The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star

by

Nicola Yoon

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The Sun is Also a Star: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Daniel writes headline stating that he's trapped in a "vortex of expectation and disappointment." He notes that the one good thing about Charlie's overachieving nature was that he never had to be particularly good at anything. Now, his parents are putting pressure on Daniel. Daniel recounts a conversation he's had many times with Min Soo since summer started, in which she asks him about his grades, and tells him he's not a little boy anymore when he explains his grades are still mediocre.
Grades are a way to quantify things that are arguably not entirely measurable, so it's understandable that Daniel is indifferent about his grades. This suggests early on that Daniel's passions don't exactly align with those promoted in the normal school system. In turn, this explains why he's struggling with his parents' new attention: unlike Charlie, Daniel is not an overachiever.
Themes
Passion vs. Reason Theme Icon
Later, Daniel has an interview with a Yale alumnus. Yale is only the second best school according to his parents, but Daniel refused to apply to Harvard. Min Soo is making mandu dumplings for him as a special treat, and Daniel sits at the kitchen table, writing a poem about heartbreak. He's struggling since he's never had his heart broken, but he thinks it's luxurious to write at the table: Dae Hyun doesn't approve of poetry. Daniel keeps up his side of the conversation but is surprised when his mom says in Korean to not be like Charlie.
Min Soo's scathing mention of Charlie suggests that she's beginning to come to terms with the fact that her sons aren't guaranteed to do exactly what she wants them to, which is a natural part of growing up. This is also evidenced by the fact that Daniel feels comfortable writing poetry at the table, even if it presumably has nothing to do with Yale and the education his mother wants for him.
Themes
Immigration and the American Dream Theme Icon
Passion vs. Reason Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Charlie walks into the kitchen in time to hear Min Soo say this. Min Soo blushes in shame and embarrassment. She offers Charlie mandu, even though he refuses to eat Korean food and pretends to not understand Korean. Daniel knows that Charlie heard and understood. When Charlie is gone, Daniel asks his mom to give Charlie a break. He knows that it must be awful for Charlie, working all day with Dae Hyun at their black hair care store, as their father surely berates Charlie when there are no customers around.
Daniel depicts his dad as a difficult, unknowable figure with intensely high standards that neither of his sons seem to be able to meet. This suggests that Dae Hyun has definite ideas about how one goes about achieving the American dream, and he's not open to any interpretations that contradict his own.
Themes
Immigration and the American Dream Theme Icon
Passion vs. Reason Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Min Soo opens up the mandu basket, and Daniel watches her clean her steamy glasses. She asks why Charlie failed, and Daniel thinks she looks prettier and younger without her glasses. He thinks that Charlie probably has never thought that their mom is pretty, especially since all his girlfriends have been chubby blondes. Daniel thinks that maybe nothing caused Charlie to fail. He thinks that maybe Charlie doesn't actually want to be a doctor, but the Bae children aren't allowed to change their minds.
The fact that Daniel views his mother as a human who is capable of being attractive shows that he has a deep connection with her and admires her, while Charlie is isolated from the dynamic. The mention that all of Charlie's girlfriends were white shows that Charlie is also isolating himself from Korean culture, not just his family.
Themes
Immigration and the American Dream Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Destiny Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Connection Theme Icon
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Min Soo insists that her sons have it too easy in America but turns her attention back to Daniel. As she serves him a plate of mandu, she reminds him to cut his ponytail before his interview. Daniel decides to leave early so he's not stuck having more uncomfortable conversations, and his mom gives him Dae Hyun's money pouch to take to the store.
Despite the fact that Daniel's parents want their sons to succeed in America, Min Soo suggests that America isn't actually all that conducive to success. This begins to imply that the American dream isn't the same for everyone, nor is it equally accessible to all.
Themes
Immigration and the American Dream Theme Icon
Daniel goes upstairs to get dressed and stops in the doorway of the spare bedroom to admire Min Soo's paintings. He explains that three years ago, Dae Hyun surprised her by hiring help for the store and buying her an oil painting set. She's been painting ever since. Daniel wonders if his mom might've been an artist if she'd never left Korea or had him and Charlie. Once Daniel is dressed in his suit, he kisses his mom goodbye and decides to pretend that he can be whatever he wants.
Notice that Daniel very clearly ties his mom's immigration to the US and her familial responsibilities to the fact that she didn't pursue painting. This shows early on that Daniel has a very strong sense of cause and effect, which is one of the ways the novel suggests that destiny becomes apparent.
Themes
Immigration and the American Dream Theme Icon
Passion vs. Reason Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Destiny Theme Icon