Obasan By Joy Kogawa

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The book Obasan by Joy Kogawa is a good example of how racial prejudice against people can hurt and deeply wound those oppressed for life. We will look at 3 family members and how the events during World War Two effected them, first Stephen.

The Bias Stephen Endured was enough to make him hate himself and his own culture. In Stephens's life the extreme bias towards him caused him to hate himself. He creates games in which the Japanese are weak even if they outnumber their attacker. "There are fifty small yellow pawns inside and three big blue checker kings. To be yellow in the Yellow Peril game is to be weak and small. Yellow is to be chicken."(152) This shows the fact that Stephen truly believes that he is forever weaker than the "blue checkers" he will never be strong and no matter what he does he can not win. Stephen is picked on during the book and as a result he becomes very cold. He starts to not care about anything and to separate himself from his family and everything he knows.

Stephen stands still as a stone. One of his hands is on the strap of his backpack ready to take it off.

"C'mon ya gimpy Jap!"

Stephen hands me his lunch box. I step backwards wanting to run away, wanting to stay with Stephen. (153-154)

Stephen is being made fun of by a group of boys who want to fight him. He faces this a lot and it is one of the causes he is cold. He believes that everyone hates him and that he is alone. Stephen tries to cut off all of his Japanese ties and unlearn the Japanese language. The constant hate of himself and his race causes this. "He grunts as Obasan tries to help him with it. Stephen has made himself altogether unfamiliar with speaking Japanese." (231) Stephen tries to be something he is not and does not know what it is that he wants to be. He quits being Japanese. Over all the affects on Stephen are significant. Stephen starts to hate himself and his family. Also he starts to hate his entire race.

Aunt Emily has the opposite effect. She becomes more motivated by the torture they had to endure. In her first trip from Toronto she shows all of her seminar notes on the persecution of Japanese people and she is very enthused by it.

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