A Different Mirror

A Different Mirror

by

Ronald Takaki

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Themes and Colors
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Different Mirror, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Unity vs. Division

The most important intervention that A Different Mirror makes lies within Ronald Takaki’s decision to examine a range of different ethnic groups side by side, rather than focusing on one single group. Through this decision, Takaki emphasizes that people of different ethnicities should feel a sense of unity with each other, offering mutual support and solidarity, particularly when it comes to fighting prejudice and discrimination. He outlines the ways in which inter-ethnic tensions serve…

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Whiteness and the Other

In A Different Mirror, Takaki argues that racist and religious stereotyping was a tool used by white people to distinguish themselves from those they deemed “Other.” Indeed, he shows that white identity was itself constructed as a foil, or opposite, to these stereotypes. Ironically, this often involved projecting many of the negative qualities that white Americans possessed onto those of different ethnic groups.

Throughout the book, Takaki returns to the figure of Caliban

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Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation

One of the core things uniting almost all the ethnic groups featured in the book is the core role they played in (literally) building the nation. Of course, this is a well-known fact about immigrant groups in America, and part of the mythology of the American nation. However, Takaki diverges from conventional accounts of ethnicity and labor in his emphasis on the struggle different ethnic groups faced to achieve decent conditions. Takaki shows how this…

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Segregation vs. Assimilation

In simplistic accounts of the question of segregation versus assimilation, it is often suggested that segregation is (broadly speaking) bad and assimilation (broadly speaking) is good. A Different Mirror shows that the reality of segregation versus assimilation was far more complex for those immigrating to America. In certain circumstances, some ethnic groups were encouraged or even forced to assimilate in a way that was detrimental to them. Other groups, meanwhile, were forbidden from assimilating and…

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Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream

One of the questions explored in A Different Mirror is: What does it mean to be an American citizen? Who is included (and excluded) from American identity and how does this relate to the American Dream? The book questions the idea that all ethnic groups in the nation dream of taking on American identity, and one of the ways it does this by being critical of the narrative of the American dream. Takaki shows that…

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