Silencing a Nation: Naomi's Troubled Development in Joy Kogawa's: "Obasan"

Essay by FinnighanHigh School, 11th gradeA, April 2006

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"Some memories, too, might better be forgotten...What past recall is past pain."(Kogawa 45). In Joy Kogawa's "Obasan" the silence of the mistreatment Naomi faces, as well as her family's health, and sudden abandonment by her Mother saved Naomi from being hurt as a child but led to a destructive development that, in the long run, had a negative impact on her adulthood. Naomi's Aunt Obasan fails to involve her in the racism they face and keeps the health of all Naomi's relatives silent. Furthermore, nothing is said to Naomi about the sudden absence of her mother, leaving Naomi to feel responsible and collectively leads her to a troubled adulthood.

During an unpleasant time in Canada, Naomi and her family face constant discrimination from others but her Aunt Obasan and other family members do not explain to Naomi why she is seen as different from any other Canadian, silencing what the nation was saying towards their race.

After Pearl Habour in 1942, a nationwide paranoia erupted and people of Japanese decent became discriminated against. The Canadian government exiled Japanese-Canadian people into ghost camps and people all across Canada became racist and discriminatory towards these people. Naomi encountered the discrimination in her internment camp is Slocan, Alberta:

"My mom says I can't play with you..."

"Why not?"

"You're sick. You've all got TB...That's why Stephen is limping."(Kogawa 165)

Naomi is troubled by this but she holds back her emotions because she still isn't clear why these things are being said to her. Naomi gets home and asks about her family having TB and she is completely ignored until her Uncle quietly says, "For some people it is a shameful matter to be ill. But it is a matter of misfortune, not shame."(Kogawa 166). Her uncle knew exactly what...