Research Paper: Obasan, Oppression, &amp Remembrance Children

Pages: 8 (2488 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] The shifting from past to present and back again reflects the uncertainty with which Naomi delves into the traces of the past that exist in the real, physical world and that exist in her consciousness.

Obasan continues to straddle the positions of remembering and of forgetting. The war time experience of the Japanese Canadians and, specifically in this case, of Naomi and her family presses the need for keeping memories alive. Nevertheless, remembering is not posited to be therapeutic. Before Naomi discovers her mother's fate, she comes to believe that her continued search will desecrate the memory of her mother and she gives up the search for the facts that her Aunt Emily insists are the only way to healing and reconciliation.

Images of war and oppression. Naomi is haunted by images of white men armed with guns. Her recurring nightmares are filled with images of dangerous military men whose gun are proxy for the persecution and the jeopardy that she and her family faced (Goellnict 1989). One particularly bad dream generates images of military men controlling three Asian women who are naked and powerless against the armed soldiers (Goellnict 1989). Another dream is filled with terrifying images of voyeuristic armed men who intrude on a private ceremony held by a family (Goellnict 1989). These nightmares stem from the abuse Naomi suffered from Old Man Gower and the actions of the white Canadians against Naomi and her family (Goellnict 1989). Even though Naomi may at times be reluctant to delve into her past, she is continually enmeshed in it -- even in the daytime when she is not dreaming, Naomi is still a captive of the soldiers who represent the threatening reality of the oppression she experienced. Naomi expressed the bare reality of her fears when she asserts that, "We die again and again. In my dreams, we are never safe enough" (Goellnict 1989) Remembering and revisiting the past makes real the threat that Naomi could at any time be plunged back into the frightening milieu in which she and her family are enemies of the Canadian people (Goellnict 1989).

Whether they are collected as a talisman to protect her from the past or to trigger memories, Obasan has filled her home with objects that are orderly arranged and for which an accounting can be made (Goellnict 1989). Some things are collected by Obasan for reuse in an endeavor to be thrifty, while other objects are markers for some events in her life (Goellnict 1989). Obasan keeps objects the way that many people keep libraries -- each thing represents sometime in her life, like a familiar book that has been read and then reshelved (Goellnict 1989). In the attic, where the hidden memories are located, spiders torment Obasan in the manner of bad flashbacks that leave a person unsettled and leery of the next encounter (Goellnict 1989). The spiders and the ominous memories that arise unbidden, when Naomi does not expect them, threaten to overwhelm her (Goellnict 1989).

Silence is a double-edged sword. Ignoring past wrongdoings and refusing to talk about them and work toward reconciliation invites toxic anger and resentment. Moreover, wordlessly accepting maltreatment can be an invitation to worse treatment. This is borne out in the treatment that Naomi's family experiences despite their humility, strong desire to belong as Canadian citizens, and their silent acquiescence regarding the draconian Canadian government's treatment (Goellnict 1989). Naomi's family doesn't gain any favorable treatment as a result of their willingness to just go along with what is happening. Instead, their quiescence makes them all the easier to ignore or mistreat (Goellnict 1989). Naomi experiences this dashing of expectations about the benefits of being a modest, quiet, and agreeable child -- all of which makes her an easy target for sexual abuse (Goellnict 1989). In fact, Naomi's upbringing promotes the terrible silence that brings her to suffer through the abuse alone, without telling anyone about the incident (Goellnict 1989). Where Obasan's silence failed her as a child, it seems to provide a layer of protection for her when she grows old.


The prose poem that opens the novel expresses both the promise and the peril of unfettered speech and the resolved dilemma that enables the generations to acknowledge and make right the wrongdoings of the past.

"There is a silence that will not speak. Beneath the grass the speaking dreams and beneath the dreams is a sensate sea. The speech that frees comes forth from that amniotic deep. To attend its voice, I can hear it say, is to embrace its absence. But I fail the task. The word is stone" (Kogawa 1981, vi).

The dance between the silent stone and the language stream is performed throughout Naomi's narrative in the text. Naomi experiences "water and stone dancing" in her dreams and in her life reality, but the barriers to reconciliation remain unless and until the silence is broken (Kogawa 1981, 247). Naomi was able to surmount the hidden barriers and move beyond her fragmented understanding to find a cohesive element "that joins water and stone, speech and silence, memory and forgetfulness in a 'quiet ballet, soundless as breath' (Kogawa 1981, 296, as cited in Goellnict 1989, 297). Naomi comes to believe that silence does not always stand as a barrier to understanding and in this way is able to validate in her own mind the silence of her mother. With her mother dead, no prospect for communication between mother and children exists -- except in the silence that remains (Goellnict 1989). And for Naomi, though the communication between them can never be complete, it is a communication of understanding that Naomi accepts as sufficient (Goellnict 1989).


Goellnict,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Obasan, Oppression, &amp Remembrance Children.  (2012, December 8).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Obasan, Oppression, &amp Remembrance Children."  8 December 2012.  Web.  17 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Obasan, Oppression, &amp Remembrance Children."  December 8, 2012.  Accessed July 17, 2019.