Free Study Guide for Farewell To Manzanar-BookNotes|
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Although no physical torture or punishment is inflicted at Manzanar, it is still a bleak place. The entire Wakatsuki family is stacked together into a small, crudely built barracks; it is scarcely lighted and offers no privacy. Jeanne quickly remembers her naïve delight in being moved to a new place; now in Manzanar she finds she must share a bed with her mother and be herded through the camp with other Japanese-Americans, as if they were sheep.
After Ko's departure, Mrs. Wakatsuki cannot afford to remain in the family home in Ocean Park. She packs her children up and moves to Terminal Island, where her oldest son, Woody, lives. The family has great trouble acclimating to the shack they must live in; they also find their neighbors coarse and frightening, for they speak no English and communicate in a heavy dialect. Additionally, Mrs. Wakatsuki must work in a cannery to make ends meet. Matters grow worse for the Wakatsukis when they learn that they will be relocated to Manzanar, a detention camp created to hold Japanese-Americans during the war. Like all prisoners in wartime, the Wakatsukis realize that any resistance on their part will put them into unwelcome trouble with the officials. The only one that is excited about the relocation is Jeanne; too young to understand what is really happening to her, she thinks of the move as an adventure. When she sees the camp and the Wakatsuki barracks, however, she realizes her naiveté about the move.
The chapter is appropriately called "Shikata Ga Nai," which means, "It cannot be helped;" the title captures the mood of helplessness endured by all the Japanese-Americans during the World War II. In spite of their poor treatment, they dare not protest that their constitutional rights are being violated. After all, the President of their new country has issued the Executive Order about the relocation camps, so there seems to be no alternative. To make matters worse, the Japanese-Americans feel cut off from Japan, for there is no communication with the native land during the war. Suddenly these transplanted Japanese feel lost, isolated, and insecure. They are resented in Japan for immigrating to America, and they are not accepted as Americans in their adopted homeland, which now questions their loyalties and treats them as enemies.
The scene in which the second-hand dealers take advantage of the Japanese-Americans is touching and painful. Knowing that the families must sell their possessions before going to the relocation camps, they undervalue all Japanese heirlooms, furniture, and goods. Mama is so upset at the indignity and insult of how she is treated that she systematically shatters every piece of her beautiful and expensive china rather than give it away to the second-hand dealers for a mere seventeen dollars. The scene is very telling about her character and determination.
Mama's indignity continues with the move to Manzanar. She is horrified that her whole family is crowded into a small, crudely constructed barracks, where there is no light and no privacy. She dislikes that she and her family are each assigned a number, symbolizing the dehumanization of the individual. Mama, like the other Japanese-American in camp, feels totally helpless to do anything about the injustices that she and her family are enduring.
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. 09 May 2017