An Analysis of Robert Ji-Song Ku's Leda
In Robert Ji-Song Ku's short story "Leda," the main character, Sorin, leads a life of imitation. He applies himself to his graduate studies in comparative literature a little too readily: he compares not just text to text; he also compares his life to text, to "works of literature" (Wong 281). If his life does not match that of at least one literary character on several levels of interpretation, whether emotional, physical, or mental, he changes his behavior so that it will. For example, he begins to "smoke and drink - heavily...simply because every one of Hemingway's heroes did it. For a while I drank only vodka martinis in public because I read that James Bond drank it exclusively ... I ... also smoked [his] particular brand of cigarettes" (280). In "Leda," the two influential "oeuvres" (280) are Junichiro Tanizaki's The Bridge of Dreams, a "haunting retelling of the Oedipal myth" (281), and the story of Leda, in Greek mythology. Both have extensive influence on Sorin, and their influences intertwine in his behavior to the extent that it is difficult to separate and identify each.
"Leda" is primarily an Oedipal tale thanks to the influence of Bridge, but, as Sorin "frequently finds himself doing things, saying things, and make certain choices [because] ... some of the most intriguing characters in books have done the same," he mixes Oedipus with Zeus, Castor and Pollux to produce the character he becomes when interacting with Leda, his lover. Oedipus, of course, is the Greek dramatic character who, when he discovers he has married his mother and has had children with her, gouges his eyes out. Zeus is the philandering Greek father of the gods who, according to Greek legend, pursues the beautiful Leda, queen of Sparta. Unable to win her love, despite his perseverance, Zeus decides to transform himself into a swan in hopes of persuading Leda. It works; she falls in love with the swan, and Zeus seduces her. There are various versions about the number of children that result and the ways in which they come about; however, in the prevailing myth Leda produces two eggs. The first contains Castor and Pollux-Pollux is immortal, but Castor, his fraternal twin, is not-and the second contains Helen of Troy. The writers of Microsoft Encarta Online remark that "the twins were inseparable in their adventures, and when Castor died, Zeus made him immortal like Pollux. They then spent half their time in the underworld and half with the gods on Mount Olympus. According to legend, Zeus transformed the brothers into the constellation Gemini (The Twins)" ("Castor and Polydeuces").
As Sorin introduces himself to the reader in the beginning of the story, he is himself-or as close to being Sorin as he can. He cannot identify himself apart from fictional characters, and so the very first thing he says is "I have developed, over the years, a condition ..." (Wong 180), and he goes on to describe...