America is considered a melting pot of ethnicities due to the majority of citizens arriving by means of immigration. In the 1940’s there were about 127, 000 Americans with Japanese decent living in the U.S. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942 President Roosevelt passed an executive order to detain any American with Japanese decent in internment camps. The novel, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is based upon one Japanese American family’s experiences during this time. The main character in the novel is referred to as “The Woman” and she amplifies the great controversy of what it means to be American. The woman portrays throughout the novel that she is culturally American and only ethnically Japanese. She shows this American culture through her fashion style, her habits, and the upbringing of her children. Although, the woman has roots to Japan and remembers those roots through her food choice and Japanese artifacts in her home they are easily dismissed compared to the American life style she exhibits throughout the story.
The way the Woman dresses is a typical American style for this time period. The narrator informs the reader that the first thing the Woman does when she gets home is to change out of one dress and put on her house dress and comfy shoes (Otsuka 7). In the 1940s it was very common for American women to have a separate dress to wear in their homes (“1940s Fashion”). She is also described as wearing gloves (Otsuka 4) which was a popular accessory in the United States (“1940s Fashion”). On the other hand, Japanese women wore kimonos which are large T shaped dresses, pinched in at the waist with a sash (“Fashioning Kimonos”). The Woman in the story also wears lipstick (Otsuka 37); lipstick and eyeliner were what ladies in America were wearing at this time. In Japan they were wearing much more makeup applying cover up, rouge, lipstick, and eyeliner (“Glamourdaze”). This shows that the Woman in the novel...
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