Now that Papa has returned, the family’s shack is almost overflowing—not so much due to lack of space but because of his “dark, bitter, brooding presence.” He rarely goes outside and makes Mama bring him food from the mess hall, saving up the fruit syrup to brew moonshine that smells so bad Mama is ashamed when people visit them. Everyday he drinks his homemade liquor until he passes out, waking up in the morning to vomit and start again. When Mama remonstrates with him, he yells threats at her.
Papa’s behavior now contrasts starkly with the dignity and pride that Jeanne had always associated with him before the war. Because the society around him has ceased to treat him with dignity, he’s become personally overwhelmed by shame and unable to function. He’s a notable foil to Mama, who copes with feelings of shame by clinging to her old routines.
Jeanne, who has just turned eight, explains Papa’s behavior by concluding that Papa thinks he is better than other people, and that the neighbors gossip about him because he’s brewing moonshine in the barracks. Jeanne and Mama hear some women in the latrine calling Papa an “inu”—a Japanese insult that means “dog.”
Jeanne isn’t quite evaluating Papa’s feelings correctly, but her anger and frustration is justified—after all, he’s hastening the dissolution of the family that began upon arrival at Manzanar.
Years later, Jeanne learns that inu was used specifically to refer to collaborators, anyone suspected of helping the government carry out the internment process or cooperating with camp authorities. The women in the latrine probably resented that Papa was released from Fort Lincoln earlier than most of his companions. This additional stigma adds to Papa’s feelings of shame and drives him to drink more.
Papa is suffering from public stigma both from Anglo-American society and within the Japanese community. The women’s suspicion shows how prejudice can easily brew in times of fear, even within already marginalized communities.
When Mama tells a drunken Papa what the women in the latrine had been saying, he starts yelling at her, accusing her of everything from not bringing enough food to lying about where she had been. Mama falls on a mattress and Jeanne crawls under a bunk. If she were at home, she could go into another room while her parents fought, but in the barracks there’s no escape and she has to watch Mama crying and Papa pacing.
Paradoxically, while the lack of privacy means that the family is always together physically, it actually drives them apart emotionally. Physical conditions at Manzanar aren’t just inconvenient, they prevent the family from living a normal and healthy life together.
Papa threatens to kill Mama, and she tells him to “go ahead, if that will make you happy.” He stands over her, brandishing his cane. Jeanne has witnessed many angry scenes since Papa’s return, but tonight it seems more serious than usual—Papa seems to really want to hurt Mama, and she seems willing to allow it.
Suddenly Kiyo, who has been hiding in his own bunk, jumps onto the floor in his underwear and punches Papa in the face. Papa’s nose starts bleeding, and Kiyo steps back in horror; Jeanne feels like he’s “bloodying the nose of God.” He expects to be punished, but Papa looks at him with a combination of “outrage and admiration” and does nothing, so he runs out the door. Jeanne goes to Mama, relieved that the fight has ended but feeling “a miserable sense of loss” at the strange changes that are occurring in the family.
On a smaller level, Kiyo is imitating Woody by taking on the adult role of protecting Mama and preserving family order. However, while Woody stepped into this role due to Papa’s absence, Kiyo does so due to Papa’s incapacity, a much more troubling development which emphasizes the changes taking place in the family, rather than its unity.
Kiyo spends a few weeks living with one of their married sisters; when he returns home he begs Papa’s forgiveness, wanting “some order preserved in the world and in the family.” Papa accepts the apology and Kiyo is reinstated in the barracks, but Jeanne feels that something has changed forever. Papa continues to drink and continues to abuse Mama, and it seems like there’s no way to change the situation.
Even though Kiyo knows he’s right, he’d rather preserve old family norms—in which respect for parents is paramount—than win the argument and acknowledge that Papa is suffering a breakdown.