Farewell to Manzanar

by

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

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Farewell to Manzanar: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Manzanar means “apple orchard” in Spanish, and in fact there were once orchards in the town before drought dried it up in the twenties. A few groups of fruit trees survive, and in 1943 the Wakatsukis move to Block 28, which abuts one of the old pear orchards. Papa cares for the trees and the family harvests the fruit and stores it in a specially dug root cellar.
Moving to Block 28 allows Papa to invest his energies in the kind of jobs he often had before internment, and to feel as if he is providing something useful for his family. Returning to these old routines helps him overcome his shame and despair.
Themes
Internment and Family Life Theme Icon
Shame and Pride  Theme Icon
Mama has arranged the move, arguing that she needs to live in Block 28 because of its proximity to the hospital, where she works. As a result of the loyalty oath, some families are finally being relocated outside the camp, where “sponsors” vouch for their loyalty, and inside living space is opening up especially for people like Mama who are shrewd enough to pounce on a recently-vacated apartment. In Block 28, the Wakatsukis have twice as much space; Ray and Woody cover the walls with sheetrock and install linoleum on the floors. There are three colors of linoleum through the camp, and many families cut into small pieces in order to create elaborate, tile-like patterns in their barracks.
While Papa is slowly recovering from his breakdown, Mama’s shrewd maneuvering and understanding of camp dynamics shows that she’s the real decision-maker now. The common practice of decorating floors with linoleum shows that internees have turned away from disruptive resistance like riots and instead are fighting against the indignity of internment by making Manzanar into a livable and even beautiful place.
Themes
Internment and Family Life Theme Icon
Shame and Pride  Theme Icon
Papa continues to brew moonshine, but he’s drinking less and spending more time outside. He doesn’t take a formal job but instead “dabbles” in hobbies he’s never been able to pursue, like carving furniture and even hiking outside the barbed wire fence—after the authorities have given permission. His favorite pastime is collecting stones and building a rock garden outside the doorway.
Papa’s rock collections echo his singing of the Japanese anthem after the riot. The stones are a physical manifestation of his ability to create something beautiful in a terrible situation.
Themes
Shame and Pride  Theme Icon
Papa also paints with watercolors, usually portraying the mountains in the distance. Mount Whitney is visible from the camp, and it reminds Papa and the other Issei of Fujiyama, a mountain in Japan. For the Issei, natural phenomena like mountains are reminders that one must “simply endure that which cannot be changed.”
Like the rock gardens, Papa’s comparison of Whitney and Fujiyama is an example of how Japanese-Americans turn to their heritage in order to feel more secure and at home in their adopted country. In contrast, Jeanne will cultivate a sense of belonging by moving away from that heritage.
Themes
Belonging in America Theme Icon
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Farewell to Manzanar PDF
After the move, life settles into a pattern that remains undisturbed for the rest of the war, as everyone resolves to make the best of internment. Gradually, internees are making the camp livable. They create rock and vegetable gardens that are visible even from outside the fence and provide fresh vegetables for the mess halls. Men who had once been gardeners build a park with ponds and waterfalls, where people walk in the evening to look at the mountains. On the gravel paths, it’s possible to forget that one is a prisoner, and even enjoy being in Manzanar.
The internees’ ability to mobilize and improve their surroundings shows their strong sense of community—a trait Jeanne says her elders brought with them from Japan, but that also serves them in America. Here, a melded cultural identity helps the internees to succeed in America, rather than hindering them.
Themes
Belonging in America Theme Icon
As Manzanar becomes more orderly and familiar, people stop wanting to leave, especially when doing so means setting off into the unknown. Within the camp, where people create new roles or recreate their old jobs, it’s possible to forget that “America had accused us, or excluded us, or imprisoned us.”
Ironically, it’s when they’re excluded from mainstream society that the internees can recreate the parts they like—like jobs and public parks—while also distancing themselves form the prejudice that pervades their lives in America.
Themes
Belonging in America Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Manzanar becomes a town with both Asian and American elements. The parks and rock gardens are reminiscent of Japan, but there are also “churches, Boy Scouts, beauty parlors […] glee clubs, and softball leagues”—everything that an American small town would have. Every morning, Mama goes to work in the mess halls and visits young mothers; she always wears a homemade sun hat to protect her skin from the heat.
In a way, Manzanar becomes a representation of the internees’ ideal world—a town in which both American culture and Japanese heritage are valued and mixed. It’s tragic to know that this kind of town just can’t exist in the racist American society that lies outside the barbed wire.
Themes
Belonging in America Theme Icon
Woody has capitulated to Papa and agreed not to volunteers but to wait until the army drafts him; in the meantime, he works at the general store. Enterprising Kiyo uncovers arrowheads in the sand and sells them to old men. Ray plays in the football league; sometimes Caucasian teams visit for matches. Lillian is a high school student and sings in a country band called The Sierra Stars, while Bill leads a dance band called The Jive Bombers, which plays for regular weekend dances.
While Papa clings to traditional Japanese culture, his children generally identify with more “American” pastimes, like football and country music. As she grows up, Jeanne will follow her siblings’ example—she even exceeds them by assimilating into American culture even when this causes conflict with Papa.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
In 1944, the high school creates and publishes a yearbook called Our World. It portrays students wearing sweaters and holding books while they walk past the barracks and barbed wire, cheerleaders with pompoms, and students performing in a play about “a typical American home.” Each senior gets a headshot, accompanied by the name of the high school from which they would have graduated under normal circumstances.
It’s interesting that all these typical high school events occur in the context of the barbed wire. The juxtaposition both highlights the racial injustice underpinning life at Manzanar and shows how their seclusion allows Japanese-American students to have a high school experience devoid of racism or prejudice.
Themes
Belonging in America Theme Icon
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The yearbook also contains snapshots from other aspects of camp life—chickens in coops, dentists’ office, and drying laundry. On the last pages there is a large photograph of a guard tower against the background of the Sierras, and a well-tended path that curves along a row of elm trees. A woman is walking down the path; Jeanne knows that this road leads towards the edge of the camp, but the barbed wire is invisible in the photo. In retrospect, the image seems “both stark and comforting.”
For Jeanne, this photo represents Manzanar’s gradual transition from a prison to a refuge. As internees develop it into a functional society and inconveniences lessen, she and others around her become less aware of the fences that trap them there, eventually forgetting about them at all.
Themes
Belonging in America Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon