When the Emperor was Divine

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The woman’s younger child, the boy is seven when the novel starts. A dreamy child, he has a strong imagination and a deep connection to the natural world. Sensitive, intuitive, and compassionate, the boy deeply misses his father and tries to care for his mother as she struggles to stay grounded in reality at the internment camp. While the girl rebels against the family structure, the boy is more resistant to the oppressive life of the camp. While he too shows all the signs of being a well-assimilated American boy, he also asserts his identity as Japanese through small acts of resistance, like muttering the name of the Emperor under his breath. Like the girl, the boy stops resisting oppression when he returns home, as he is afraid of being sent back to the camps.

The Boy Quotes in When the Emperor was Divine

The When the Emperor was Divine quotes below are all either spoken by The Boy or refer to The Boy . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of When the Emperor was Divine published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

In a few hours he and the girl and their mother would wake up and go to the Civil Control Station at the First Congregational Church on Channing Way. Then they would pin their identification numbers to their collars and grab their suitcases and climb up onto the bus and go to wherever it was they had to go.

Related Characters: The Woman, The Girl, The Boy
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the Woman and her family prepare to go off and report to the Civil Control Station. The Woman knows that she's going to be sent to the internment camps soon, and she's frightened: still, she doesn't have many other options. She's a law-abiding citizen, and so even when her government orders her to go to prison unjustly, she follows her orders to the letter. The passage is especially chilling because the Japanese internment program occurred at the same time as another forced-imprisonment program that occurred along racial lines--the mass imprisonment of the Jews and other minorities in Hitler's Germany. The narrator subtly emphasizes the similarities between Japanese internment and the Holocaust by noting the "identification numbers" that the Japanese had to wear, and the uncertain future that the Japanese-Americans faced as they climbed aboard mass transportation.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

All summer long they had lived in the old horse stalls in the stables behind the racetrack. In the morning they had washed their faces in the long tin troughs and at night they had slept on mattresses stuffed with straw…On their first night there her brother had plucked the stiff horse hairs out of the freshly white-washed walls and run his fingers along the toothmarks on top of the double Dutch door where the wood was soft and worn.

Related Characters: The Girl, The Boy
Related Symbols: Wild and Domesticated Animals
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Japanese-American families are herded into horse stables and treated like animals. They're forced to sleep and live in the same quarters that used to house horses--moreover, the younger Japanese-Americans see evidence of the link between their own lives and those of the horses, as here, the Boy sees the bite marks that the horses have made in the wooden doors of the stables.

The passage underscores the dehumanizing effects of the Japanese Internment program. The Japanese families who were imprisoned during World War Two had committed no crime, and many of them were proud Americans. And yet they were treated like dangerous criminals, and imprisoned for their potential disloyalty to America. In the process, the Japanese came to see that their government didn't think of them as people at all--just dangerous animals.

“I forgot my umbrella. I thought I brought it but I didn’t.”
His mother gave him an orange. “You can’t remember everything,” she said.
“And even when you can you shouldn’t,” said the girl.
“I wouldn’t say that,” said her mother.
“You didn’t,” said the girl.
“We’ll find you another umbrella when we get off the train,” said his mother.
“We’re never getting off this train,” said the girl.
“We are,” said her mother. “Tomorrow.”

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Girl (speaker), The Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Girl and her family are on a train, speeding toward in uncertain future. The Boy notices that he has forgotten his umbrella back at home, and laments this. The fact that Boy is mourning something as trivial as an umbrella reminds us of the fact that the Woman's family has left behind something much more important: freedom. The scene is also poignant because the Girl, cynical and precocious, claims that they're never going to get off the train--they'll be trapped there forever. Childish though the Girl's fears are, they reflect the very relatable fear (surely a very common fear among the Japanese-American families in the camps) that they'd never see freedom again. The Woman acts as a role model for her children, telling them to remain optimistic, even when the future doesn't look good.

