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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The memoir opens in December 1941 in Ocean Park, California. Ocean Park is a coastal community near Santa Monica; many inhabitants make their living by fishing. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, the Wakatsuki family relocates to Terminal Island, an essentially Asian society. The navy evacuates Terminal Island completely, and the family moves to Boyle Heights, another minority ghetto.
Eventually, the war causes increased racial tension and Japanese-Americans are sent to Manzanar, an American "concentration" camp at the edge of the Mojave Desert. The principal action of the novel takes place in Manzanar.
After the war, the setting temporarily shifts to West Long Beach, where the Wakatsukis settle for a time. Then they move to San Jose. A narrative jump in time returns the setting back to Manzanar where the memoir comes to a close.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The narrator of the novel and protagonist and the novel. As a child, she is cheerful and innocent. Her family is moved to an American relocation camp for Japanese-Americans, where she tries to adjust and fit in. As she matures, she is troubled by racism and normal female adolescence. As an adult, she returns to the camp of her childhood and tries to make sense of the experience. She is a sociologist and writer.
The patriarch of the Wakatsuki family. He is an imposing figure in his family of ten children. He does everything with a flourish and basks in the long-gone glory of his origins in Japan. He is falsely arrested and imprisoned in an American jail during the war, and the insult to his pride is nearly impossible for him to overcome. He begins to drink heavily and shirks his parental responsibilities, letting his wife earn a living for the family. In the end, he finds some comfort and purpose in gardening. His daughter writes about him from an objective perspective, but her sympathy and admiration comes through the prose.
A dignified woman and supportive wife and mother. She emerges as a strong character because of her status as primary breadwinner and her efforts to keep the family together.
Woodrow "Woody" Wakatsuki
The oldest Wakatsuki son. He is hardworking, honest and always optimistic. He acts as a substitute father to his younger siblings when their father is arrested. He joins the American Army in order to prove his loyalty to America.
William, Eleanor, Frances, Lillian, Reijuio, Martha, Kiyo, and May Wakatsuki
Woody's wife. She is almost like a mother to the younger Wakatsukis.
Jeanne's brother-in-law, a foreman of reservoir maintenance detail.
Ko's favorite aunt. She is the one who gave him the money to come to America in 1913. Woody visits her in 1946.
Jeanne's only friend at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version