Dr. Scanlon asked in class today if there is a word or theme that connects all the stories in Once the Shore. I think my word would be “displacement.” The stories feature physical displacements (such as the Japanese characters who are living in Korea, the way the presence of the Americans changes the roles and places of the island’s residents, and even the island itself– after all, islands displace the water around them.
There’s also emotional displacement–the mental illnesses, obviously, but also the experiences of characters like Ahrin and Sinaru. Events outside their control (like the death of her husband, or the loss of his arm) have “displaced” them emotionally, causing them to process things differently (or not to process them at all).
So emotional displacement, mental displacement, physical displacement…there is some of each in almost every story.