The book ‘Northing to Envy’ is about the lives of 6 North Korean defectors under the North Korean regime. With these accounts, the author portrays the regime very negatively, narrating their harrowing experiences and hardships in order to explore the system. The issue she highlights is that the regime is brutal, oppressive, and violates the human rights of its citizens, whose voices are never heard. The tone portrays the defectors as unsung heroes yet ordinary people who incredibly, managed to escape a cruel, corrupt world against the unimaginable odds. Through the defectors eyes readers see hardship and adversity – such as famine, extreme poverty and harsh regimentation by ways of public execution and political torture camps, under the dictator’s iron rule. They are indoctrinated, and slaves to a regime could not care any less about its people. It is clear from the tone of the writing the author blames their suffering on the dictator and his regime – it is the country, not the people – that is a monster hidden in the 21st century.
The tone is incredibly important and relevant, because although the book is based on reality and real events, it is not entirely a factual report. With every page, the author makes her own observations and conclusions about the experiences, stressing the horrors in them, and the absurdity of the regime – it is actually an opinionated book. Her conclusions are so logical, analytical and well structured it can be difficult to tell them apart from solid facts, making the book very subtly persuasive. (They are calm and casual, and often appear in the narration, almost guising as facts themselves.
‘Kim Jong-Un… was the dark horse to assume leadership’ Whether or not he was the ‘dark horse’ is actually subjective, but is written in the same way facts are, to convince the reader. Another example is ‘The North Korean propaganda machine went into overdrive, concocting even weirder stories about how Kim Il-Sung wasn’t really dead.’ The North Korean government may have published many stories like this, however they were not necessarily ‘weird’ or ‘concoctions’ of a ‘machine in overdrive,’ a metaphor).
Demick makes the book and her conclusions persuasive using various techniques such as emotive language and phrases, (‘she radiated strength in mind and body’) simple sentences, (‘If you couldn’t find anything to sell, you sold youself.’ This is followed by a longer sentence with much information, creating a contrast), word choice, (”The food problem is creating an anarchy,’ Kim Jong-il complained in a December speech…
‘ – in the context, ‘complained’ makes him seem like a very distant and spoilt, callous figure while his people struggled and staved) and metaphors.