Haoyu ChenThomsBritish LiteratureRe Jane Rumination Paper”That was the power of nunchi. There’s no word for it in English; perhaps its closest literal translation is “eye sense.”.
. .For me nunchi was less about some sci-fi power and more about common sense. It was the ability to read a situation and anticipate how you were expected to behave. It was filling your elder’s water glass first, before reaching for your own. The adults at church always said that good nunchi was the result of a good “family education.” ” (Page 5) This quote comes from the first chapter whence Mrs.Bae visits Sang and Jane at Food.
Mrs.Bae and Sang exchange greetings and the proper courtesies. Sang shoots Jane a look.
Jane is able to understand what Sang wants without exchanging a single word. She does to get Mrs.Bae some of Food’s better fruits on the house. There is no conversation between Sang and Jane but messages and intents were clear, at least to their respective persons. Nunchi, ??, literally translated, means “eye measure”. It is a korean concept signifying the concept/subtle art of reading other people’s moods.
It is close to the concept of emotional intelligence in which a person can communicate with others using empathy. In Re Jane, nunchi is critical to the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. With nunchi, the characters of Re Jane use less words and more non verbal cues to communicate emotion and meaning through means such as a rising in the pitch of the voice, simple gestures like jerking your head, and the intonation of your voice.
How does nunchi apply to my personal life? Well, I’m not korean, I’m chinese, but a form of nunchi exists in chinese culture as well. For me the term nunchi combines several concepts including manners, politeness, intuition, quick understanding, reading non-verbal signals and reading between the lines. Nunchi was never explicitly taught but rather ingrained into me as a sort of common sense. And the reason for me to learn nunchi was to maintain relationships properly. To explain how nunchi is used in my life, I would have to explain what “face” is.Face is of utmost importance in asian culture the same way individuality is of utmost importance in american culture. There are many aspects to face : one can gain face, one can lose face, one give or not give face to others. In essence, face is respect.
To give face is to give respect. To not give face, is to not give respect. Therefore the more face that is given to you, the more respected you are. If you lose face, you bring shame to yourself and your acquaintances and family. And the way to gaining, giving, or losing face would using nunchi to know what you should and should not do. That being said there are several things to keep in mind when using nunchi as an approach to face. You should actively employ ways to show respect for a person of higher ranked, such as keeping your opinions to yourself unless asked and expressing humility and humbleness when complimented.
On public occasions, one should always use polite speech and speak softly. The best attitude was one that was humble and polite. You should downplay any superiority you have in any field to bridge the gap between you and your colleagues or acquaintances.
For a higher ranked senior, they were to show kindness to those around and below them. They were to be helpful in any ways possible and be a ethical role model for the juniors. Now, because I am still young, I am naturally the lower ranked junior. As such, throughout my short, puny lifetime, I was to use nunchi to show respect to my seniors and express humility. My first experiences with nunchi were with family. It would be simple things such as waiting for everyone to be at the table before you eat, helping out around the house without being asked, be obedient.
I was not supposed to argue or cause a scene in public no matter who the other party is. Then nunchi began expanded and affected my relationships with other people as well. If a higher ranked senior makes an error, it would be wrong for me to point it out, as it would cause them to lose face, and deteriorate our relationship. Once again, nunchi was never explicitly taught, it was just common sense.
I recall one incident. It was a gathering with family friends where both the younger and older generations participated. I remember that the older seniors were talking about how their sons and daughters were doing this and that and how they couldn’t even compare to others. And then the other seniors replied with the same lines, saying how their sons and daughters weren’t really that great and that there are people who are better.
I recall how the younger generation people didn’t say much. They smiled and expressed humility by downgrading themselves and their own achievements. Everybody was smiling that day but it was all bullshit. You could see it in their eyes, that most of them meant nothing of what they said, that their words were all just courtesy.
I could tell that they thought their children were the best. The younger generation was bullshit too. They smiled and laugh when they berate themselves, but I could tell that they were triggered as hell and lwere fuming on the inside. How do I know that they were all bullshitting? Well, it takes one to know one simple as that. And that’s the role of nunchi in my life. I use it as a tactic and weapon to build interpersonal relationships to stabilize my life by gaining status and face to move upwards in society’s hierarchy. The concept of nunchi is apparent in Re Jane. It is seen many times as the characters use nunchi to maintain their own interpersonal relationships for some sort of gain.
We can begin with the quote that I am using. Mrs.Bae and Sang exchange their courtesies and Sang uses nunchi to convey to Jane to give Mrs.
Bae some fruits. There are various uses of nunchi in this scene. The first is how Jane doesn’t speak a word in this exchange, she is using nunchi to respect her elders by not butting in their conversation. Sang also employs nunchi in this scene.
He decides to give Mrs.Bae the better fruits, and furthermore, on the house. Sang is using nunchi to do several things here. By giving her the better fruits on the house Sang is able to improve his relationship with Mrs.Bae. However, he also conveys to her that he is not stingy, he is not poor, and that he has the ability to do what he did. Another appearance of nunchi is in chapter 10, whence Jane has an argument with Sang. Jane first expresses nunchi by helping out her senior (Sang) by driving for him because according to Hannah he looks tired.
And that’s about the only expression of nunchi in this scene. However, at one point Sang criticizes Jane for not driving the way that he wanted to. Instead of being obedient and expressing humility, she goes against nunchi by not listening to Sang, her senior, and talking back to him and displaying no respect for the senior. Jane disobeys Sang’s commands of staying home and listening to him. This scene does not display nunchi, but it nonetheless displays how nunchi is of utmost importance in interpersonal relationships. Without nunchi, there is an “uncomfortable, and constricting tension”.
Without nunchi, the relationship between Jane and Sang breaks down as Jane walks away from the car. In Re Jane Jane uses nunchi in a way that is strikingly similar to how it is used in real life. Through nunchi Jane has a guide to improve her relationships with other people. Without nunchi, Jane’s relationships break down and she is lost, not knowing how to act. Nunchi is necessary in real life in order for people to improve their relationships in order to move up in society. However, unlike in Re Jane nunchi is not as important between true friends and unbreakable relationships. For example, between my friends and I there is no need for nunchi because we’re not trying to improve our relationships with each other to be better in society.
Essentially, one only uses nunchi when you want to exploit the other person. Between unbreakable relationships, there is no need to use nunchi for exploitation.