She pulled back the shade…and saw a herd of wild mustangs galloping across the desert…The dark bodies of the horses were drifting and turning in the moonlight and wherever they went they left behind great billowing clouds of dust as proof their passage. The girl lifted the shade and pulled her brother to the window and pressed his face gently to the glass and when he saw the mustangs…he let out a low moan that sounded like a cry of pain but was not. He watched the horses as they galloped toward the mountains and he said, very softly, “They are going away.” Then a soldier with a flashlight and a broom came walking down the aisle. The girl let the shade fall back against the glass and told the boy to return to his seat.

Related Characters: The Boy (speaker), The Girl
Related Symbols: Wild and Domesticated Animals
Page Number: 45-46
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the train passes by a herd of wild horses, which the family sees from its train car. The Boy and Girl peer out of the window and sees the horses, and they are moved by their beauty and freedom. There is something sublime about this moment, particularly in its contrast of the horses' wildness to the family's situation on the train. The horses have the freedom to "go away" as they please, while the Japanese Americans on the train are imprisoned. At the same time, the passage also suggests a similarity between the horses and the people on the train: like the horses, the family is "going away" to an internment camp--a place that's just as foreign and mysterious to the Boy as the destination of the wild horses.

At Topaz the bus stopped. The girl looked out the window and saw hundreds of tar-paper barracks sitting beneath the hot sun. She saw telephone poles and barbed-wire fences. She saw soldiers. And everything she saw she saw through a cloud of fine white dust that had once been the bed of an ancient salt lake. The boy began to cough and the girl untied her scarf and shoved it into his hand and told him to hold it over his nose and mouth. He pressed the scarf to his face and took the girl’s hand and together they stepped out of the bus and into the blinding white glare of the desert.

Related Characters: The Girl, The Boy
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, the family finally gets off the bus and prepares to enter the internment camp. The first vistas of Topaz, the family's new home, are pretty grim: the air itself is hard to breathe, since it's full of dust. The passage is symbolic for a couple reasons. The Girl urges her brother to protect himself from the dust by breathing through cloth--a rare moment of maturity and selflessness for the Girl, as she seems to connect with her family in this moment of fear and confusion. Furthermore, the blinding whiteness of the dust is potentially a subtle symbol for the racist ideology that allows white Americans to blindly and ignorantly send Japanese-American citizens to camp.

Chapter 3 Quotes

For it was true, they all looked alike. Black hair. Slanted eyes. High cheekbones. Thick glasses. Thin lips. Bad teeth. Unknowable. Inscrutable.

Related Characters: The Boy
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Boy arrives at the internment camp and immediately notices a long row of Japanese prisoners. The Japanese-American camp residents are all American citizens, but to the Boy, they all look exactly the same. It's hard to know how to interpret this observation. One could certainly argue that the Boy has internalized some of the racist ideas of his society--the old, offensive stereotype that all Asians look alike, and are somehow "inscrutable" (part of the reason why the Japanese Americans were imprisoned in the first place--the government felt it couldn't trust or understand them). One could also say that the Boy is responding to the dehumanizing effects of the internment program: the proud Japanese Americans have been dehumanized by their internment, and in the process they've lost some of their individuality and personality.

Whenever the boy walked past the shadow of a guard tower he pulled his cap down low over his head and tried not to say the word. But sometimes it slipped out anyway, Hirohito, Hirohito, Hirohito. He said it quietly. Quickly. He whispered it.

Related Characters: The Boy , Emperor Hirohito
Related Symbols: The Japanese Emperor
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Boy passes by some of the American guards who run the camp--he's walking by the huge guard tower that looks down on the Japanese-American camp residents. In spite of the fact that he's so close to Americans, the Boy mutters the name "Hirohito" to himself--the name of the Japanese Emperor, considered a divine presence. Hirohito was the Emperor during World War II, and he was popular even among Japanese-Americans. Thus, for the Boy to mutter Hirohito's name is a quiet act of rebellion: he's naming the spiritual leader of America's enemy, and he's showing his allegiance with Japanese culture. The Boy is frightened of the guards, but he finds tiny ways to rebel against their authority and retain his dignity and culture in an environment of racism and dehumanization.

