Obasan Object Essay
The Role of Letters in Obasan
Although Naomi is thirty-six in the present day of Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan, she still has unanswered questions about her childhood. Naomi, who grew up in Canada during World War II, suffers from not knowing about the loss of her mother. When Naomi finds the letters Aunt Emily wrote to her mother, she starts to see how the events of World War II differed from how she viewed them as a child. Aunt Emily, in her letters, combines the events in Canada with her emotions. When Naomi reads the letters, she knows exactly how Aunt Emily was feeling during the catastrophe. In Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan, Kogawa uses letters to reveal Aunt Emily’s character, to recall the events of World War II in Canada and to unleash Naomi’s emotions. Although the main purpose of the letters is to tell her sister of the events going on in Canada, they also serve to give Aunt Emily a personality. As Aunt Emily writes the letters, she tells her sister about the difficult emotions that “were never intended for Stephen and [Naomi]”(279). Because Aunt Emily experiences the events of World War II first hand, she wants to “carry on the fight”(41) about the Canadians’ poor treatment to their own people. In the letters, Aunt Emily describes how the RCMP forces “friends of long standing [to] disappear overnight”(104). Aunt Emily, after surviving World War II, became “one of the world’s while blood cells” (41) so that she could rescue people in distress. Although her own country treated her poorly, Aunt Emily still believes that people “should always keep hope”(114). Although she remains scarred from the events of World War II, Aunt Emily still hopes that those events will be justified. Through the letters of Aunt Emily, Naomi relives the events of her past with a deeper understanding. While Naomi reads the letters, she learns why the other Canadians believed the Japanese Canadians were...
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