Farewell to Manzanar
In the work ‘Farewell to Manzanar’ one can find the description concerning the influence of family and culture on the man’s personality formation. This work shows that the main character was influenced by various factors such as race, ethnicity, family, and, cultural and socio-economic background. The factors such as cultural identity and environment influenced the main character’s self image, relationships, and experiences. This work shows that childhood experiences are important factors which lead to emergence of a particular personality. In this paper an attempt will be made to analyze the impact of various factors such as environment and cultural background on the development of child’s personality.
This work narrates the story of a Japanese family in the USA during the Second World War period when the American and Japanese relationship had strained leading to the harassment of the Japanese families in America. Due to the order given by the American administration, the Japanese families were sent to exclusive camps where the Japanese families were interrogated for their alleged involvement in passing the valuable information, concerning the American war efforts, to the Japanese. (Houston 7) During this period of uncertainty, racism became the basis of the relationship between the members of the American society. Since Jeanne’s family belonged to Japanese culture they were persecuted although later the court protected the interest of the Japanese families. Nevertheless, ethnicity and cultural background played an important role in shaping the personality of the main character. Jeanne also noticed that her father possessed a feeling of pride as he belonged to the Japanese culture. However, the family of Jeanne was forced to move from place to place leading their displacement.
The protagonist also experienced the influence of racism when she was studying in the school.(Houston 43) In the school, Jeanne was not able to maintain close relationship with her classmates as she belonged to the Japanese community and the cultural background of the students created artificial barrier between them. However, Jeanne became close with one student due to her ability to speak English. However, Jeanne was forced to experience racialism when her teachers conspired with the students to destroy the image of Jeanne. Although this attempt failed due to the assistance of her another friend, this incident showed that racialism still persisted in America. These different events had a great influence on the mind of Jeanne. The childhood of Jeanne cannot be considered as normal as she had to experience racial discrimination which affected her family members. One can notice the distinguishing features of the main character’s childhood.(Houston 72) This difference in the childhood experience of the main character is significant because it had lasting impact on her self-perception. In this context, it is important to note that the main character passed through various testing experiences such as her cultural identity, suspicion concerning the loyalty of the Japanese families towards the American nation during the period of American-Japanese confrontation, and so on. The arrest of Papa led to the disintegration of Papa’s family structure as other family members did not believe that Papa was innocent. The elder sons of Papa were convinced that Papa had indulged in anti American activities. The disintegration of the family had great effect on the life of Jeanne. These events distracted the relationship of the family members as the arrest of Papa led to confrontation between his family members. (Houston 37)
It is due to the fact that Jeanne’s family belonged to the Japanese culture that they were looked at with suspicion. Her father also showed his interest in preserving the Japanese culture. When Jeanne wears the western dress and by expressing her sexuality wins the school election, this was not liked by her father. Due to the insistence of her father, Jeanne had to wear Japanese conventional dress which was not liked by her American friends. This compelled Jeanne to identity her real self, and she understood that she needed to maintain balance between the Japanese conventionalism and western modernism. This shows that Jeanne was influenced by the various events that took place during the early years of her life. Due to these various disheartening events, Jeanne also had decided to take more interest in religion. This indicates that she was not satisfied with her style of living and achievements which were influenced by her cultural identity and community feeling. During this period, racialism and cultural differences played an important role in determining the nature of relationship between different individuals in the American society.
During the war years Jeanne was compelled to experience the prejudice – imaginary and real- found among the Americans. The Japanese family believed that all Americans are going to hate them and that they would not accept the Japanese as one among them.(Houston 73) However, she finds that many Americans such as the school teachers and others showed sympathy for Jeanne’s family by helping them in different ways. Jeanne’s friend in the school is surprised to find that Jeanne was able to speak good English. This shows that each person was judged on the basis of cultural background and ethnicity. In the school, the people do not expect that the Japanese girl should be beautiful. The Americans judged Jeanne based on the fact that she was Japanese. Therefore, they are surprised to find that Jeanne was beautiful. Racism had become the main policy of the American government as attempt was made to picture the Japanese as vicious and dangerous people. Jeanne is surprised to see the extent of racial prejudice that was found among the American population during the war time. (Houston 144)
This work narrates the dilemma in the main character regarding her true identity. The Japanese tried to show, by imitating the American culture in the Manzanar camps, that they are not different from the Americans. Attempt was made by Jeanne to realize her true self. In the Manzanar camp, she is surrounded by the Japanese people, and naturally she imbibes some of the qualities of Japanese culture. However, she also wants to accumulate various aspects of American culture because she had liking for the American style of living. However, she is not able to understand her true self: whether she is essentially American or Japanese. The attempt to act as either American or Japanese leads to the downfall of the main character because such attempts increase her dilemma. Jeanne tries to imitate her American friends after she is released from the Manzanar camp.(Houston 109) She tries to show that she possessed various American qualities. However, the ethnic prejudices found in the American society increases her confusion. Nevertheless, after changing the schools, she is able to realize that she is neither wholly American nor wholly Japanese, but she is Japanese American. Now she decides to understand her true identity and accept the positive and negative aspects of the American culture. (Houston 187)
Various factors such as race, ethnicity, and family structure can play an important role in determining the personality of the individuals in a given society. Jeanne’s Japanese cultural background and her experiences in the Manzanar camp and in the real American society shaped her personality. Jeanne, although initially had a dilemma regarding her true self, ultimately is able to realize that she is Japanese American. She understands the fact that she needs to accept her American as well as Japanese qualities and that she should not suppress either of the two. Her childhood experiences that she gained in Manzanar camp can be considered as a distinguishing feature of her childhood which had a great impact on her personality during the later days.
Houston, James D. Farewell to Manzanar : A True Story of Japanese American Experience
During and After the World War II. Dell Laurel Leaf: New York, 1973.