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from : farewell to manzanar

Updated on April 11, 2009

everyone should know the truth

From Farewell to Manzanar:

1-About the author:

            Jeanne Wakatsuki was born on September 26 1934 to George KO Wakatsuki and Riku Wakatsuki in Inglewood, California. Her father or papa as she calls him was one of the first groups of Japanese people to migrate to the united states of America before WW II in order to guarantee their families a better and more stable life. Such immigrants were called “issei” or first generations. They clung to their ethnic heritage and respected their parent’s customs. First generations, thus, worked as unskilled workers, laborers, farmers and fishermen among them was Jeanne’s father. Jeanne’s mother also worked at the canneries at night in order to ensure a more stable life for her growing family. The author of Farewell to Manzanar was the youngest of all her siblings; thus, she was pampered and grew well –attached to her father. His arrest marked a certain change in her character and the beginning of their suffering and misery.

            When Japan bombed the US fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii the US military army started suspecting any Japanese to be a spy or handing out information for the enemy. As a result, Jeanne’s father was arrested and accused of treachery. At the age of seven, which is a pretty young age, the author was forced to endlessly shift from one place to another in order to ensure the family’s survival. And with papa gone, mama had to try to keep the family stuck together before the coming war breaks the bonds that they shared together. As a result, seven year old Wakatsuki found it really hard to find stability and security which affected her in finding her true identity. After the war, her family settled in San Jose and later on she received her degree in journalism. In 1957, she married her classmate who is also a writer. Being the first to graduate from her family, Jeanne traveled with her husband to England and then settled in France where she got her degree in French civilization. Remarkably, Jeanne grew into an amazing writer and was awarded lots of prizes including “Woman of Achievement’s award”. Farewell to Manzanar is one of her most famous pieces of art that retells her suffering as well as her family’s which was first published in 1973. Other famous works might include “It’s Only Thunder” and “Views of Asian American Womanhood.”

2- What is Pearl Harbor and executive order 9066?

            In the beginning of September 1939, the war broke out all over Europe. Soon, France would fall trembling to Hitler and England would be left alone to struggle. On the other hand, the Untied States of America would remain neutral until the Japanese forces would bomb the US fleet in Pearl Harbor leaving thousands of causalities. AS a result, President Franklin Roosevelt at the white house signed on February 19, 1942 the paperwork (executive order 9066) that set the recollection project in motion. The project’s goal was to take all Japanese groups found in vital strategic places and relocated them in order to neutralize their danger as much as possible. As a result, the US took several unjust steps towards the Japanese people thereby forcing them to live in camps supplied with nothing but a blanket and a thin mattress. Manzanar was one of these camps.

            Wakatsuki retells events that happened in Manzanar chronologically through a young child’s lens. “The whirling dust storms which pierced the cubicle wall… the extreme heat and cold cause many young children such as Jeanne to get sick. Even her mother could not take the harsh situation they were put through she states, “Woody we can’t live like this. Animals live like this!” Many families also struggled with prejudice injustice and molestation by the army or other white American citizens. “The anti-oriental hundred year old tradition was soon resurfaced more vicious than ever! All had heard stories of Japanese homes being attacked of beating in the street of California…” The author rejoins her past and retells the excruciating struggles that she has overcome hoping to make peace with what she has endured.

3- Summary:

            Little seven years old Jeanne is forced at a very young age to experience the excruciating pain of war. After having her father taken away by the FBI, after the Pearl Harbor attack, she is forced to move infinite times in order to ensure their continued existence. She tastes prejudice at a young age as a result of the executive order 9066. They are then forced to relocate to even a worse place. Manzanar is a camp in the middle of the cold desert where no proper ventilation, food, water, or even toilets are present. Struggling to keep the family tight, the mother and the young daughter find the wise words “shikata ga nai” as their only consolation. The family learns to stick together in order to survive!

4- Setting:

            The story is set in many different places due to the fact that Jeanne’s family is forced to move from one place to another especially after the Pearl Harbor incident. At the opening of the story, the author introduces the latest events that changed her life. Papa was captured and mom was in charge of keeping the family safe but most importantly stuck together. So, the family moves to Santa Monica hoping to find peace. Though Jeanne seemed happy in her former house, she is faced with prejudice: teachers treated her in a different way, they felt cold and distant”. In her new place, even the Japanese excluded them from their society since they didn’t speak their native language. Months later, the family is moved to Manzanar. Here the reader is faced with a shift in the setting. The new so-called home is not to be called one till after a long time of hard work and struggle. They were packed in match-box like rooms and soon their misery begins. The reader can view through Jeanne’s eyes the misery and inhumane situation they were put through. That is not life! Only animals live like that, “we woke up shivering and covered with dust.” And pretty soon enough, they would be marked, prejudiced, and treated in a very fearful manner.


