Racial Discrimination in Obasan and Itsuka by Jow Kogawa

1292 Words6 Pages
The world is filled with different kinds of hatred caused by different reasons. For instance, people may hate others because of their gender, or for having different beliefs. Perhaps people hate others based on their cultural representation instead of who they really are as an individual, whether that representation is a religion or a race. This single fact of racial discrimination has caused many terrible and tragic events in history such as the holocaust, slavery, and among them is the evacuation and relocation of Japanese Canadians during World War II. In the novels ¡®Obasan¡¯ and ¡®Itsuka¡¯ by Joy Kogawa, the main protagonist Naomi and her family go through the mistreatment and racial discrimination, which occurred to all Japanese Canadians during World War II. Obasan, which focuses on the past, and Itsuka, which focuses on the present, are novels that are similarly based around Naomi¡¯s experiences during the war. These painful experiences leave Naomi with tormenting memories, which she will never forget or fully recover from. However, Naomi¡¯s strong beliefs help her to eventually overcome the immense hardships. Finally, Naomi¡¯s past is becomes the very soil that allowed fruition of her future. Both novels Obasan and Itsuka are similar in a way that it is focused on protagonist Naomi¡¯s experiences during the relocation, with her strong faith allows her to overcome the hardship and realize her past has constructed her future.
The painful experience that Naomi lives through leaves her with terrible memories. In the novel Obasan, the main character Naomi, a young female Japanese Canadian, faces racial discrimination in her childhood during World War II. Naomi and other Japanese Canadians consider themselves to be ordinary Canadians until the attacks on Pearl Harbor. All Japanese Canadians who were most like had nothing to do with the attack find themselves classified as dangerous aliens. This incident leads to the separation of Naomi and her mother, which in turn causes her to be raised by her strong and silent aunt Obasan. Obasan, like many others, feel depressed and sorrow about their unfair treatment, and talks to herself while shedding tears by saying, 'let us rest now...' (P.20). Obasan then continues to be silent. Also, when Naomi's families had to be evacuated and relocated from their own land, before Naomi Uncle's death, he use to say, "I ...

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...deal, one will easily assume that Naomi will most likely despise her past and whoever provided such pain. If one was to play Naomi¡¯s role, certainly almost everyone will find it extremely unpleasant.

Many will agree that the relocation and evacuation of Japanese Canadian during World War II did not have just cause. But perhaps, with past perspective it may have been a prudent action, as need of many always outweighs the need of few. Nevertheless, What Naomi had to endure was not an easy ordeal. Racial discrimination occurs even today, despite the current paradigm that believes racism should be eradicated. Obasan and Itsuka captures the essence of one¡¯s pain enduring such discrimination, with an innocent child¡¯s perspective and mature adult who had already been victimized. By focusing on protagonist Naomi¡¯s experiences during the relocation, both novels show that with her strong beliefs she was able to overcome the hardship and realize her past has constructed her future. Naomi never lost her faith in her family, friends, and in her country. Thus, strong beliefs and having faith can be a powerful weapon against hopeless odds and immense hardships.

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