1. What kind of American society does Hana find upon arrival? How does she learn about it, and how does this affect her? How does this reality compare to Hana’s pre-arrival notions of America? How have these differences and similarities affected her family? (2 points)
Upon arrival to America, Hana has positive thoughts about American society. She had feared a future that would reflect the dullness of her present life in her village. Her mother doesn’t want her to become a teacher and her sister’s husband doesn’t think much of her just because she is a woman.
In America, she dreamed of a prosperous life where she will be able to be the woman that she wants to become.
However, when she reached America, she is harbored by discrimination and anti-Japanese sentiments among the Whites. The notion that she will be totally free escaped her.
One by one, Hana learned about the discrimination directed towards Japanese immigrants. On her first day in America, her future husband Taro introduced her to his friends and she learned their stories with visual clarity as she was situated to their homes, and their community.
She was shocked to learn that they have lowly jobs as houseboys, painters, maidservants, construction workers, and manual laborers. Professionals face difficulty in practicing their profession because they are not endorsed by the Americans. Hana faced these realities that were inadvertently concealed from her when she was still in Japan. Instead of punishing herself for the seemingly wrong decision of coming to America, Hana is determined to continue on with her new life.
As Hana sees the perceived notion of a prosperous life versus the reality that confronts her; she has been adaptable, strong and unrelenting. She decided to honor the agreed marriage even if she was not totally convinced of it for the good of both Taro’s family and her own. In doing so, she has shown determination, courage and compassion for both Taro and her family. She chose Taro even if she is developing a feeling for his friend, Yamaka. While this can be seen as a form of a Japanese woman’s submissiveness, it was clearly Hana’s own choice as determined by her judgment.
2. How is discrimination experienced by Hana, Taro, and the other characters? How is it dealt with? What alternatives did they create to overcome those barriers? (3 points)
Taro and his male friends are discriminated against by the Americans. Taro’s shop is only visited by fellow Japanese. Whites don’t buy from him because they have their own grocer. In such circumstance, Taro cannot expand his business into a community grocer that sells everything they need. His own business is limited by a fixed demographic of Japanese customers.
Japanese immigrants have limited job opportunities. This has been reinforced through laws and sanctions against them. Most of Taro’s friends are only accepted in manual labors and domestic jobs. The men who are not used to do household chores adapted to the situation because it is their only means of survival. The types of work that are given to them is in conflict with the gender roles in a Japanese society. They disregard their pride for the benefit of their family.
As a doctor, Dr. Takeda’s patients are all Japanese. He has immersed himself in helping his fellowmen and he made it his mission to go to them. He reached out to farmers who face open discrimination through fear of competition in their produce.
Young male Japanese who study always fall behind their class even if they are bright because of the limits of language. Some of them quit early and resign themselves in doing domestic jobs. While some of them would find this degrading, for many, it shows a resolute character who has the ability to choose from the limited means of survival afforded to them.
In the bus scene where Hana carries her favorite dish and nobody dared sat beside her because of its stinking smell, the pain of conforming to an entirely different culture extols upon her and she felt embarrassed and humiliated. For her, a place where you suppress a basic desire like enjoying your favorite dish is such a lame,unfair and unlivable place.
As a group, they begun their assimilation to the community through creation of a religious group. They learned to help each other in times of need. Most husbands cannot shoulder the financial means to support their family. These made a wife’s financial contribution important to their society. Women learned to do things that they don’t usually do as restricted in Japanese society like deciding on their family’s welfare. Wives are not entirely submissive to their husbands. Their acquired intrepidity and relentlessness to participate in the planning of the future of their families are not encouraged but husbands have learned to adapt to these changes. They accept such circumstances with blind submission.
However, at the beginning of the novel, Hana also felt discriminated against not just by Americans but by her fellow Japanese. While Taro and others have successfully immersed themselves into American culture through studying English and creating a Christian community, Hana struggles between hiding her Japanese-ness so she cannot feel embarrassed to Taro’s friends for keeping her own culture (which for some of them will eventually be lost each time they conform) and to the Americans who think lowly of them.
3. How does the “assimilation process” change from Hana’s generation to Mary’s? (3 points)
It was an unspoken ideal for Japanese immigrants, whether issei or nisei to be fully integrated and accepted into American society. In Hana’s generation, assimilation is through conforming to laws, rules, and sanctions imposed on them. They need to abide by the law and live their life in quiet peace, even consenting on the whims of their neighbors. They are conscious of their own culture and of what practice offends Americans that they should avoid .
However, in Mary’s generation this had changed because their distinction between what constituents Japanese culture and American culture is blurred. An example is their preference in the use of language. Mary communicates to Taro because he speaks English well in contrast to Hana who needs Japanese language translation for her to fully grasp what Mary wants to say. In fact, some of them had fully embraced being an American and had lost their Japanese culture.
In the time frame covered in the novel, Hana’s generation’s assimilation processes cannot bring them to fully integrate into American Society. During their time, laws were imposed preventing them to enjoy the benefits of citizenship. Mary’s generation are American citizens. While they also experience discrimination, they have a choice whether to submit to the demands of their citizenship or their obligation to their parents.
