Literature Study GuidesObasanChapters 25 27 Summary

Obasan | Study Guide

Joy Kogawa

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Obasan | Chapters 25–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

Before the family has time to enjoy the return of Father and the end of the war, word comes that the Japanese Canadians in Slocan are being forced to move again. Despite the war being over, they will not be allowed to return home. Some will go to new camps, some will be considered for "Eastern Placement," and all will be encouraged to return to Japan, or repatriate. Naomi's father receives a letter saying he must remain in New Denver, where the hospital is. Uncle and the rest of the family are designated for Eastern Placement, which means they must move east of the Rockies and out of British Columbia.

Packing begins immediately, and Nomura, Nakayama-sensei and other neighbors come over to say their farewells, pray, and take communion. Stephen refuses to participate and sits on a packing crate, inadvertently breaking his mother's favorite record. The evening ends with Nakayama-sensei quietly reminding them that in times like this, they must trust in God even more because "to trust when life is easy is no trust." They part, promising they will meet again.

Chapter 26

Father disappears again, and Naomi does not know what is happening. She watches as more families leave Slocan, and then the day arrives when it is her family's turn. She goes to the station and boards the train as she did three years before. She still does not know where Father is, and she notices that her friend Kenji is not with his mother. The train pulls out of the station, and Naomi has no idea where they are heading.

Chapter 27

The time shifts back to 1972, with Naomi still waiting for the arrival of Aunt Emily, Stephen, and Nakayama-sensei for Uncle's funeral. She feels burdened by the "heavy identity" of being Japanese, the proof she has of their rejection by their country, her memories, her questions, and Uncle's death. But she returns to Emily's papers because her aunt once told her that "Reconciliation can't begin without mutual recognition of facts." In other words, people have to understand what happened in order to move forward.

Naomi thinks more about 1945 and the family's move from Slocan. This was the time, she says, during which fractured families were permanently destroyed. The government itself was strongly "urging" all Japanese Canadians to return to Japan, whether they had been born there or not. In fact, as Emily pointed out, they provided more assistance to those willing to leave Canada then they did to those trying to rebuild their lives. Missionaries from Slocan sent letters to the government saying that dispersal and repatriation were inhuman and absolutely unnecessary, but their protests were ignored. Some politicians and activists also tried to help, but they had little success.

The relocation programs continued, with many of the Japanese facing "hunger, poverty, and ostracism" even when they resettled in war-ravaged Japan. Those who stayed in Canada didn't fare much better, as "cities in every province slammed their doors shut." Even if they had been allowed to return home, they would have returned to nothing, since the government had passed an order-in-council (a law) allowing them to seize and sell any property belonging to the Japanese. Reflecting on all this, Naomi is not sure that protests or prayers achieve anything.

Analysis

With the continued dispersal of Japanese Canadians after the end of the war, the hypocrisy and racism at the heart of the government's actions became indisputable. Originally, officials stated that the Japanese were moved from the West Coast for reasons of security. But after the end of World War II, security was no longer an issue. Many government officials, and much of the white population, simply did not want Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. Other provinces did not welcome the refugees, either. By moving them, breaking up families, and seizing their property, the government was making a calculated effort to render life untenable for Japanese Canadians in the hope that it would encourage them to leave the country entirely.

Japanese Canadians became, in effect, people without a country. Despised in Canada, they were equally unwanted in their "homeland." They were not even given the comfort of having each other. Even though good men like Nakayama-sensei tried desperately to keep communities together, the plans for dispersal and the disregard for family units made that impossible. The families themselves began to crack under the strain, with family members becoming distant from each other either physically or emotionally. Stephen, for example, continues to pull away from his family, whom he seems to blame for their situation. When he accidentally breaks his mother's record, it is as though he has broken one of the few remaining ties to his past and the rest of his family. And although his father comforts him, Father, too, disappears, perhaps along with Stephen's last emotional connection to the family.

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