One evening as the boy’s mother was hauling a bucket of water from the washroom she ran into her former housekeeper, Mrs. Ueno. “When she saw me she grabbed the bucket right out of my hands and insisted upon carrying it home for me…I tried to tell her that she no longer worked for me. ‘Mrs. Ueno,’ I said, ‘here we’re all equal,’ but of course she wouldn’t listen. When we got back to the barracks she set the bucket down by the front door and then she bowed and hurried off into the darkness. I didn’t even get a chance to thank her.”

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Boy , Mrs. Ueno
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this surprising passage, the Woman reunites with Mrs. Ueno, the woman who used to work as a maid for the Woman. Although the Woman and Mr. Ueno are now social equals--they're both prisoners within the internment camp--Mrs. Ueno insists on acting like a maid around the Woman: here, for example, she carries a heavy bucket for the Woman.

Why would Mrs. Ueno voluntarily continue to act as a maid to the Woman? Perhaps the easiest answer is that there's comfort in routine--by acting the part of a maid, Mrs. Ueno is trying to forget her present situation and pretend the usual divides of social class are present in the camp (even though she herself belonged to a lower class). There's comfort in remembering a time when she at least had a regular job, and was treated like a regular citizen of the United States.

In the dream there was always a beautiful wooden door. The beautiful wooden door was very small—the size of a pillow, say, or an encyclopedia. Behind the small but beautiful wooden door there was a second door, and behind the second door there was a picture of the Emperor, which no one was allowed to see. For the Emperor was holy and divine. A god.

Related Characters: The Boy , Emperor Hirohito
Related Symbols: The Japanese Emperor
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Boy has a recurring dream about the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito. Hirohito is a clear symbol of the Boy's Japanese heritage, in all its strengths and weaknesses. The fact that the Boy can only access his Japanese heritage in dreams is a sad reminder of his present situation: he lives in camps where Japanese culture of any kind is frowned upon and even considered treacherous.

The Boy's dreams suggest that he acutely feels the struggle between his American citizenship and his Japanese heritage. Americans have thrown him in a camp under the delusion that he's a danger to the country, and yet the Boy is clearly pretty ignorant of Japanese culture; he has only the vaguest idea who the Emperor is or what he symbolizes (if the Boy knew a little more about Hirohito's life, he might not like him so much). In short, the passage sums up the ironies of the internment program: the American soldiers were guarding the Japanese people who were least likely to feel any strong connection with Japan, or be traitorous to America in any substantive way.

“I lost an earring on the train. Did I ever tell you that?”
He shook his head…
“What did it look like?”
“It looked like a pearl,” she said. “It was a pearl.”
“Maybe it rolled behind the seat.”
“Or maybe,” she said, “it’s just gone. Sometimes things disappear and there’s not getting the back. That’s just how it is…I had no business wearing those earrings in the first place,” she said after a while. “No business at all.”

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Mother remembers losing a beautiful pearl earring on the train to the camp. The Mother brings it up to the Boy, but immediately she comes to a cynical acceptance: she's lost the earring and she's not getting it back. The Mother's next choice of words is interesting: she claims that she has "no business" wearing earrings at all.

The passage could be said to symbolize the loss of Japanese identity and pride in the course of the internment program. The Mother loses her pearl earring (in Japan, pearl is a highly prized form of jewelry, and it's not unreasonable to guess that the Mother's pearl earrings came from her old life in Japan, not her new life in America). Just as the Mother loses her earring, she loses her contact with Japanese culture and heritage--she's lost it and she's (seemingly) never getting it back. Furthermore, the Woman has now internalized the racist idea that she herself is somehow dangerous or "wrong," and so she feels that she had "no business" showing off or making herself stand out in any way by wearing pearl earrings. The camps have robbed her not only of a connection to Japanese culture, but also of her own pride as an American and a human being.

She’d been in America for almost twenty years now. But she did not want to cause any trouble—“The nail that sticks up gets hammered down”—or be labeled disloyal. She did not want to be sent back to Japan. “There’s no future for us there. We’re here. Your father’s here. The most important thing is that we stay together.”…
Loyalty. Disloyalty. Allegiance. Obedience.
“Words,” she said, “it’s all just words.”

