Aug. 24, 2010
The theme of disappearance in When the Emperor Was Divine encompasses both the obvious, such as their dog, and their father, and more complicated, subtle themes, such as the sense of community that they had with their neighborhood, and their worth as human beings as judged by other people. Their father as they knew him before his arrest was forever removed from their lives, due to whatever he suffered during his detainment. He was eventually released, and so, he was not removed from their lives entirely, but he was entirely changed, coming back a different person than he was when he was forced to leave his family. The most simple of the disappearances that are witnessed in the novel were the loss of the family’s pets. The mother had to kill their dog, release their bird, and give away the family cat, effectively permanently removing all of them from their lives. The loss of their dignity was a more subtle and complex disappearance, though just as prominent, and even more important. The way that they are treated before the war, and being taken to the camp, and the way they were treated by their community after returning are entirely different. Upon returning, they are either ignored entirely, or treated with hostility. Before having gone, there was a sense of community, and the mother had at least one close relationship with others in the community, in the form of the shopkeeper. Unfortunately, said relationship was one of the many that were changed or broken, due to the signified disappearance of their worth as American citizens, and as humans.