Obasan by Jow Kogawa

526 Words3 Pages
prejudice can be defined as the judgement inflicted toward an individual or on a group because it or they appear to be different in social status, nationality, and all other superficialities which pertain to the individual or group. However, prejudice comes from both within and with out. Such acts appear within the novel, Obasan by Jow Kogawa. In Obasan, the main character, Naomi Nakane, journeys through a path of old, forgotten memories which she remembers as the times of discrimination which she and her family experienced together. Through the past experiences of Naomi, Kogawa demonstrates that prejudice comes from noth within the individual and with out by the society.
A memory that Naomi recalls is one of herself and her brother, Stephen, walking to school when a boy shouts to them, "Fight, Jap. Fight!" (p.182), and later, "C'mon, ya gimpy Jap!" (p. 182), as he jabbed Stephen on the shoulder. The term "Jap" used here is meant to degrade the Japanese race. This word was also used frequently throughout WWII where Naomi's aunt, Aunt Emily, recalled the way signs were, "...posted on all highways- 'Japs Keep Out.'" (p. 103) in her diary. The derogatory term "Jap" demonstrates the way that prejudice form the outside can lead to the labeling of a nationality, desipte who these people were as individuals. Prejudice from the outside could also lead to shameful events bound to be remembered throughout history. An example of this in the novel would be the Japanese internment camps where "...kids scramble for food and the slow ones go empty." (p. 107) This was an area where "the whole place is impregnated with the smell of ancient manure." (p. 115) Due to their quick judgment caused by their fears, many people, such as Naomi, were left with scars branded to their souls.
Prejudice not only comes from outside forces, but from within each person regardless of if another individual shares the same culture, language and even suffers the same situation. In Obasan, Kogawa portrays a bathhouse scene in which Naomi and Obasan are ostracized from a Japanese mother and her two daughters when they, too, face the same dilemma as the Nakanes. They were "whispering to Reiko and Yuki and avoiding all contact with us, greeting us neither formally or informally." (p. 194) The first impression from this situation would be that the Japanese family is rude; however, the daughter, Reiko points out that, "You're sick.
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