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Looking at john okadas no no boy english literature essay

Introduction A proverb says: Left, that is naturally the veterans who managed not to get killed in battle and thus survived their mission. But left, that is also the ones who refused fighting in a war for their country, for whatever the reason.

War and its aftermaths clearly do not take a decision on which of the two behaviors is right. It just leaves the involved people opposing each other contrarily — like left and right. Set in the Seattle of 1945, No-No Boy deals with the outer and inner conflicts of a young Japanese American, named Ichiro, who refused the draft by a government, which in his eyes deprived him of his identity as an American.

The narration starts with its central character, Ichiro, who had just arrived at a bus station in Seattle and now sees himself confronted with a drastically changed and diverse Japanese American community.

Like his protagonist, Okada himself was an American-born son of Japanese immigrants, a so-called Nisei, and therefore also got evacuated from his hometown Seattle during the war years. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Okada was in his mid-twenties and, unlike Ichiro in the novel, volunteered in the US Air Force, only to get discharged again directly after the war, in 1946 see Huang, 2006: Remarkably, almost all of these different Nisei characters seem to have their very own concept of how to manage their life and improve the circumstances they have to live in.

Briefly speaking, no figure in this novel succeeds to fully reach his or her goals and dreams.

  • The first is with Baxter Brown, his former engineering professor at the university;
  • Even his hurt serves as an illustration of American policy;
  • Ichiro goes home and receives a visit from Emi, who has heard about the deaths of Kenji and Ichiro's mother;
  • She says she is proud to call him her son, but he knows this is only because of his refusal to serve in the U;
  • Now, following his release, Ichiro regrets the decision he made and fears that as a "no-no" boy he has no future in the United States , in spite of the fact that he was born and educated there;
  • While Kenji naps, his father goes out and buys a chicken for roasting.

In the following, the general situation of Japanese Americans during the war years and its possible effects on the individuals of No-No Boy will be discussed in order to establish a link to their ultimate failure. Furthermore, eight selected figures of the novel will be analyzed in terms of one single character trait which represents his or her attitude in a comprising way — and why each of these behavior patterns is condemned to fail in the end. Historical Background of the Novel As already mentioned above, all of the different topics that are being treated in No-No Boy, are related to historically true facts.

Consequently, they easily qualified for inheriting the anti-Asian sentiments from the comparably obedient Chinese. Now, with the exceptional, but still rather comfortable situation of the United States being at war with several distant countries in Europe, the Japanese attacks on American territory brought with them a new quality to the mere thought of being at war: Accordingly, to reassure their citizens, and show their competence in dealing with the circumstances, the authorities needed a scapegoat which could be easily sacrificed in an act of populism.

Topics For Further Study

The ensuing reaction by the US government can be considered a farce: A visualization of the goings-on was provided by Okada himself: People who had been living and working in the United States for more than thirty or forty years got rounded up and deported to the hinterlands without trial or charge.

This can be seen best in a statement by government official Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt who administered the internment program: I don't want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here. They are a dangerous element.

The Concept of Failure Represented by the Nisei Characters in John Okada’s 'No-No Boy'

There is no way to determine their loyalty. The west coast contains too many vital installations essential to the defense of the country to allow any Japanese on this coast. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty.

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United States As a matter of fact, this wording had left little scope for interpretation: As opposed to this, most immigrants of German or Italian descent who logically should have embodied an equivalent potential hazard were left alone and only bothered on a case-by-case basis see Douglas 133. Most of these possible causes to respond negatively are presented in the novel when Ichiro reminisces about the court trial.

In this scene, each of the defendants tries his luck in convincing the judge that his reasons for not joining the armed forces are most legitimate.

The impact this glaring injustice made on the Japanese American communities and their members is almost immeasurable. Those who did so interpreted the circumstances as the first opportunity in Japanese American history to prove their allegiance to the country by fighting for it see Kim 133.

To protest against their inappropriate treatment some Issei even went as far as to get repatriated and eventually returned to Japan.

Finally, when the war was over, most of the interned Japanese Americans came back to the places they had lived in before the deportation. The old communities got re-established, yet, the problems they had to face were new: Aside from the above mentioned issues which mainly were problems of the Japanese American community as a whole, No-No Boy also treats the intergenerational conflict between Issei and Nisei.

The predominantly conservative and Japan-oriented Issei in most cases could not even understand their children when being addressed in English cf.

The younger generation in return hardly spoke any Japanese for the very simple reason that they were American-born and American educated cf. Kim 129 and therefore naturally perceived America as their home country. The characters which are going to be analyzed and discussed in the following all get affected by the political and historical circumstances that have just been outlined.

No No Boy Essay English Literature Essay

The Selected Nisei Characters The one thing which makes a novel worth reading is — apart from its plot — the different figures that appear in the story.

It is the elaborateness of the characters which decides whether a narration will be perceived as being authentic or not. Okada accomplishes this by making each of the characters the representative for a certain fragment of the post-internment Nikkei society. Kim 156 is going to be examined. These figures naturally can be distinguished according to their actual time of appearance in the text or their importance for the progress of plot.

In the case of No-No Boy this major character is Ichiro whose quest for self-discovery, as already mentioned, gets reflected in the different minor characters of the novel. In the following, four selected minor characters will on the one hand be analyzed in terms of their interactions with as well as their influence on Ichiro and — if necessary — the other protagonists.

  • He accepts no relief, no respite at being released from prison;
  • Topics For Further Study Conduct some interviews with some first- and second-generation immigrants from any country, either from your school or the local community, and make a class presentation on the different attitudes each generation has to its country of origin and to the United States;
  • The latter had yet to come to grips with the Japanese American experience of internment during World War II and the controversial issues of racial and national identity that are at the core of the novel;
  • The relationship between Ichiro and his mother has attracted interest from psychoanalytic critics;
  • They are also impoverished and have gotten worse in the four years Ichiro has been away;
  • In silencing the negative, fear-based workings of his mind, which only impose a veil over what is really happening, he gives himself a better chance of finding that "elusive insinuation of promise" that will enable him to make his way once more in the land of his birth.

On the other hand, each of the four characters again represents his own attitude towards the Japanese American community and the overall political circumstances. These concepts of coping with the situation and thus altering their lives for the better will be the second aim of focus in this investigation — and why all of these attempts can be interpreted as failures.