Farewell to Manzanar


Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

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Farewell to Manzanar: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Because it’s so cold at night, Mama has unpacked all the clothes and spread them over the children. In the morning, all their possessions are coated with dust that has floated inside. Even their eyebrows are gray. Jeanne and Kiyo find this funny, but Mama is scanning the surroundings with a mask-like face.
Internment seems like a game to the younger children, but Mama knows how hard it will be to provide for her family when they don’t even have weatherproof housing.
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Before Mama gets overwhelmed by the dismal shack, Woody arrives with a hammer and a box of tin can lids he’s found. As the oldest son, Woody is now the leader of the family. He orders Ray and Kiyo to cover up all the holes in the floor and walls with tin can lids. He makes the chore seem fun, so the boys go eagerly to work. Then he puts an arm around Mama and asks if she’s OK. She just continues to fold clothes and asks if there’s some way to cover the cracks, too. Woody staunchly tells her that he’s going to find some scrap lumber today. Mama’s eyes “blaze,” and she tells Woody that only “animals live like this.”
Woody is taking over Papa’s role in the family—he’s taking care of their material needs, and he’s preventing them from falling into despair. Throughout the novel, Woody’s ingenuity and calm will be a beacon of strength for Jeanne. But he will also contrast with Mama and Papa’s increasing inability to face the events around them.
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Woody assures Mama that he will make things better. Suddenly, his baby daughter starts to cry. He announces he’s going to the kitchen to find a pot for heating bottles. He tells the others that he’s heard breakfast is rice with syrup and butter.
The dismal food options at Manzanar provide some comic relief when Woody describes them, but in fact they are evidence of the family’s new inability to make even the most trivial of decisions—what to eat for breakfast—for itself.
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