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Boy , The Man / The Father
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Woman makes a difficult choice. The army has come to the internment camps and asked for "volunteers" to join the military. there's a pretty clear program of coercion going on here (as evidenced by the fact that men who refuse to join the armed forces are sent to a different, presumably harsher camp), and so the Mother is understandably frightened that something bad will happen if she doesn't agree to the loyalty pledge.

In the end, the Mother agrees to pledge her loyalty to the U.S., because she thinks that her pledge is meaningless. She isn't particularly interested in the abstract notions of allegiance or obedience to U.S. authority--her real priority is her children, and therefore she'll do whatever she needs to do to stay with them, even if this means compromising her ideals and "keeping her head down."

Years later the boy would recall standing beside his mother at the service, wondering just what kind of flower it was the man had seen.
A rose? A tulip? A daffodil?
And if he had plucked it. Then what?
He imagined exploding ships, clouds of black smoke, hundreds of B-29s falling down in flames from the sky.

Related Characters: The Woman, The Boy
Page Number: 101-102
Explanation and Analysis:

In this bitterly sardonic passage, the Boy watches as a Japanese internment camp resident is buried--he was shot for trying to venture outside the camp to pick a flower.

The passage reinforces the absurdity of the interment program itself: despite minimal evidence of espionage in America, Japanese-Americans were sent into camps under the delusional belief that they'd plot the destruction of the American military. This absurdity is both emphasized and made tragically beautiful in the Boy's imagination--he sees the dead man's quest for the flower as something meaningful and powerful, an act that could destroy the American army, or, perhaps, simply bring an end to the war itself.

Several days later, the street signs appeared. Suddenly there was an Elm Street, a Willow Street, a Cottonwood way… “It doesn’t look like we’ll be leaving here any time soon,” said the boy’s mother.
“At least we know where we are,” said the girl.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Girl (speaker), The Boy
Related Symbols: Trees
Page Number: 1021
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the American guards try to make the internment camp "homier" and more enjoyable for the Japanese-American residents. First they plant trees, but these soon die. Then in their place they put up street signs named after trees: there's an Elm Street, a Willow Street, and probably a Maple Street, too. On one level, this shows how unnatural the camp is--the families there aren't in any kind of real "home," any more than a street named "Elm Street" is an elm tree. But in another sense, these street names are very much "American," emphasizing the overpowering whiteness and Americanness of the camp: all traces of Japanese culture are wiped out, replaced by bland American place names.

The Girl sarcastically comments, "We know where we are," when in fact, the Japanese-American prisoners have no idea where they "are"--they're displaced from their Japanese heritage, as well as their American citizenship.

He traced out an SOS in huge letters across the firebreak but before anyone could read what he had written he wiped the letters away.

Related Characters: The Boy
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Boy traces an SOS in the ground, having heard that prisoners and castaway will sometimes do so in an effort to be rescued by passing airplanes. Of course, the Boy realizes his mistake: no airplanes are going to rescue the Japanese-Americans--they've been confined to the internment camps on the orders of the President himself.

The passage could also be taken more symbolically: an echo of the scene earlier in the novel in which the Boy writes his name in the dust. The Boy is beginning to realize that no external forces are going to save him from his depression or loneliness--he's going to have to take care of himself. Thus, the passage is a sign of both the Boy's growing maturity and the danger of him losing his sense of self, both changes precipitated by the internment process.

Chapter 4 Quotes

We put down our things and ran from one room to the next shouting, “Fire! Help! Wolf!” simply because we could.

Related Characters: The Girl, The Boy
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the family returns from the internment camp to the house where they used to live. Predictably, the house has fallen into disrepair—it’s full of trash and broken bottles, and has been vandalized with racist slurs. While the Japanese internment program was initiated for supposedly noble reasons—the protection of American citizens—its most tangible result is far more vulgar: the robbery and vandalism of Japanese-American houses.

