ENGLISH105: Critical Essay on the book Obasan by Joy Kogawa 1931

Essay Themes/Topics: Obasan

Choose one topic/theme and write a 900-1100 words critical essay on Obasan, by Joy Kogawa, 1981.

 

1. In Obasan, the narrator, Naomi, is ambivalent about her aunt Emily’s role as an activist who tirelessly petitions all levels of Government and others in attempt to find justice for Japanese, and in insisting that the Japanese community themselves be aware of the facts of their treatment. However, we can consider the novel, Obasan, as performing a function similar to aunt Emily’s, in telling the story of injustice for all to hear. If we want to express our experience, we have only language (which includes what is called the language of the arts: words, pictures, music, and other expressive forms) as a means of expression. Is there anything about Obasan as a whole that explains the experience of the story’s characters more clearly, more fully, or ‘better’ than aunt Emily’s records do?

 

2. It can be argued that literary (artistic) expression of personal experience is necessary to mental health, or can be a kind of self-therapy. Discuss Obasan as self-therapy, while giving consideration to the fact that as published work, the novel is speaking not only to self, but others.

 

3. We have discussed the apology made by the Gov’t of Canada in 1988 to Japanese Canadians who were forced to leave their homes and businesses on the coastal areas of BC in 1942 and 1943, and not allowed to return until 1949 (or later). Based on your understanding of the novel (using, if you wish, specific examples through paraphrase on quotation) discuss the difference (or gap) between ‘apology’ and experience. In that ways is apology unable to compensate for what the people who experienced these events went through?

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