4. What conditions bring Mary to the particular choices she makes as a young adult? What are the costs/benefits of her choices? (2.5 points)
Mary had been frustrated of the life that she’d been living as reinforced by a naive knowledge of the world. She’s been drifting away from the love of her parents while moving closer to her friends or the man that she dates. There is a friction between Mary and Hana that both can’t reach out to one another. When Mary decides to become a doctor, Hana was apprehensive because Mary’s personality as revealed to her cannot sustain such arduous and long study. She has often demonstrated her interest in a project only when her spirits are high and would later abandon an undertaking when her spirits are down. Hana sees that she is not as strong as she appears to be before Taro. In Hana’s eyes, these revelations are the silent cause of the seeming distance in their relationship.
On the other hand, Mary seems to be bothered by the many differences they have. She no longer identifies herself as part of their community as shown in her annoyance in attending the Sunday mass. She has attained independence and self-will different from the characteristics of a submissive Japanese woman. Although Hana is herself strong-willed and determined, Mary is free to choose between the two cultures. Her marriage to an American man is her easy escape of the kind of prosecution her parents experience while being Japanese.
Her elopement is symbolic of her own choice between America and Japan. Her act can be likened to abandonment of one’s own ancestry. Her actions can also be seen as the same force that drove Hana to leave Japan and be Taro’s picture bride; as she thinks more of herself and disregarding what her actions might mean to her family. The only main difference is that in Hana’s case, her mother consented to her marriage while Hana and Taro resented Mary’s decision.
When the war broke, having an American husband who will take care of her prevented Mary from experiencing the torment of her parents living in an internment camp. She has escaped their faith and she is now living on her own with a kind of freedom achieved through escaping a bondage set by the constraints of culture. At first, Mary’s actions cost her the love of her parents, but as parents, Hana and Taro’s love for her transcends all wrongdoing. They find in their hearts love to forgive her. As these actions are also symbolic of the characters’ love for both America and Japan, it shows that their decisions are responses to the societies’ treatment towards them. And in such times, they are victims of the ideological war on racism and discrimination of the time.
5. How do you understand the two fatal “accidents” (Henry and Taro shot to death) in the context of race relations? What were the consequences inside and outside their families? (2.5 points)
In the fatal “accidents”, both Taro and Henry are victims of a useless war. The perpetrators have the upper hand; hence the ones who shot the gun. The characteristic of a discriminating group is that it always claims superiority over the other who’s discriminated against. These accidents are confirmation of a superior hand of America. They govern laws that were used to proliferate discrimination.
The shooting is also affirmation of the ugly perception of Americans to Japanese Americans that extends to the whole of Asian Americans as well. The shooters’ perceptions on both Henry and Taro are heavenly influenced by the political relations between America and Japan. The bombing of Pearl Harbor is a declaration of war from Japan which a belligerent America took on. The shooting of both Henry and Taro signals a battle that was hard to withdraw. They were both innocent, conforming Japanese who just happened to be affected by such relations.
When Taro’s group at the internment camp heard about the shooting of Henry Toda, they were alarmed that such random case of killing has occurred against them. Most of them conform to American societies to prevent the same fate. However, not all Japanese internees during that time conform to authorities. Some have rebelled against their condition and were prosecuted.
Their deaths were difficult to endure for their families. It came at a time when they are facing problems and major changes in their lives. Their absences as heads of their families signal a shift from the traditional Japanese families’ context as characterized by closed boundary and divided gender roles to a more liberal family who adapts to changes in society.
6. What are the main differences and similarities between the Issei and Nissei families? What are the roles of parents and children? Which generation do you consider more successful? Why? (2 points)
As first generation, (Issei) of migrants, Hana’s generation maintained their Japanese citizenship while Mary’s generation are born into American society and are American citizens. Since Nissei are American citizens, their issei parents believe that they can be integrated in American society. While Hana’s generation was obviously discriminated against through different laws, Mary’s are not governed by such laws as Anti-Alien Land Law, Gentleman’s Agreement, etc. In a sense, Mary’s generation is more free.
In Hana’s generation, the Japanese Americans have remained exclusive in their group to live and to cope with the unfair conditions they experience. They find strength while being together and it gives them a sense of having a community they can call their own. Issei and Nisei families are both unwelcome in American society. Both are looked down by white Americans.
Both face unfair discrimination reduce to stereotypes. To cope with the discrimination, they have devised different ways to assimilate. For the Issei, most of them conform to rules and laws set upon them while the Nisei live according to American values they have acquired. In a way, they are becoming American and losing their Japanese sense without knowing it.
Issei parents’ role is to instill to their Nisei children the importance of integration to American society through education. They require their children to excel in school and be good citizens who follow rules. They dream that their children will someday become professionals who occupy important places in society. The role of children is to obey their parents with an end goal that America will someday be a friendly society for the likes of them.
More opportunities are provided for Nisei. As mentioned above, they are more free than their parents. In these situation where the society is the main antagonist, I think that the Nisei are more successful. Unlike their parents, they do not confront a choice between two citizenships. They are born Americans and they integrate into society more freely and openly.