Literary Analysis:


a-     Jeanne Wakatsuki: The characters in Farewell to Manzanar are realistic and are adopted from the author’s past and memories since the story is an autobiography. She portrays the prejudice she and her family faced as Japanese during the WW II in a very realistic manner. It is important to state that the author views the harsh situation they are put through in a child’s point of view. At the beginning of the story, she is humorous, and light-hearted, “I looked at her and began to scream, certain papa had sold me out at last.” Like an ordinary kid unaware of what is happening young Jeanne views the recent events as an adventure. “I was full of excitement, the way a kid would be. I wanted to look out of the window, but for the first few hours the shades were down.” She has an effective tone and also seems careful and curious about her new surroundings, “The simple truth is the camp was no more ready for us when we got there than we were ready for it…. I was sick continuously with stomach cramps and diarrhea.”All what can be said is that she is not pure Japanese in her ways since she didn’t speak her language yet, she seems more American in her ways for adopting English as her first language and rejecting some of her ethnic heritage. Also the protagonist character and the author of the story, she is an observational character that described for the reader the surroundings and comments leaving the reader with her feelings whether they were of irritation or curiosity, “Japanese are generally smaller than the Caucasians and almost all of these clothes were oversize”. By the end of the selection, she seems angry of what they have put through. Perhaps, this is not young Jeanne talking. She states that this was an insult to their honor and it was simply intolerable, “All this was in open insult to that other private self, a slap in the face you were powerless to challenge.” Her fury sends the reader in a maze thinking of all what they had to endure. What about honor and integrity? Though in the beginning of this selection, the author seems humorous and cynical, she seems pretty upset at the closure since “Everybody knows an injustice was done!” One of the sites that she describes passionately is her mother’s struggle to adapt to the camp they were crowded into. “Woody! We can’t live this way! Animals live like this!”With those angry words, the reader can imagine the mother’s furious eyes and understand her reaction. Little Jeanne seems attached to her mother as well especially after papa’s arrest since she didn’t care how they lived as long as she sleep close to her mom. She also seems to remember vivid images of what they had for food, how it felt, and how each reacted. “Canned Vienna sausage, canned string beans, steamed rice that had been cooked too long and on top of the rice a serving of canned apricots.”

Amazingly, the author grows to become an amazing and strong character


b-     Mama: She is Jeanne’s loving and caring mother. She is Japanese and learns how to take care of the house and save money even in the absence of the father. She is dignified and respects her culture and ethnic heritage; this is implied by her wearing her traditional dress which is the kimono. The mother is patient and good hearted. She learned to hold on and try to keep her family united no matter what. Yet, another side of her character is shown when she is faced with a second hand dealer who tries to rub her by buying a very valuable china set that she saved from Japan for like fifteen dollars. The dignified mother is furious and starts breaking the dishes on the floor. She shows that money is nothing compared to dignity and honor. The dishes seem to mean a lot to her because they resemble her hometown and culture, “She didn’t say another word. She just glared at this man, all the rage and frustration channeled at him through her eyes.” Mama also overvalues privacy and honor. For example, when she enters the toilets, she is frustrated to discover that they had no doors. She was furious that the people who designed the toiled didn’t respect their privacy and treated them like animals. Yet, she also seems to be resourceful especially when she approaches the old woman with the cartoon and asks her to use it. The mother portrays many amazing virtues that taught each of young Jeanne and the sibling’s survival. The author as a young kid finds her mother as a source of comfort. The narrator would endure being in a crowded room as long as she slept next to her mother.


c-     Woody Wakatsuki: Woody whose real name is Woodrow as shown in some literary analyses found online is the third to the eldest brothers of Jeanne Wakatsuki. She describes his as a small version of her dad. He is passionate optimistic and cares a lot for his family’s well fare. Woody is the type of character that would lead and give without return. As Jeanne said he was twenty four and had a new baby. He has learned to be resourceful, “We’ll make it better mom you watch.” He also finds a way to keep the young kids at work or busy in order not to bother their mother due to boredom. After his dad’s arrest, Woody made it his job to take care of the family by making his mother’s life much easier. He is responsible. This is portrayed by his adult conversation with his mother while trying to make their stay at Manzanar more comfortable, “We’ll get this whole place as tight as a barrel, mama. I already met a guy who told me where they pile all the scrap lumber.”



