Julie Otsuka's When The Emperor Was Divine

1255 Words6 Pages
From a historical standpoint, the cruelty, misery, and mistreatment that was inflicted upon Japanese families at the time of World War II was nothing but obvious. Similar to how the supposedly supreme Nazis treated inferior Jews at the time, American government officials showed a glimpse of what discrimination could be by developing Japanese internment camps for evacuees to inhabit during the occurrences of wartime. Julie Otsuka’s novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, excels in illustrating an inside look at the lives of a Japanese mother, daughter, and son of this period, from the time that they received notice of their district evacuation to the time that they packed and loaded up on a train, setting off to an unknown destination. However,…show more content…
Since the glass of a one-way mirror is only reflective on the bright side, not transparent, suspects are left to stare at their own image for hours or days on end. Often times in doing so, they tend to lose their identity; how they view themselves and their situation slowly changes as a result of extended and lonely entrapment, causing them to change their own personal stories, mannerisms, and even sociological classification. For example, middle men in drug deals may start by advertising their innocence, saying they were just the messenger, with no intentions of harming anyone, and should be let off scot-free. However, as time presses on for these individuals, they slip up, wallowing in their own guilt, falling under pressure, and ultimately ruining their own story in a case. Eventually, the middle men are convinced by authoritative officials that they, too, are just as guilty as dangerous drug lords, thus changing their sense of personal identity and self-image. The same dynamic can be used to relate to prisoners of the Japanese internment camps. Upon arrival, the mother instructs her children that, “if anyone asks, you’re Chinese,” (75). She, like criminal suspects, is already creating a tentative sense of identity that will help her and her children survive and make it out of such a traumatic environment, even if that meant lying about their true ancestry. However, as the book progresses, this identity begins to flake. After living in the camps for years, the prisoners see their reflections in the mirror, thinking they did not like what they saw: “black hair, yellow skin, slanted eyes. The cruel face of the enemy. We were guilty…” (120). In another instance, This shift in seeing themselves as two different representations shows

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