The children have a fascinating reaction when they realize their house was robbed: they run through the halls screaming about the damage. It’s as if the children have been forced to keep silent about their problems for so long (who could they complain to when the American soldiers forced them to leave their homes?) that it’s satisfying just to yell things that are usually forbidden (like crying "fire" when there is no fire).

Nothing’s changed, we said to ourselves. The war had been an interruption, nothing more. We would pick up our lives where we had left off and go on. We would go back to school again. We would study hard, every day, to make up for lost time. We would seek out old classmates…We would listen to their music. We would dress just like they did. We would change our names to sound more like theirs. And if our mother called out to us on the street by our real names we would turn away and pretend not to know her. We would never be mistaken for the enemy again!

Related Characters: The Girl, The Boy
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chilling passage, the children of the Woman return to their old lives—and they find that little has changed: the radio programs are the same, their food is the same, their street is the same, etc. The children are young enough to think that their lives can go on, exactly as they had before the war, without any further problems, as long as they try to deny their Japanese heritage and fit in with their white peers.

Of course, there is a very dark undercurrent to the false optimism of this passage. The Japanese-American community has come to see how fragile its place in the U.S. really is: at the drop of a hat, the President can sign an executive order and pull the people away from their houses. Granted, many Japanese-American families returned to their old lives after being released from the camps, and found prosperity and acceptance within the American mainstream. But this passage suggests that they partly were so desperate for American success because of a desire to avoid being interned again. They believed (whether consciously or not) that if they kept their heads down, didn't make trouble or demand justice, and succeeded in school and work (i.e., became the "model minority" of America) they’d never be "mistaken for the enemy again." This shows how the very idea of the "model minority" is flawed and racist, and the result of an internalized "imprisonment" (suppressing one's culture and true desires out of fear) that is just another incarnation of the literal imprisonment of the internment camps.

And when our mother pushed us gently, but firmly, from behind, and whispered, Go to him, all we could do was stare down at our shoes, unable to move. Because the man who stood there before us was not our father. He was somebody else, a stranger who had been sent back in our father’s place. That’s not him, we said to our mother, That’s not him, but our mother no longer seemed to hear us…He got down on his knees and he took us into his arms and over and over again, he uttered our names, but still we could not be sure it was him.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Girl (speaker), The Boy (speaker), The Man / The Father
Page Number: 131-132
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Boy and Girl reunite with their Father. Yet when they see him, he’s been so utterly transformed by his experiences (experiences which we’ve yet to hear about) that his children can’t even tell who he is. Although the passage is narrated from the perspective of the Girl and the Boy, it’s the Mother and Father who bear the real burden of sadness: when the children say they can’t even recognize their own father, it’s a safe guess that both parents feel crushed. Furthermore, the Father's strangeness to his children suggests that he has become just as "inscrutable" as the other male Japanese prisoners, those whom the Boy long ago felt "all looked the same." His role as a dehumanized prisoner has actually robbed him of his identity and individuality.

The passage is a tragic refutation of the idea that the Japanese-American families will be able to “go back to normal” after internment, as the Boy and Girl childishly tried to believe. In fact, internment has changed family so utterly that normality will never be possible again. (The passage is also a good example of the way that internment has wiped out Japanese heritage in the young generation of Japanese-American children: the young Boy and Girl feel little to no connection to their “father land,” as symbolized by their confusion when facing their own father.)

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The Boy Character Timeline in When the Emperor was Divine

