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Overview of 'When The Emperor Was Divine' by Julie Otsuka

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Words: 579 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 579|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

When The Emperor was Divine by Japanese-American author Julie Otsuka is a fascinating and moving novel. The powerful story of a Japanese-American family during WWII is a reference to thousands of families who suffered internment in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This book represents thousands of untold stories of suffering, violation and loss of identity and freedom. Most importantly, they were stripped of their voices, some tortured, and left unable to share their stories.

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I found the ending was the most interesting. Besides the powerful meaning behind the story, the tone throughout the book is calm and gentle. However, the end has an angrier and more sarcastic tone. Even though the father had never had a first person writing we have seen some pices of letters that he sends to his family and we can also contrast this to the family's time at the camps which is nothing near the fathers experience. This passage represents all of the father’s suppressed emotions overflowing and being released. The father’s detachment from his own identity is shown by the language used, for example “lock me up”, “take my children”, “take my wife”, “freeze my assets. Seize my crops”. The confidence of him to “hand over” (Otsuka 143) his once prized possessions proves how mentally changes the father became after the internment camp. The language is also very angry, confident, sarcastic which is a complete tonal change.

This passage follows in the part of torture because.Memory loss and paranoia are two very insightful indicators of torture. The fathers in the internment camp was not described in the book but many hints throughout the book can help me lead to the conclusion that there was torture involved. When father had just come back his reaction to his old home was very intriguing. “In the beginning he wandered slowly from one room to the next, picking up objects in bewilderment--(...) he was suspicious of everyone”. Lastly, the language in this chapter is still not as angry as the last chapter but the meaning is just as strong.

The father’s increasing heated emotions seen in the final chapter symbolize the suppressed emotions of Japanese-American families. Even though the father uses the first person often; “I was tired. I was thirsty. I was scared.” (Otsuka 140) I think he is speaking for the people. The many jobs from “sniper” to “houseboy” to “cook” and “gardener” is a depiction of the thousands who were thought of as inferior due to their race. The powerful outcomes of discrimination and injustice showed in the book are still relevant today. The sarcasm of the final chapter is also seen in “So prease to meet you”, “Jap” and “Nip”, terms used in everyday expressions to verbally torture the Japanese-Americans. Another instance of this is when the girl asks “What's wrong she asked? People were staring” (Otsuka 15) were people were judging them and making them feel less of themselves of something they couldn't control such as ethnicity.

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Finally, this last passage speaks to the whole book just like how the father is speaking for the people. This I believe is the final turning point for the book were the tone and language change even though the father's words were spoken during interrogation. The whole book is written in a calm tone just how the Japanese american suffering was portrayed because they were not allowed to tell their stories. The ending is when the Japanese- Americans voice can finally be heard in the book. 

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Overview of ‘When The Emperor Was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/overview-of-when-the-emperor-was-divine-by-julie-otsuka/
“Overview of ‘When The Emperor Was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/overview-of-when-the-emperor-was-divine-by-julie-otsuka/
Overview of ‘When The Emperor Was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/overview-of-when-the-emperor-was-divine-by-julie-otsuka/> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Overview of ‘When The Emperor Was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 10 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/overview-of-when-the-emperor-was-divine-by-julie-otsuka/
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