      There is no doubt that the conflict in the conflict in this autobiography is external.  Milton S. Eisenhower states describing the situation, "How could such a tragedy have occurred in a democratic society that prides itself on individual rights and freedoms? The main conflict is between the Japanese community in America and the authorities which have tagged them as eminent threats to the US national security. Yet, the important thing is that most of these Japanese who were thrown in relocation camps are only half Japanese and of American births. So how can the authority treat them in such degrading and inhumane manner? The effect of internment during World War Two on Japanese Americans will forever be known as cruel and inhumane. As Morris Opler stated, “America fought World War II to preserve freedom and democracy, yet that same war featured the greatest suppression of civil liberties in the nation’s history.” As mentioned before, this war brought on such hatred and uncertainty among United States citizens towards their fellow Japanese American neighbors. Opler commented that, “In an atmosphere of hysteria, President Roosevelt, encouraged by officials at all levels of the federal government, authorized the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan. The federal government tried to monitor conditions inside the relocation camps and keep tabs on the feelings and attitudes of the internees.” The people are struggling to preserve their lives since the places they are staying at have no proper ventilation. And as Jeanne stated numerous kids where ill most of the times with stomach aches and diarrhea. The situation was unbearable and Japanese citizens had to face racial discrimination. Americans no longer viewed Japanese as humans. Jeanne remembers that her school teacher was distant and cold, since she simply didn’t want anything to do with her. The Japanese community faced lots of injustice and discrimination. They were packed like sardines in relocation camps where nothing was accessible. Lots suffered due to stereotyping. One of these families is the Wakatsuki. The war also created an irrational fear of the Japanese and no people had to do with them. The conflict between Jeanne’s family and the authority is only a portion of the foremost conflict that emerged back then.


3- Plot:


1-     Exposition:

-         The author as a seven year old tells that her life unexpectedly changed when her father was captured and they were forced to move from one place to another in order to survive.

Wakatsuki here introduces the story and states that everything changed after her father was captured by the FBI. In this section, she describes her father as a jack-of-all-trades. Her old home was peaceful and she loved it, but with recent situation she and her family had to endlessly move from one place to another.

2-     Rising Events:

-         The new presidential order 9066 gave Jeanne’s family 48 hours to evacuate their home and head to the relocation camp assigned for them.

-         Mama starts packing her stuff and gathers the family.

-         The family is cramped into a matchbox like room with no ventilation or even proper food.

In this section, things start to get pretty hard on the family. They are put in a very small room with no proper beds, “they sat on concrete footings with about two feet of open space between the footboards and the grounds. Gaps showed between the planks, and as the weeks pass and the green wood dried out, the gaps widened….It was bitter cold when we arrived and the wind did not abate!”

3-     Climax:

-         The mother finds it really hard to find a proper toilet which will ensure privacy.

The mother feels she has lost all her honor because this is not a way of living! “Animals live like this!”


4-     Falling Events:

-         The mother and the daughter trying to endure start by the help of Woody to make the family’s situation better.

-         The mother heads to a bathroom and meets a woman who helps her by lending her a cartoon to use while in the bathroom.

-         The daughter and mother filled with fury admit that this is total humiliation but they have to endure in order to survive.

The mother and the daughter find consolation in the wise word (shikata ga nai) which mean this can’t be helped this has to be endured! They learn to make use of the most useless thing they find in their camp.  Woody takes care of the young children and promises to keep the family together.

5-     Resolution:

-         The story is finished with the daughter stating that it was pure injustice from the American government.

