This study examines the aesthetic significance of the apartment building in Kim Namch’ŏn’s Barley in relationship to the novella’s narrative form. Actively directing the narrative movement, on the one hand, and representing the sense of alienation experienced by Korean intellectuals in the colonial period, on the other, the building is both realistic and allegorical. Its functional role in the narrative development, as well as its symbolic representation of the dominant presence of Western forms, both architectural and ideological, renders the figure of the apartment building essentially ambiguous. This study claims that this ambiguous quality of the building achieves the realist aesthetics that Kim theorized. To articulate this aesthetic and literary theoretical achievement, the article demonstrates how the architecture of the building shapes the narrative movement and describes how the building itself provides the interpretive frame for understanding the significant scenes of the narrative, whose contours the building shapes. The author concludes with an analysis of an unremarkable but critical turn toward the end of the narrative that challenges and resists the interpretive frame the building imposes. This turn grounds the possibility of the experience of alienation becoming art.

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