Farewell to Manzanar

by

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

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Themes and Colors
Belonging in America Theme Icon
Internment and Family Life Theme Icon
Shame and Pride  Theme Icon
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Farewell to Manzanar, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Belonging in America

Farewell to Manzanar’s protagonist, Jeanne Wakatsuki, chronicles the internment of her Japanese-American family as a result of anti-Japanese hysteria during WWII. Exiled from mainstream American society and viewed with suspicion, Jeanne has to consider what it means to be an American, and she meditates on the different ways that people of her parents’ generations and children of her own generation cultivate a sense of belonging in their chosen country while maintaining their Japanese…

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Internment and Family Life

Farewell to Manzanar chronicles the effects of wartime internment on the structure of one Japanese-American family, the Wakatsukis. Especially because they are immigrants in a strange land, family cohesion is an important priority to the Wakatsukis and integral to Jeanne’s conception of her family. In some ways, internment increases the family’s commitment to each other: living in close quarters with scarce resources, the family has to make an extra effort to take care of each…

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Shame and Pride

In Farewell to Manzanar, the Wakatsukis cope with the material and psychological effects of internment during World War II. In Jeanne’s opinion, dignity is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture, and one of the things she most appreciates in her parents is their commitment to maintaining family pride under even the most dire circumstances. However, this emphasis on pride makes everyone in the family vulnerable to debilitating feelings of shame…

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Racism and Prejudice

Farewell to Manzanar portrays a Japanese-American family who are interned during World War II as a result of the US government’s racist assumption that Japanese immigrants cannot possibly be loyal to their adopted country. Although Jeanne spends much of her childhood in circumstances directly caused by racism, she doesn’t encounter overt prejudice until she returns to California to attend middle school and high school. Focusing on implicit prejudice rather than open insults, the memoir shows…

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Growing Up

Farewell to Manzanar is primarily about the experience of internment, but it’s also a coming-of-age memoir, spanning from Jeanne’s prewar childhood to her postwar graduation from high school. Although internment is a travesty, for Jeanne personally the experience fosters her natural curiosity and independence. As she describes camp life, she contrasts the growing complexity of her own character with Papa’s psychological decline. After internment ends, Jeanne both seeks independence from her parents and…

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