More questions about ‘Pumping up Napoleon ‘ from the lovely students in South Korea. Once again all the illustrations are original creations, inspired by their reading of dystopian science fiction.
In my last post I shared part of a Q&A with students studying English at the Chung Dahm Institute (CDI). Thanks again to their teacher Richie Madewell for the invitation!
On with the questions … The first is from Irene N.
Unlike other love stories which end up with happy endings – men and women become much closer, the book ends up with Napoleon and Marjorie getting farther than before. Are there any reasons that you wrote a story like this?
- Irene N
Hello, Irene N
I thought it was difficult to write a truly happy ending given the circumstances. There is some tenderness and a kind of understanding between Napoleon and Marjorie but they don’t know whether they will be able to build a future together and that makes them both feel alone with their own feelings at this point. And yet they are trying to bridge the gap between them. I think that is important.
In the quote “Lying down, he didn’t seem as short. With the blinds lowered his skin didn’t look so grey. His body cavities were as clean and odour-free as they had been for two hundred years. But his new nose was beginning to decay and even the students had started to complain about the smell it caused in the classroom”, I think you are arguing that it is not helpful for us to correct the past.
Correcting the past in reality is very difficult. We had better think about what we are doing in the present. Soon that too will be the past.
People in the story make different comments about Napoleon. So I was just curious, what are your thoughts on the historical figure Napoleon?
Thanks for your question, Andrew. If I had been living in England two hundred years ago, I would have been afraid of him, and defiant, because he had taken over most of Europe and there was always the threat of him attacking my country. Even when I was growing up I was aware of a kind of folk memory of Napoleon as someone feared, but also admired for his brilliance and audacity.
With the distance of time I find him slightly comical, which is probably a way of counterbalancing how I feel about his aggression and ambition.
He was an enormously important figure in his day and he has left a long shadow. I feel drawn to him because of his self-belief and his openness to new ideas. I regret the many people who died or suffered hardship because of him.
I think I am still in awe of his reputation as one man who affected the lives of millions for many years even to this day.
I thought that it was very creative to think of the concept of scientific resurrection of a historical figure. By this, I think you intended to show how a historical figure can be evaluated differently when people only understand him just by his historical achievements and when people meet him face to face after his resurrection. Or did you have any other intention?
- Irene O
Hello Irene O …
Yes, I decided to make Napoleon appear ‘in real life’, with the help of medical science, because I wanted to see how people would react to him once he was no longer a distant historical figure but someone with thoughts and feelings in the here and now. The people around him know him by reputation but suddenly they have to deal with him as a person.
Napoleon’s historical achievements were truly awesome, but his presence is disruptive. I found it enjoyable to imagine him in a modern context among people who really prefer a quiet life.
Before reading this story, I believed that resurrection usually shows a positive thing, but I think in this story it might symbolize a negative thing, so I’m curious what resurrection symbolizes in this story.
I think that the incompleteness of Napoleon’s resurrection in this story indicates how difficult it is to hold everything intact amidst the chaos of the universe. Also that decay is natural and part of the cycle of life.
Resurrection goes wrong in my story because it is an odd experiment by humans to push the boundaries of what can be done rather than something spiritual. Even so, the characters strive to make some sense of what is happening to them.
At the beginning of the story, Marjorie explained that she was quite guilty about ending the crush with Rupert, but later thought that something was uncomfortable, and the crush is over. Which means the crush through a dead person is over. Also, in chapter 7, Marjorie said “He is technically dead”, “he” meaning Napoleon. Are these two scenes foreshadowing that her love toward Napoleon, who is still a dead person, will fade out as she did to Rupert?
You’re right that these things show how Marjorie could behave in future.
If Napoleon had not appeared in her real life I think it is likely that Marjorie would have fallen out of love with him after a while and moved on to someone else. But that would have been easy because she would not have had to let him down in any way or hurt his feelings.
The trouble is that he exists now and her life is taking on a new shape because of this relationship. She isn’t sure that she really loves him and yet, she doesn’t want to let him down. She’s feeling such a big sense of obligation to him that it’s partly a defence to remind everyone and herself that he is ‘technically dead’. I think she is searching for the freedom to choose what she wants to do.
I think Napoleon represents loneliness. He finds new parts of his body but he will end up being ripped and die. Also, people try to fill up their loneliness through many other things like money. However, people can’t get rid of their loneliness. Is this right?
Yes, Napoleon is lonely, being so isolated and different to everyone else around him, and because it is hard to be slowly falling apart. Through his contact with Marjorie he is searching for some kind of human comfort. Marjorie is lonely too, because she can’t share with anyone what she really thinks and feels. I have left the two of them at at point where they are just starting to acknowledge that their dreams will not come true, so that is sad for them and they both feel alone despite wanting a feeling of togetherness.
Whether the two of them will come to an understanding, I don’t know, but it is possible and then I think that although they might still be sad they would not always be lonely.
Next week will be the final instalment of this Q&A: more great questions; more great pictures. Meanwhile thanks again to all the students for their artwork and their interest.
And if anyone has another question or comment please add it below!
(The final and last post in this series of three is now available to read here)