Comp I 1010-154
September 25, 2018
Discussion Questions On Novel
1.) When The Emperor Was Divine gives the reader an intimate view of the fate of Japanese Americans during World War II. The novel accomplishes this through the perspective of families who suffered through it. More specifically, one particular family, a mother and her two children. Though we do not get exactly what is going on in the war, the family describes to us what they had to go through, along with the experiences they had. The reader gets a glimpse of how it exactly was. Unlike straightforward historical investigation, the novel gives us a first perspective of the story. There are descriptive details of the environment, living spaces, and the harassment and judgement released upon the Japanese – Americans. Researching it is not quite similar as that firsthand experience.
2.) Otsuka chooses to reveal the family’s reason for moving, along with the father’s arrest, gradually and indirectly for effect. When the reason becomes apparent, the novel does not get that mysterious vibe to it. Whereas revealing it gradually, creates engagement towards the family and their experience. It is easier to build up to that moment than revealing it all at once, and having no story to tell.
3.) Otsuka skillfully places subtle but significant details throughout her narrative. For example, when the mother goes to Lundy’s hardware store, she notices a “dark stain” on the register “that would not go away”, or the “White Dog” she has to kill, and lastly, the daughter’s favorite song “Don’t Fence Me In”. All of these have meaning behind them. The “dark stain” represents the forced evacuation placed on all the Japanese Americans. It signifies a dark “stain” that is not only going to be placed on innocent people, but on history itself. The White Dog having to be killed by the mother represents the loses that they had to make in order to adjust to their new lives. The daughter’s favorite song fits perfectly the circumstances that the Japanese American were placed in. They were forced into these camps and literally fenced in.
4.) Otsuka refers to her characters as “the boy”, “the girl”, “the woman” because I believe the reader can easily obtain their point of view. Even more so, the reader isn’t limited to think that this is occurring to only one particular family, but many other Japanese American families.
5.) The father’s absence throughout the novel is so powerful because the family visualize him as being a hero. They look at the father as being a break from all their stress. Throughout the novel, all of the family would think and imagine how different their life would have been if there father were there. They use him as a break from their reality. The mother thinks of him as their happy ending. She believes that once he returns, they will go back to living in their own home how things used to be. The daughter thought of him as a ghost of the past, tho...