Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's Farewell to Manzanar

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's Farewell to Manzanar

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A Japanese American Tragedy


     Farewell to Manzanar, written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Japanese American, and James D. Houston, describes about the experience of being sent to an internment camp during World War II. The evacuation of Japanese Americans started after President Roosevelt had signed the Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. Along with ten thousand other Japanese Americans, the Wakatsuki was sent on a bus to Manzanar, California. There, they were placed in an internment camp, many miles from their home with only what they could carry. The lives of the Japanese Americans in the internment was a struggle. But for some of the Japanese Americans, it was even harder after they were discharged from the internment camp. The evacuation and the internment had changed the lives of all Japanese Americans. The evacuation and internment affected the Wakatsuki family in three ways: the destruction of Papa’s self-esteem, the separation of the Wakatsuki family, and the change in their social status.
     The destruction of Papa’s self-esteem is one effect of the evacuation and internment. Before the evacuation and internment, Papa was proud; he had a self-important attitude yet he was dignified. Wakatsuki describes Papa as “a poser, a braggart, and a tyrant. But he had held on to his self-respect” (58). He was “absurdly proud” (54) that he went to the law school even though he never finished. Prior to the evacuation and internment, his self-esteem was not destroyed. When “Papa was take to the prison, he did not let the deputies push him out the door, instead he led them” (8). This manner is clearly contrasted after the evacuation and internment. Papa’s self-esteem no longer existed. Papa drunk heavily inside the barracks, “day after day he would sip his rice wine or his apricot brandy, sip till he was blind drunk and passed out” (65). His pride was diminishing like a vapor of alcohol. He became abusive towards Mama, “He yelled and shook his fists and with his very threats forced her across the cluttered room until she collided with one of the steel bed frames and fell back onto a mattress” (71). Papa's dignity had disappeared; he had become a drunk and an abusive man. The effects of the evacuation and internment contributed to the destruction of his self-esteem.
     The separation of the Wakatsuki family is a second effect of the evacuation and internment. Before the evacuation, the Wakatsuki family members were living in the same house in Ocean Park, California.

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According to the author, they used to go hunt grunion with whole family (38); they would celebrate their parents' wedding anniversaries (57). The Wakatsuki family seemed humble and very close. For them, mealtime meant a lot and it “had always been the center of their family scene”(35). They would sit around the old round wooden table in their dining room in Ocean Park (35), but at Manzanar, there was no dining table, nor the house to eat in (39). They ate separately and “stopped eating as a family” (36). Eating separately was a manifestation of the disintegration of the family. The author states, “My own family, after three years of mess hall living, collapsed as an integrated unit...we did not recover it until many years after the war” (37). After the internment camp was over, her siblings moved out to different places; they no longer lived together as before. They were unable to recapture the closeness of family life until many years later.
     The change in their social status is also an effect of the evacuation and internment. Before the evacuation, they lived in Ocean Park, California, a white neighborhood. Papa owned two fishing boats.





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