The timeline below shows where the character The Boy appears in When the Emperor was Divine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Evacuation Order No. 19
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...plants the tiny bonsai tree in the yard. She goes upstairs to pack up her son’s stamp collection, his comic books, and his toys. She only leaves out his baseball glove... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...girl, who is ten, says she knows. Like a typical American girl, the girl likes boys, candy, and Dorothy Lamour. She wears Mary Jane shoes and her favorite song on the... (full context)
Chapter 2: Train
Racism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
...when the soldiers tell them it’s okay again. As she looks out the window, the boy asks if she thinks they’ll see any horses. The girl remembers reading a National Geographic... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...washed their faces from long troughs and at night they slept on straw mattresses. The boy would often stare at the teeth marks left in the wood by the horses. One... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
The boy looks through his bag and says he’s forgotten his umbrella. The woman tells him that... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
...shade to see a group of wild mustangs galloping across the desert. She wakes her brother and gently puts his face to the glass pane. The boy lets out a low... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
...the middle of dried-up salt lake, surrounded by barbed-wire fences. Everything is dusty and the boy begins to cough. As they get off the bus, the girl tells him to put... (full context)
Chapter 3: When The Emperor Was Divine
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
This chapter is told through the perspective of the boy. At the beginning of their internment, the boy thinks he sees his father in the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
The woman, the girl, and the boy are assigned a room in a barrack not far from the fence. There is a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
At night, the boy often wakes up, wondering where he is and why he’s there. He thinks he must... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...cut out by the censors, but they are always signed, “From Papa, With Love.” The boy remembers his father as a small, handsome man with delicate hands. He was always polite... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
The boy thinks that the dust is everywhere. Dust gets into your hair, pants, bed, and even... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
In a recurring dream, the boy always sees a wooden door. The door is the size of a pillow. Behind that... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
The only thing the boy knew about China was that people wore their hairs in long braids, hobbled on broken... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Whenever the boy thinks of his father, he imagines him at sundown leaning against a fence in a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...is too alkaline and the trees will be dead by winter. She then tells the boy that she lost an earring on the train. She says that sometimes things disappear and... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
In winter, the temperatures drop to ten degrees. One day, the boy taps the girl’s arm while she is looking at her reflection in the mirror. He... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
...says that she doesn’t know if she’s awake or asleep. Worried for his mother, the boy tries to comfort her by telling her that she is awake. (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...childhood in Japan. When she is awake, she lies on the cot and tells the boy of her dreams. For the first time in months, the boy thinks he sees his... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
...been reaching out to pick the flower. At the funeral service for the man, the boy wonders what would have happened if the man had picked the flower: exploding ships, columns... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
...of trees appear throughout the camp. Seeing the signs suddenly appear, the woman tells the boy and girl with resignation that it doesn’t look like their family will be leaving anytime... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
During the heat of the summer, the boy traces an SOS in the ground, but before anyone could see it, he wipes the... (full context)
Chapter 4: In a Stranger’s Backyard
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Using the first-person plural of “we,” this chapter is written through the dual perspective of the boy and... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...entire time they’ve been away. Once, when the woman thought no one was looking, the boy and the girl had seen her put the key in her mouth and smile with... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...woman walks out the back door and stands under the shade of the tree. The boy and the girl think about how they came from a place without any shade, where... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...money to paint the walls over, but the words stay in the heads of the boy and the girl for a long time after that. (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
...stairs. Long and narrow, this room resembled their room in the barracks. All night, the boy and the girl think of the stories they had heard about the people who had... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority  Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...of the streets are the same, and the fashions people wear are the same. The boy and the girl tell themselves nothing has changed, that the war had been an interruption... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
...dollars, which is the same amount given to criminals on the day they’re released from prison. With this money, the woman buys thick mattresses for the boy and the girl to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority  Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...war and tell gruesome stories of the torture they suffered at the hands of Japanese prison guards, the boy and the girl look at themselves in the mirror and see what... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority  Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
The children’s classmates at school are polite, but are no longer friendly, and the boy and the girl keep mostly to themselves. If people whisper behind their backs or call... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
...eventually finds a job cleaning the houses of wealthier, white families. The woman tells the boy and the girl that it’s easy work. If they ask you scrub the floors, you... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
...steps off. His face is wrinkled, his suit faded, and his head bald. Though the boy and the girl have been waiting for him for years, they don’t know what to... (full context)
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...lost all his teeth while detained, and he never sings or reads stories to the boy and the girl like he used to do. He never says a word about the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
...if he has never seen them before. He is suspicious of everyone, and tells the boy and the girl never to trust others. Small things like a misplaced pen or a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority  Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom  Theme Icon
Social Class and the American Dream Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity  Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown  Theme Icon
In May, when the roses everywhere burst into bloom, the boy and the girl wander the streets looking for their mother’s rosebush. They go to other... (full context)