No-No Boy

Mrs. Yamada Character Analysis

Mrs. Yamada is Ichiro and Taro’s mother, and Mr. Yamada’s wife. Although she has lived in the United States for over three decades, she still loves Japan, and has no affinity for or loyalty to her adopted home. She believes she will return to Japan eventually, and that Japan is inherently superior to the U.S. Even after Japan loses WWII, she continues to believe that the United States is running a propaganda campaign and Japan is the winner, and that the Emperor will be sending out boats to bring the most loyal of his subjects home. She is wrong, and her inability to accept reality is an illness that destroys her life and her relationship with everyone around her. Mrs. Yamada hates America, and only loves her husband and Ichiro because she believes they are as loyal to Japan as she is. Eventually, Ichiro and Mr. Yamada break through to Mrs. Yamada, explaining that Japan really did lose the war, and has been totally decimated. Unable to fully process this reordering of her world, and faced with realization that she will never be able to return to the Japan of her youth, Mrs. Yamada kills herself.

Mrs. Yamada Quotes in No-No Boy

The No-No Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Yamada or refer to Mrs. Yamada. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Washington Press edition of No-No Boy published in 1976.
Chapter 1  Quotes

“I am proud that you are back,” she said. “I am proud to call you my son.”

It was her way of saying that she had made him what he was and that the thing in him which made him say no to the judge and go to prison for two years was the growth of a seed planted by the mother tree and that she was the mother who had put this thing in her son and that everything that had been done and said was exactly as it should have been and that that was what made him her son because no other would have made her feel the pride that was in her breast.

He looked at his mother and swallowed with difficulty the bitterness that threatened to destroy the last fragment of understanding for the woman who was his mother and still a stranger because, in truth, he could not know what it was to be a Japanese who breathed the air of America and yet had never lifted a foot from the land that was Japan.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada (speaker)
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other No-No Boy quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

“Why don’t you do something about it?”

“I tell [Taro]. Mama tells him. Makes no difference. It is the war that has made them that way. All the people say the same thing. The war and the camp life. Made them wild like cats and dogs. It is hard to understand.”

“Sure,” he said, but he told himself that he understood, that the reason why Taro was not a son and not a brother was because he was young and American and alien to his parents, who had lived in America for thirty-five years without becoming less Japanese and could speak only a few broken words of English and write it not at all, and because Taro hated the thing in his elder brother which had prevented him from thinking for himself. And in this hate for that thing, he hated his brother and also his parents because they had created the thing in their eyes and hands and minds which had seen and felt and thought as Japanese for thirty-five years in an America which they rejected as thoroughly as if they had never been a day away from Japan.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mr. Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada, Taro Yamada
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Oh, yes, the picture of Japan.” She snickered. “He is such a serious boy. He showed me all the pictures he had taken in Japan. He had many of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I told him that he must be mistaken because Japan did not lose the war as he seems to believe and that he could not have been in Japan to take pictures because, if he was in Japan, he would not have been permitted to remain alive… I told him that what must really have happened was that the army only told him he was in Japan when he was someplace else, and that it was too bad he believed the propaganda. Then he got so mad his face went white… It is not enough that they must willingly take up arms against their uncles and cousins and even brothers and sisters, but they no longer have respect for the old ones. If I had a son and he had gone in the American army to fight Japan, I would have killed myself with shame.”

“They know not what they do and it is not their fault. It is the fault of the parents…” Ichiro’s mother looked at him with a look which said I am a Japanese and you are my son and have conducted yourself as a Japanese and I know no shame such as other parents do because their sons were not really their sons or they would not have fought against their own people.

Related Characters: Mrs. Yamada (speaker), Mr. Ashida (speaker), Ichiro Yamada
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

The mother was crying now, without shame and alone in her grief that knew no end. And in her bottomless grief that made no distinction as to what was wrong and what was right and who was Japanese and who was not, there was no awareness of the other mother with a living son who had come to say to her you are with shame and grief because you were not Japanese and thereby killed your son but mine is big and strong and full of life because I did not weaken and would not let my son destroy himself uselessly and treacherously.

Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

…he was thinking about the Kumasakas and his mother and kids like Bob who died brave deaths fighting for something which was bigger than Japan or America or the selfish bond that strapped a son to his mother. Bob, and a lot of others with no more to lose or gain then he, had not found it necessary to think about whether or not to go into the army. When the time came, they knew what was right for them and they went.

What happened to him and the others who faced the judge and said: You can’t make me go in the army because I’m not an American or you wouldn’t have plucked me and mine from a life that was good and real and meaningful and fenced me in the desert like they do the Jews in Germany…

And some said: You, Mr. Judge, who supposedly represent justice, was it a just thing to ruin a hundred thousand lives and homes and farms and businesses and dreams and hopes because the hundred thousand were a hundred thousand Japanese and you couldn’t have loyal Japanese when Japan is the country you’re fighting and, if so, how about the Germans and Italians that must be just as questionable as the Japanese or we wouldn’t be fighting Germany and Italy? Round them up. Take away their homes and cars and beer and spaghetti and throw them in a camp and what do you think they’ll say when you try to draft them into your army out of the country that is for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? …

And then another one got up and faced the judge and said meekly: I can’t go because my brother is in the Japanese army and if I go in your army and have to shoot at them because they’re shooting at me, how do I know that maybe I won’t kill my own brother? I’m a good American and I like it here but you can see that it wouldn’t do for me to be shooting at my own brother; even if he want back to Japan when I was two years old and I couldn’t know him if I saw him, it’s the feeling that counts, and what can a fellow do? Besides, my mom and dad said I shouldn’t and they ought to know.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada, Bob Kumasaka
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 6 Quotes

“I came to America to become a rich man so that I could go back to the village in Japan and be somebody. I was greedy and ambitious and proud. I was not a good man or an intelligent one, but a young fool. And you have paid for it.”

“What kind of talk is that?” replied Kenji, genuinely grieved. “That’s not true at all.”

“I will go with you.”

“No.” He looked straight at his father.

In answer, the father merely nodded, acceding to his son’s wish because his son was a man who had gone to war to fight for the abundance and happiness that pervaded a Japanese household in America and that was a thing he himself could never fully comprehend except to know that it was very dear. He had long forgotten when it was that he had discarded the notion of a return to Japan but remembered only that it was the time when this country which he had no intention of loving had suddenly begun to become a part of him because it was a part of his children and he saw and felt in their speech and joys and sorrows and hopes that he was a part of them. And in the dying of the foolish dreams which he had brought to America, the richness of the life that was possible in this foreign country destroyed the longing for a past that really must not have been as precious as he imagined or else he would surely not have left it. Where else could a man, left alone with six small children, have found it possible to have had so much with so little?

Related Characters: Kenji Kanno (speaker), Mr. Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

It had mattered. It was because he was Japanese that the son had to come to his Japanese father and simply state that he had decided to volunteer for the army instead of being able to wait until such time as the army called him. It was because he was Japanese and, at the same time, had to prove to the world that he was not Japanese that the turmoil was in his soul and urged him to enlist. There was confusion, but, underneath it, a conviction that he loved America and would fight and die for it because he did not wish to live anyplace else. And the father, also confused, understood what the son had not said and gave his consent. It was not a time for clear thinking because the sense of loyalty had become dispersed and the shaken faith of an American interned in an American concentration camp was indeed a flimsy thing. So, on this steadfast bit of conviction that remained, and knowing not what the future held, this son had gone to war to prove that he deserved to enjoy those rights which should rightfully have been his.

