Obasan by Joy Kogawa Analysis

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Obasan’s novel tells the autobiographical story of Naomi, a schoolteacher who recalls growing up in the third generation of “Japanese Canadian” society. The plot is set during the Second World War when Naomi was young interned. Given the events and historical whims of Naomi and other characters in chapters 12 and 13, it is clear to the reader that the novel is a well-written literary masterpiece. The cruelty of Naomi’s harassment and the disappearance of her mother was introduced in Chapters 12 and 13 of Kogawa’s book. The happenings of chapter 12 take place in 1941 and depict Naomi’s molestation from Old Man Gower.

Naomi’s mother disappears and goes to see her sick grandmother when her family had gone off on a ship bound for Japan. When the family arrives home, Obasan feels the emptiness in the house due to the absence of a mother. Naomi also discovers that the Old Man Gower is in their living room and agrees to hold onto the family’s possessions. The use of the “Old Man Gower” character indicate to be a symbol of military exploitation and manipulation along with the sexual power that the character has on Naomi. Old Man Gower sexually abuses Naomi. Symbolism is also revealed when Stephen comes home with a broken glasses which signifies his broken heart for having been called a “Jap” by his classmate (Kogawa 75).

Naomi is the narrator’s main character in the two chapters and the entire book, and the reader can see that the schoolteacher is healing tormented and fascinated by the memories of her childhood. Notably, Naomi presents to have endured more pain and coped up with the past and tries to forget the tormenting ordeal from Old Man Gower. Indeed, Naomi has made her world and felt a stronger attachment to Obasan. Also, the fact that her mother left her without her consent makes the reader view that she is not close to her mother. Stephen who is the brother to Naomi reacts to the idea of being called a “Jap” by his fellow’s student in the class. Stephen is mercurial and restless, and it becomes evident that spending time with his family makes him uncomfortable as it reminds him of being a Japanese.

The Parenthood of the mother indicates to be at a distance to her children. The mother leaves her family and goes to take care of her grandmother without the children knowing. She has distanced herself from Naomi and her brother making her children to question the whereabouts of their mother. On the contrary, chapter 13 reveals Naomi’s father as being an elegant and a caring person. The father is also way there for his children and even provides a detailed explanation regarding their family. Old Man Gower a character that lives in the neighborhood of Naomi’s residence. His molestation of Naomi on multiple occasions reveals his brutality and inhumane character. Besides, he is a cunning and a manipulative individual who even poses to be a generous friend to Naomi’s father despite his cruel treatment of Naomi.

In chapter 13, Naomi does recall her participation in the Christmas pageant and remembers the many presents that she and Stephen received from the holiday season. The Book of Knowledge that Stephen received encompassed stories of brave children and thus represents the need for knowledge and wisdom in Stephen (Kogawa 71). Naomi also presents to be a character who is an eavesdropper and listens to her father’s conversation when he talks to Aunt Emily. The silence depicted in this chapter appears to be a cautionary tale that concerns the harmful effects of silence, and that silence invites brutality. The failure to address the wrongs in the past could translate to resentment and anger. In chapter 13, Stephen is confronted by a girl from her school who brands him to being a “Jap” and this prompts Naomi to question her father their true origin and heritage. Silence also makes Naomi suffer from the sexual abuse perpetrated by Old Man Gower.

The trials of growing up as a youngster in the Japanese culture and ancestry during the Second World War made Naomi’s family to be regarded as an enemy. Naomi learns of the sad historical account of her family and becomes aware of the fate of her family. The chapters take Naomi through the journey of discoveries which is fundamental in helping her to understand the circumstances and the experiences that surround her family. The house of Obasan is a symbol of Obasan character herself. The house appears to be full of trash whereas is consists of a well arranges collection of catalog objects which are a reminder of Obasan’s life episodes. Old Man Gower is a cruel character who sexually abuses Naomi. He is obsessed with sexual power, and his acts drive Naomi into painful moments and despair. The two chapters also depict Kogawa’s characters varying attitudes towards the Japanese heritage, and none of the views are completely functional to the reader (Kogawa 67). Aunt Emily does reject the idea that her ethnicity makes her different from the other Canadian citizens while she campaigns for the rights of the Japans. Naomi and Stephen also question the Japanese heritage, and it becomes evident that the two did not have a full understanding of the heritage.

Work Cited

Kogawa Joy. Obasan. D.R. Godine. 1982

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