4- Genre:

 Jeanne’s piece of work can be considered a memoir that tells all the struggles she and her family faced during the Second World War due to simply being Japanese. Her thoughts as a child showed her true innocence yet; it has succeeded in showing and portraying all the agony that she went through. Left with many traumatic moments, the author finally learns to make peace with all what she has seen and endured by writing. She and her husband state that “everyone knows that an injustice was done!” The life they lived in the camps is unforgivable, and no matter how much the authorities apologize it won’t help them. The memoir focuses on the thoughts of a young child faced with a very hard situation at a very young age. Unlike children of this age who would remember enjoying their childhood, Jeanne was struggling to survive in a camp that gave Japanese people no justice and only discrimination. The amazing thing is that the author has learned to rise above all what she had endured and make something out of her life.

5-Point of View:

            The point of view is generally defined as the relationship between the story teller and the story. In this memoir, Jeanne is the narrator and one of the characters as well. She views the events though a child’s lens and describes vividly what was going around her. She uses the first person point of view in her work to articulate the importance of the injustice that the Japanese faced back then just because of their ethnic heritage. She shares her memories with the readers breaking the borders of time and place to take them 50 years back to a period when (the so called most democratic country) gave repression and racial discrimination a new definition.


The story focuses of injustice and the effect of racial discrimination and stereotyping. It shows that all what families had to endure because the authority developed an irrational fear of a specific race because of an event that happened. The author rejects the fact that Japanese had to live in very harsh situations and endure everything that was thrown in their face because simply they had nothing in their hands to do. Wakatsuki as some critics state that she explored in an encrypted manner the everyday nature or prejudice. She states that back then there were rumors that innocent Japanese were beaten up and bruised for what happened in Pearl Harbor. The ugly thing with prejudice or racial discrimination is that the hate becomes a part of that human nature which is transferred from one generation to another such that some people find it hard to forget or forgive. Thus, racial stereotyping was a way to portray Japanese as inhuman and vicious by the US government. Another theme to be engrave in the heart is the mother’s wise words “shikata ga nai” (this can’t be helped this has to be endured)! The theme applies and shows that patience is a virtue and sometimes when a person finds himself tied down; waiting for the right opportunity might be his only way out. And after all, the family’s patience did pay off, though they suffered a lot.



            The author uses chronological order to tell her story for the first person point of view. Her tone at the beginning of the story is humorous and intriguing but it rather changes into a bitter and broken one when the young author sees what hardships they have to endure. Her words also create a dense and gloomy atmosphere that makes the reader enter the broken hearts of the characters that fight their way in life just to survive. In addition to that, readers can sense the nervous atmosphere which was caused by racial stereotyping.



            As a sum up we all know that some injustice done. Yet, a person can’t help but think why only the Japanese were subjected to such prejudice. “An interview conducted with a man identified only as “an Older Nisei” revealed the anger many internees felt toward the United States. Asserting his loyalty and his early willingness to support the war effort, the Older Nisei condemned the evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. He questioned why the government did not act similarly against citizens of German and Italian decent.” His question possess an interesting fact, why didn’t the U.S. round up the German and Italian American citizens as a wartime measure. After hearing these words I cant help but wonder whether or not these wartime measures as they are called were taken because of the recent attack on Pearl harbor or was it just a chance to get rid of the Japanese and give birth again to the Anti-oriental racism ?fdfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff       




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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Very well written. Keep up the great work! Your passion and communication skills have the power to heal and train others.

    • Uriel profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Lebanon

      yes, this is a very sad and injust side of history, yet no one seems to learn from the past. Perhaps with time the scars would close or heal, but the memories they shared, the pain they endured, the hate they grappled with will never seize. Everyone knows that there was injustice done and on a pretty huge scale, but one thing for sure is learnt , it would be that racial discrimination or stereotyping always judges a whole race by a group (not saying that all people are saints). It aint good! i mean people nowadays believe that: people of Hispanic origins, Blacks, Asians,Arabs, , etc are like unhuman or hostile. it aint true..that is all due to media that sets up stereotypes and misleads the people. And one thing for sure, you can not judge a whole race by some group or portion of it. Time is changing and so are people. NEw generations are more curious about the world and have learnt to move along with time. We preach that racism or stereotyping is (unacceptable) but one thing for sure we don't do a thing about it. People have the thought (the same one they had before) that other races are hostile and thus they are tattooed and treated differently-sometimes even shuved out of the community-. Something has to be done before other races suffer (if they aren't suffering right now).

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 

      9 years ago

      This indeed is a sad chapter of my nation, along with what some of my own Native Awerican ancestors endured. You do such a professional syonpsis of books. I wish I could do as well for my own. Great hub dear. I like it, thumbs up


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