Related Characters: Mr. Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada, Kenji Kanno
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 9 Quotes

As he shouted, Ichiro listened and, it was as if he were hearing about a stranger as the man spoke of the girl baby born in the thirty-first year of the Meiji era to a peasant family, of her growing and playing and going to school and receiving honors for scholastic excellence and of her becoming a pretty young thing who forsook a teaching career to marry a bright, ambitious young man of the same village. And as the large man transported the young couple across the vast ocean to the fortune awaiting them in America, Ichiro no longer listened, for he was seeing the face of his dead mother jutting out of the casket, and he could not believe that she had ever been any of the things the man was saying about her.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He was enjoying it and he felt that Emi was too. This is the way it ought to be, he thought to himself, to be able to dance with a girl you like and really get a kick out of it because everything is on an even keel and one’s worries are only the usual ones of unpaid bills and sickness in the family and being late to work too often. Why can’t it be that way for me? Nobody’s looking twice at us… Everything’s the same, just as it used to be. No bad feelings except for those that have always existed and probably always will. It’s a matter of attitude. Mine needs changing. I’ve got to love the world the way I used to. I’ve got to love it and the people so I’ll feel good, and feeling good will make life worth while. There’s no point in crying about what’s done. There’s a place for me and Emi and Freddie here on the dance floor and out there in the hustle of things if we’ll let it be that way. I’ve been fighting it and hating it and letting my bitterness against myself and Ma and Pa and even Taro throw the whole universe out of perspective. I want only to go on living and be happy. I’ve only to let myself do so.

Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire No-No Boy LitChart as a printable PDF.
No no boy.pdf.medium

