems to have faded away from his thoughts and actions. Henry seems more happy with the guilt not being there like it once had been when Mitt had passed. Moreover, there might be some guilt that is left in the back of henry’s mind, but he seems to not show it. The new job with his wife allows Henry to see children around Mitt’s age, and Henry might find that an ability to also help the guilt. Lastly, with the death of Mitt, Henry was unable to help Mitt which eventually lead to him feeling a great deal of guilt. Also, with Henry trying to forget about tapes of Mitt and eventually working with his wife and the speech children. Henry might have came to an understanding about dealing with the guilt and coming to some peace about his son’s death. The guilt was something felt over a time period for Henry who eventually seems to have overcome the feeling. Furthermore, I believe Henry might have some guilt leftover, but it might be fading because of the work with the children. The children remind Henry of Mitt constantly, and by helping them Henry might feel as if he is helping his son Mitt. All in all, Henry might have felt some guilt throughout the novel, but in the end Henry seems to have confronted and dealt with his guilt problem.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Impact Of Guilt In Chang-Rae Lee’S Native Speaker. (2020, January 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“The Impact Of Guilt In Chang-Rae Lee’S Native Speaker.” GradesFixer, 15 Jan. 2020,
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The Impact Of Guilt In Chang-Rae Lee’S Native Speaker [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Jan 15 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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