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Obasan (3): From Second Relocation, Alienation to Reconstruction. Outline. Fragmentation & Alienation – Naomi, the community -- Stephen - -the Barkers Reconstruction Naomi’s education Accepting Silence; Facing the truths Constructing the Community

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Obasan (3): From Second Relocation, Alienation to Reconstruction

Outline l.jpg

  • Fragmentation & Alienation

    • – Naomi, the community

    • -- Stephen

    • --the Barkers

  • Reconstruction

    • Naomi’s education

    • Accepting Silence;

    • Facing the truths

    • Constructing the Community

  • Speech and Silence and N’s Movement towards speech

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Second Relocation

  • Pp. 180 chap 26 --fragmentation

  • Told by Naomi while she reads Emily’s documents (newspaper clips) and remembers what she said about the Japanese’ deprivation and fights. (e.g. chap 27)

  • Chap 28

    • – Lethbridge in the restaurant

    • -- their hut

  • Chap 29 (newspaper clips vs. the real experience)

  • Chap 30 – loss of parents; experience of school –children rejecting their Japanese names

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Alienation: Naomi in Alberta

  • Chap 31 – Naomi near the swamp; taking care of her frog (Tad, Tadpole and Tadashi)

    The father’s death  1949 last letter;  awareness to knowledge and expression in 1951 (chap 32 pp. 209; 211)

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Alienation from his own culture: Stephen

  • Has wanted to get away from G – p. 219 (Obasan’s response: praying)

  • -- Momotaro going off to conquer the world ( Toronto  Europe) (Obasan’s response: standing where he was for a long time)

  • Used to departure p. 15 (O: keepning his letters)

  • --uncomfortable with anything “too Japanese” (chap 33 p. 217)

  • --ready to run out the moment he is back (chap 36: 231)

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Alienation from his own culture: Stephen

  • Mixture in his language p. 218;

  • With Claudine (chap 34 223)

  • --noncommunicative with Obasan chap 36 p. 231 (Obasan’s reaction--mending and cooking something that he would not touch)

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the Barkers--enemy aliens--”foreign odor” (chap 34 p 224) “icebreaker questions that create an awareness of ice”

  • The Japanese-Canadians chap 34 p. 226

    • –like weeds--uprooted but survived;

    • -- Obasan’s silent territory

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Naimi’s Education

  • How does Naomi respond the Aunt Emily’s documents?

  • ‘Some memories . . .might better be forgotten” (45)

  • chap 27 –tired from the “heavy identity” ; need to be educated (183-188); not touched(189)

  • Chap 7 p. 50;

  • Chap 29: p. 194

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Dreams and Nightmares

  • “There are some nightmares from which there is no waking, only deeper and deeper sleep.” (232)The Dream of the Grand Inquisitor

  • third dream (chap 35)

  • How will you interpret the dream?

  • --dream elements--the place of the dead, soldiers, flower ceremony, the Grand Inquisitor

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Nightmare in chap 35

  • --What are the recurring elements in her dreams? Who is the Grand Inquisitor?

  • --the victimizer, the oppressor

  • --Naomi with her questions (274)

  • --Emily with her insistence on speech (232-233)

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Trauma and Memory

  • What are the functions of the two letters?

  • How does Noami respond to them?

  • What do you think of these imagery--the child with the “double wound” (243) the letters as skeletons and bones of the past (38: 243)?

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Trauma and Memory

  • --for Grandma Kato--“however much the effort to forget, there is no forgetfulness” (281)--release the burden of memory with writing (283)--the reader as burden sharer

  • --for Naomi--attending the voice of the voicelessness--an eulogy of Mother

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Naomi’s responses

In chap 38

  • listen to mother 240;

  • speak to mother 241

    • asserting her Canadian identity;

    • sympathizing with her

  • last community 246 

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Atomic bombs dropped in Japan

l"Little Boy" --the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

"Fat Man" --dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.

lCauses of damage: air pressure (wind), heat, radiation

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A. Hiroshima

—1. wind: destroyed most of the houses and buildings within a 1.5 miles radius.