Mrs. Yamada Character Timeline in No-No Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Yamada appears in No-No Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...Ichiro speaks mostly in English. This is common in mixed-generation immigrant families, the narrator says. Mrs. Yamada has gone to the bakery to buy bread, and Ichiro argues with his father that... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada comes home. She tells Ichiro she is proud to call him her son. Ichiro understands... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro feels bitterness towards Mrs. Yamada , even as he works to understand her. She is both “his mother and still... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro retreats to the bedroom and flings himself into bed, chain-smoking and thinking. He blames Mrs. Yamada for his past actions—he feels that she “cursed” him, and that her influence forced him... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada comes to fetch Ichiro for lunch. The family does not speak as they eat. Finally... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada shows Ichiro a letter sent from Sao Paulo, ostensibly from the Japanese government, that claims... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada tells Ichiro they’ll discuss it later. She assures him that his doubts will disappear, because... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Ichiro continues his internal monologue. He asserts that he is not Mrs. Yamada ’s son, and he is “not Japanese” and “not American.” He wishes he could be... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Taro, Ichiro, Mrs. Yamada , and Mr. Yamada eat in silence. Taro eats quickly and leaves. Ichiro’s father explains... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...to think for himself, and so is rebelling against his entire family. Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada only came to America to make money, and say they plan on returning to Japan... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada takes Ichiro to see two family friends, the Ashida family and the Kumasaka family. These... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
At the Ashidas house, Mrs. Ashida and Mrs. Yamada discuss pictures of Japan taken by the son of a family friend stationed in Japan.... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada shares the South American letter with Mrs. Ashida. They commiserate with each other about how... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada insists they visit the Kumasaka family next. The Kumasakas lived in an apartment above their... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada sits on the couch and proudly declares that Ichiro “has suffered but I make no... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...Kumasaka is shocked by the question. His son died in the army. He can’t believe Mrs. Yamada hasn’t told Ichiro. Mr. Kumasaka calls Jun, one of Bob’s friends from the army, into... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...right and who was Japanese and who was not.” Mrs. Kumasaka similarly doesn’t realize that Mrs. Yamada has brought Ichiro to her house to punish her by showing that her son, who... (full context)
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada gets up and leaves without saying goodbye. Ichiro apologizes to Mr. Kumasaka for his mother,... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...not want to go home; instead, he walks and thinks. He considers his bond with Mrs. Yamada . He feels like his decision to reject the draft was selfish. He considers how... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...to see past their parents’ allegiance to their home country. He admits to himself that Mrs. Yamada was not to blame—instead, he blames his own weakness. He considers various men he knew... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...and is going through a stack of letters from Japan. Mr. Yamada tells Ichiro that Mrs. Yamada is sick, and that he cannot do anything to help her. He has received letters... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
At breakfast, Mrs. Yamada tries to tell Ichiro that Bob Kumasaka died because of his mother—because “she did not... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro tells Mrs. Yamada that she’s crazy. She brushes off his insult. She’s been called crazy before by “they... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...up to leave, and Mr. Yamada tries to stop him. Ichiro punches him in response. Mrs. Yamada slumps to the floor in shock. Ichiro stands for a moment, calming down. He apologizes... (full context)
Chapter 3
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...has dropped out of school and plans to join the army. Both Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada are upset, but Ichiro understands Taro’s perspective. Taro feels like he is not rejecting his... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Taro feels Mrs. Yamada ’s influence and needs desperately to free himself. However, he doesn’t say this. Instead he... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro, Mr. Yamada, and Mrs. Yamada stand stunned in Taro’s absence. His mother lets out a single cry, and then composes... (full context)
Chapter 4
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...her mother died in 1939, and her father asked to be repatriated. Her father, like Mrs. Yamada , believed Japan won the war. Now, living there, her father no longer believes this... (full context)
Chapter 5
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Kenji drops Ichiro at home. Mrs. Yamada wonders where Ichiro has been, and he explains that he was with Kenji. Mrs. Yamada... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
Ichiro feels his anger fade, and instead he feels pity for Mrs. Yamada , whose dedication to Japan has made her sick. He wonders if it was really... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro wishes he could talk to Mrs. Yamada , who is also a stranger. He wonders what it was like to be Japanese,... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro delivers the newest letter to Mr. Yamada. It’s from Mrs. Yamada ’s sister. Mr. Yamada calls his wife into the room and insists she read it.... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
After finishing the letter, Mr. Yamada goes to chop cabbage in the kitchen. Mrs. Yamada sits, the truth and the untruth fighting in her mind. Finally, she concludes that her... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
At lunch, Mrs. Yamada refuses to get up and eat. Distressed, Mr. Yamada begins to backslide, agreeing that the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Kenji drives to Ichiro’s house. Through the glass of the store he sees Mrs. Yamada placing cans of evaporated milk on a shelf, then knocking them off. He watches so... (full context)
Chapter 8
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada goes to the kitchen and sees Mrs. Yamada ’s untouched plate of food. She has not eaten in two days. Instead of eating,... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada implores Mrs. Yamada to eat, and she considers for a second, before turning back to the bedroom and... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada continues to drink. He thinks how Mrs. Yamada ’s sister calls her Kin-chan again now that times are hard, and how he used... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...makes his way to the locked bathroom door. Frightened, he breaks it down, and discovers Mrs. Yamada ’s body draped over the edge of the overflowing bathtub. She has killed herself.   (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Ichiro turns off the water, and pulls Mrs. Yamada out of the tub. He feels nothing. He thinks that she has been (figuratively) dead... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro moves Mrs. Yamada ’s body to the bedroom and looks up the coroner’s name in the phonebook. When... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mrs. Yamada ’s funeral is held seven days after her death. Ichiro sent Taro a telegram, but... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...one, when a simple simpler model would have worked.  His father has been sober since Mrs. Yamada ’s death, and has instead been “drunk with the renewal of countless friendships” and the... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...Ichiro feels as though he is “hearing about a stranger.” He has trouble believing that Mrs. Yamada was ever, young, pretty, and sane. After the funeral, as the hearse takes the casket... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro knows he should see Mrs. Yamada ’s funeral through, and understands that she sacrificed to give him the life he had,... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...back to his childhood, when he would listen to the radio or a phonograph, which Mrs. Yamada disliked. One day, while he was gone, she came into his room and smashed the... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...a knock at the door. Emi has come to visit and give her condolences for Mrs. Yamada ’s passing. Ichiro invites her inside and they talk. She tells him that Ralph has... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...up packages to send to Japan. Mr. Yamada doesn’t expect he will be lonely after Mrs. Yamada ’s death. He will keep the store and plans to make improvements to it. Mr.... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro sees that Mr. Yamada was not sick like Mrs. Yamada had been. Now that Mrs. Yamada has died, he is able to “exercise his reasonable... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada tells Ichiro that Mrs. Yamada would have liked Ichiro returning to school and working with his father, and Ichiro feels... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...to the help of Emi, Mr. Carrick, Kenji, and even his parents, Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada . Ichiro asks his friend if anything is wrong, but Freddie claims he is “just... (full context)