In retrospect, Jeanne is thankful that Papa prevented her from making such a serious religious decision at the age of ten. She also understands that without a job, income, or even a real house, he needs to maintain the illusion of control wherever he can. However, this situation makes him behave tyrannically to his family and causes Jeanne to become distanced from him.
Unlike her siblings, who are willing to submit to Papa in order to maintain a sense of family unity, Jeanne fights for her independence even when it sets her apart from her family.
As the youngest child, Jeanne is used to receiving a lot of attention from her parents, but now she turns to Woody and Chizu more often. When her oldest sister Eleanor gives birth, Jeanne experiences the first taste of the “total separateness” that growing up entails.
While growing up allows Jeanne freedom and excitement she enjoys, it also means she’s alone in new and frightening ways.
Eleanor and her husband, Shig, have been living outside the camp since 1943; but when Shig is drafted, Eleanor can’t find work and returns to Manzanar. When she goes into labor at the camp hospital, everyone is very worried—the hospital has very little blood plasma, and one of Jeanne’s sisters had to receive blood from Woody during labor, while her sister-in-law actually died from post-partum hemorrhaging. Papa and Mama have been taking turns sitting with Eleanor throughout her long labor.
The perils of childbirth at Manzanar—and the death of one of Jeanne’s relatives—shows how bad circumstances really are under the veneer of civilization. It also shows the real consequences when society considers the needs of its marginalized groups as inherently less important.
On the second afternoon, Jeanne is walking through a firebreak to the hospital with Papa when they see Mama running toward them and shouting. Papa is clearly terrified that Eleanor has died; but when Mama finally draws into earshot, she shouts that Eleanor is safe and has given birth to a boy. Both Mama and Papa start crying and talking excitedly. Watching them, Jeanne feels “an odd detachment,” understanding that the intimate scene taking place is between her parents and has nothing to do with her.
While Eleanor’s successful childbirth is a moment of family unity and celebration, it’s also a moment of personal closeness for Mama and Papa. This is a positive moment, since the spouses have been largely distanced from each other since Papa’s return. But it also allows Jeanne to see that her parents have an inner life and a relationship that is fundamentally inaccessible to her.
Papa puts an arm around Mama. He’s wearing a turtleneck she knit for him during his fishing days, and Mama’s hands finger the yarn. Both of them continue to weep and talk quietly, as Jeanne watches.
This sweater also appears in the first chapter, showing that in some sense the family’s love for each other hasn’t changed since internment.