Human Connections in The Glass Shield: Winning Essay by Kaitlyn Jurewicz

Kim Junghyuk’s short story “The Glass Shield” is at first glance a whimsical tale of two friends who make spectacles of themselves as they desperately try to find jobs (a situation to which many of today’s millennials can relate). However, this tale is sophisticated in its weaving together of traditional and postmodern elements. Kim uses parodya common postmodern techniquecombined with the traditional doctrines of Confucianism to describe M and the narrator’s search to make meaningful connections in a world to which they are otherwise ill-suited.

 

From the beginning, the author establishes a close friendship between M and the narrator, which according to traditional values brings about positivity and mutual growth. Instead, their relationship is exaggerated, bordering on the ridiculous. M and the narrator are inseparablethey are roommates and even interview for positions together to best showcase their skill set. The narrator describes their relationship as not just a close friendship, but a dualitywithout one, the other is only a partial person with little substance: “We were inseparable, two sides of a coin, front and back of a single person. Without M, I was a paper so thin I couldn’t stand on my own. And I believe I meant the same to M.” The narrator uses these analogies to emphasize the symbiotic relationship with M. Although bordering on obsessive, this idea of togetherness echoes the Confucian idea that mutual effort results in the overall improvement of a person. By functioning as one entity, two relatively weak characters are able to become strongereven in failure.

 

In contrast to the strong bond between the narrator and M, their series of job interviews represents the lack of connection between the protagonists and their prospective employers. From the onset, M and the narrator are at a disadvantage during the employment process. The two “forget” to research each job prior to applying; as a result, they turn the interview into an exhibition. Aside from completing a dual interview (which is already an anomaly in itself), they deviate from the expected question-and-answer interview process in favor of more unorthodox approaches: role playing as peddlers, magic shows, and unraveling yarn, to name a few. M and the narrator do not understand that their serious audience does not want a literal demonstration of skills, but merely expects a verbal overview of what candidates have to offer. Rather than complete the expected interview, the narrator and his companion respond to these rigid expectations by using jokes and exaggerationtechniques at which they excel. According to Confucian ideas of education, students will excel when they learn and are permitted to express themselves according to their nature. It is only when their efforts are seen through the lens of artistic expression that they transform from pranksters to “performance art in the job interview space.” The two friends develop a new career as avant-garde entertainers once they stop trying to force themselves to meet the expectations set for...