Blu's Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka tells a sad and realistic story of the Ogata family. With the absence of a mother and an uncaring father, the three children, Ivah, Blu, and Maisie, face insurmountable obstacles. Furthermore, various outside forces, such as sexual violence, poverty, and racism, make it even harder for them to cope with the harsh society. In spite of these hardships, it is the mother's invisible presence that keeps the three children together and guides them, although it also contributes to the unintended indifference of father, and the children's vulnerability of societal attacks.
Eleanor, "the mother", is often presented in the story even though she is dead, in terms of her ideas and family's memory of her. The children's effort to include their mother in family events and not forgetting what she has said to them show how naturally they think of their mother's existence with them. When Poppy asks "O-kay, who's first?" (98) on a Christmas day for gift exchange, Blu says "You and Mama" (98), as if his mother is still there with him. The children do not forget to visit Mama's grave on special occasions, such as mother's day. These rituals regarding their mother indicate the presence of her in the family. Poppy's longing for Eleanor is also demonstrated when he frequently sings the song "Moon River" throughout the novel, and tells Ivah that "your Bradda's voice-thass your Mama singing right out his throat" (140). The lyrical content of the song "Moon River" shows how much he misses her, and finding mother's resemblance in Blu's voice shows that Poppy has not forgotten about her. The family remembers her, and will not forget her, which keeps her alive in the n...
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...ides to "walk back ... stay there till I fix what I did wrong the first time ... take my sulfones too with Eleanor" (258), and leaves with Ka-san, a representation of Eleanor. This ending also shows the contradicting effects of the mother's invisible, yet existing characteristic, illustrating how Poppy was unable to let go of Eleanor, but the children were able to do so. This result is understandable since Poppy is the one who spent more time with Eleanor and the children are used to having her only spiritually. In Blu's Hanging by Yamanaka, the absence of mother leads to two opposing outcomes in the family: Poppy's downfall, the children's vulnerability to societal attacks, and at the same time a force to bond the family members together and guide the children to the right direction.
Yamanaka, Lois-Ann. Blu's Hanging. New York: Avon, 1997.
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