Of the four excerpts that were provided for this assignment, the part that stood out to me the most was when the author was describing how meat and animals are often used as symbols for the rape and abuse of women. Everybody has heard of rape or abuse victims describing their experiences as causing them to feel “like a piece of meat,” but the author of this book offers a fresh perspective on this saying that gives it an entirely new meaning.
Before I read these passages, I always thought of the common phrase as meaning that the victim felt dehumanized, as if they were nothing but a toy or a punching bag – flesh and bones, but no soul, no identity. This is likely what is meant, although the text reveals a hidden meaning to the otherwise straightforward metaphor. It compares the abused women to slaughtered animals, because “specifically in regard to rape victims and battered women, the death experience of animals acts to illustrate the lived experience of women” (53). When an animal is slaughtered for consumption, it goes from being a sentient, soulful creature to a lifeless product meant solely for consumption, and there becomes an intentional disconnect between what it once was and what it became, which the author of the text brings up repeatedly. Likewise, women who were victims of rape and abuse undergo a sort of transformation in the way they view themselves, from liveliness to feeling as if they exist solely for the consumption of men. The Vegetarian bares some similarities to this subject, although the metaphor of the woman feeling like a piece of meat is not explicitly used. While rape or abuse is not necessarily a central topic in the novel, the reader can clearly see a shift in Yeong-hye’s personality from stubbornness to passiveness, quickly losing her agency and doing whatever the male characters command of her, so long as it does not involve her consumption of meat.