--- 2. death: more than 140,000 people died by the end of the year (including students, soldiers and Koreans who worked in factories within the city.) The total number of people who have died due to the bomb is estimated to be 200,000.

  • B. Nagasaki--70,000 people died by the end of the year

  • l1945, Aug. 15, Japan surrendered (treaty signed on Sept. 2). Taken over by the U.S.

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The Ending

  • Why does Naomi visit the coulee again at the end of the novel?

  • remembering--personal memorial service to the dead (Mother, Father, Uncle--all the “absences”)

  • re-membering--two ideographs for love--愛 戀--系--kei as in nikkei--family lineage--a symbolic act to reweave the family unravel by the war and to weave nikkei into the tapestry of Canadian history(King-Kok Cheung)

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The Ending

  • Why does Kogawa end the novel with an official document?

  • What kind of language is it written in, as opposed to Naomi’s?

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Silence– (1) a means of communication in the family

  • e.g. the mother’s response in Naomi’s chicken episode;

  • Care taking in the family (chap 10)

  •  Naomi’s lack of resistance to Old Man Gower;

  •  learns of danger only as “whispers and frowns and too much gentleness” (13: 73)

  • father's illness, his coming back, and departure 166, 171, 179

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Silence– (2) for the sake of children

  • Obasan's silence

  • Live in stone (p. 32); turns to stone (198)

  • Endurance chap 34 --224 (inviolate); 226;

  •  Trapped in her memory

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Silence– (3) no more inquisition

  • mother's silence the avenues of silence are the avenues of speech 228 ==233

  • silence and forbearance of the atomic bomb victims 236

  •  lost together in our silences 243

  •  silent communion with the dead: unity and distance at the end 246-47

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Language: lies and expressions of racism

  • official rhetoric and order

    • --Nisei as "enemy aliens"; prison camps "Interior Housing Projects“

    • Order in council (end of chap 27)= hawk

  • "With language like that you can disguise any crime." (34)

  • Old Man Gower’s

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Language (2): Aunt Emily’s

  • write the vision and make it plain

  • Her documents as “the mind’s meal” (chap 27); her words – not made flesh, not touch N in Alberta (end of chap 27)

  • Pushing Naomi to talk about “facts” chap 27; pp. 183 -

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Imagery of Stone & Sea

  • What is the significance of the stone imagery?

  • The bible--“a white stone”--”a new name written”

  • epigraph--“The word is stone.”

  • Uncle’s stone bread

  • Emily's parcel; sound and stone (32)

  • the coulee/ the ocean/ uncle and Chief Sitting Bull/ the family as a knit blanket (24-25)

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Kogawa’s own experience

  • 1. 1960s -- Not asserting her Japanese identity first: “I would see myself as white. I wrote as a white person. I wrote, in fact, in a male voice initially. In that sense I was a mimic, I read and I wrote what I read. ”

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Kogawa’s own experience

  • 2. the writing of "Obasan"

  • “But even at that point, I was not thinking particularly of writing about Japanese-Canadians, I was simply writing out of my own life and writing it in some of the way I wrote poetry. . . .

  • 3. at the Archives, though, in Ottawa,

  • “ that's when I became aware of another voice that I was not conscious of being within me--Muriel Kitagawa's voice. To me, it was a voice from the outside, . . .. So Aunt Emily's voice was always outside of me throughout the entire writing of Obasan. “

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Kogawa’s own experience

  • 4. after writing Obasan; writing Itsuka

  • ”the Naomi character -- the way I used to be--got more and more transformed, and the Aunt Emily voice came out. I found myself being more like Aunt Emily. And I think in Itsuka I was much more like Emily[though still writing in Naomi’s perspective]. . .

Reference l.jpg

  • Joy Kogawa Talks to Karlyn Koh: The Heart-of-the-Matter Questions." The Other Woman: Women of Colour in Contemporary Canadian Literature. Ed. Makeda Silvera. Toronto: Black Women and Women of Colour P, 1995. 19-41.