When the Emperor was Divine

When the Emperor was Divine Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In what appears to be a first-person journal entry, the man tells his story. He says everything is true. They took him when he was in his slippers and bathrobe to an interrogation room and asked him questions. He admits that he had lied during the interrogation, that “you were always right.” He admits to poisoning the reservoirs, planting dynamite along the railroads, scattering mines across the harbors, spying on your neighbors, and spying on you. He says that you get up at six, like bacon and eggs, love baseball, and that your favorite color is blue.
In the final chapter we finally see things from the man’s perspective. The man sarcastically “confesses” to his crime, enumerating all things he was accused of doing. By listing them all together, it seems even more unlikely that a single man could do such much damage without there being even a scrap of factual evidence to support the government’s allegations. The man also sarcastically applies the racist stereotype about all Asian people being the same to “you”—the white American public. By boiling down white American identity into the small, insignificant details he lists, the man shows just how ridiculous is to generalize a diverse group of people.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity Theme Icon
“Who am I?” the man asks. He says he’s your florist, your grocer, you porter, your waiter, the owner of the dry-goods store, the shoeshine boy, the judo teacher, the Buddhist priest, the Shinto priest, the Right Reverend Yoshimoto, the one you call Jap, the one you call Slits, the one you call Gook. He says he’s the one you don’t see because we all look alike. He says he’s the one taking over the neighborhood.
Once again, that man uses the stereotype of Asian people as being all the same to play on the fears of the white public. In this way, the man refuses to be submissive and act as the “model minority.” Instead of staying silent and toeing the line, the man bitterly inflicts some of the fear and anger that he felt during internment onto the imagined white public.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity Theme Icon
The man tells you to lock him up, take his children, take his wife, assign him a number, and inform him of his crime, which is being too short, too dark, and too proud. He says he’ll sign on the dotted line. And he says, “If they ask you someday what it was I most wanted to say, please tell them if you would, it was this: I’m sorry.” The novel ends with him then asking, “I’ve said it. Now can I go?”
Unlike his family, the man clearly resents the government and understands that racism motivated internment. While his apology at the end seems to suggest that he is willing to play the role of the apologetic model minority, he only apologizes sarcastically in order to be set free. The man has been transformed by his experiences from a kind, sensitive father to a hard man who must switch between different strategies for survival: one moment he’s acting as the “model minority,” and the next he’s bitterly declaring himself the dangerous spy. The novel thus ends with the man becoming truly inscrutable. The government has taken his right to authenticity away so that he’s left with only a series of masks, and no real identity behind them. Even though we get to read his direct thoughts in this “confession,” we still never get to know the man for who he really is—perhaps because he doesn’t know himself.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
The Model Minority Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity Theme Icon
Inscrutability and the Unknown Theme Icon