Obasan | Study Guide

Joy Kogawa

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(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "Obasan Study Guide." March 22, 2018. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Obasan/.


Course Hero, "Obasan Study Guide," March 22, 2018, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Obasan/.

Obasan | Characters

Character Description
Naomi Nakane Naomi is the narrator of the novel. She is a 36-year-old Japanese Canadian schoolteacher whose story begins in 1941, when she and her family are uprooted from their home and forced to live in an internment camp. Read More
Obasan Ayako Nakane Obasan is Naomi's aunt, Ayako Nakane. She is the family's anchor during the difficult years of the war, caring for Naomi and her brother Stephen when no one else is able to; she believes in kindness and patience and remains silent about events that may cause others pain. Read More
Aunt Emily Kato Aunt Emily is the sister of Naomi's mother Nesan. A "word warrior," she becomes an activist who wants to make sure that Japanese Canadians remember their past, and that the government is held accountable. Read More
Stephen Nakane Stephen is Naomi's older brother. As persecution of Japanese Canadians continues, he becomes bitter and angry, eventually turning his back on his family and his heritage. Read More
Uncle Isamu Nakane Uncle Isamu "Sam" Nakane is Obasan's husband, a strong, good-natured man. His death begins the narrative and forces Naomi to begin dealing with her past. Read More
Mr. Barker Mr. Barker owns the sugar beet farm in Granton where Naomi and her family are assigned to work after leaving Slocan. Although he's not judged to be a bad man, he does not view Japanese Canadians as his equal, and sees nothing wrong with having the family he employs live in a converted chicken coop.
Mrs. Barker Mrs. Barker is Mr. Barker's first wife. She is prejudiced toward the Japanese and prohibits her daughter from playing with Stephen or Naomi.
Penny Barker Penny Barker is the daughter of the man whose beet farm the family works on. She ignores the Nakane children when they are field laborers, but later develops a crush on Stephen when he gains acclaim for his music.
Vivian Barker Vivian Barker is Mr. Barker's second wife. She is uncomfortable in Obasan's house when she and Mr. Barker come to pay a condolence call.
Father Naomi and Stephen's father, Tadashi "Mark" Nakane, is a university graduate and has a great interest in music. He is confined to a hospital when his family is sent to Slocan.
Ojisan Ojisan is a man who helps the Nakane family when they arrive at Slocan.
Old Man Gower Old Man Gower lives next door to the Nakanes in Vancouver. He pretends to be a family friend, but he molests Naomi when she is a small child.
Dr. Kato Dr. Kato is Naomi's maternal grandfather and a doctor. He volunteers at the Hastings Park prison, where he sees Grandma Nakane being held.
Grandma Kato Grandma Kato is Naomi's maternal grandmother, and mother to Emily and Naomi's mother Nesan. She returns to Japan with Nesan before the war, and eventually writes the letter that explains what happened to them in Japan.
Kenji Kenji is a schoolmate of Naomi's when she lives in Slocan. His family returns to Japan when Canada orders its Japanese Canadian citizens to leave, but Naomi does not see him as they leave.
Mother Nesan Nakane is Naomi and Stephen's mother, who had returned to Japan to care for her sick grandmother before the Canadian internment began, and then seemed to vanish. Naomi later learns that she was disfigured during the bombing of Nagasaki and chose never to contact her children again, for fear of bringing them pain and shame.
Grandma Nakane Grandma Nakane is Naomi's paternal grandmother and Uncle's mother.
Grandpa Nakane Grandpa Nakane is Naomi's paternal grandfather. He was an expert boat builder, but he is sent to Hasting Park prison along with his wife during the internment.
Nakayama-sensei Nakayama-sensei is an Anglican minister who lives in Slocan at the same time as Naomi and tries to provide hope and guidance to the Japanese Canadian community there.
Nomura-obasan Nomura-obasan is an old woman, an invalid, who temporarily lives with Obasan, Naomi, and Stephen while they are in Slocan.
Rough Lock Bill Rough Lock Bill is a member of the First Nations, perhaps the last of his tribe, who lives in isolation on the outskirts of Slocan. He rescues Naomi when she is drowning in a lake.
Setsuko Setsuko is a cousin of Naomi's mother in Japan. She dies in the bombing of Nagasaki.
Tomio Tomio is Setsuko's son. He survives the bombing of Nagasaki but disappears afterwards.
Uncle Dan Uncle Dan is an intelligence officer for the Canadian government who works in the Far East. He is a close friend of Father.
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