The memoir Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and the poem “Farewell” by Emma Rodrigues both give insight about the lives of the internees in the Japanese internment camps that took place in America from 1942 to 1945. Farewell to Manzanar is a narrative told from Jeanne’s point of view and she describes her life that involves her being forced to live in Manzanar and deal with many hardships, but also good experiences that impact her life. The poem is also told in first person from the speaker and she describes that Manzanar is a hard place to adapt to, and it is the place where she lost her innocence. Jeanne and the speaker both respond to the conflicts of being taken away from their homes and having their freedoms stripped away from them.
The struggle of Jeanne and the speaker being forced to move to a new place causes Jeanne to respond by creating connections with new people and the speaker to respond by having nostalgia. In Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne and her family moving to Manzanar is a problem because it is a situation that they are unfamiliar with and therefore they must adapt to. The conflict causes her and her mom to grow apart. Jeanne explains that when she loses the responsiveness from her mother she begins “to look elsewhere for attention and thus took the first steps out of [her] child’s realm toward a world of grownups other than [her] parents” (40). Jeanne responds to the problem by creating new connections outside of her family. She becomes friendly with the Maryknoll nuns who introduce her to Christianity, and she makes a very important connection with strict her fourth-grade teacher who she admires because she impacted her life and prepared for a world outside of Manzanar. She forms these relationships which successfully makes Manzanar a more livable place and allows it to become her new home. The poem also portrays this conflict and it is demonstrated by the speaker opening the poem by describing that Manzanar is not a place that she is used to. She reminisces about the home and her life left behind and she remembers the “soft days of living/before the camps/and the whooshing of the waves/ the smell of salt in the air” (1-4). The speaker responds to the struggle of being taken out of her home through nostalgia. She uses the memory of the past home such as the ocean and fresh air to cope with the hardships that Manzanar brought her and it serves as a connection to a time in her life when she was stable, comfortable, and when her life was enjoyable.
Jeanne responds to the conflict of her freedoms being taken away by and embracing Manzanar and creating a world within it, and the speaker responds to the same conflict by accepting the situation as a part of her past. Jeanne is trapped at Manzanar for months and it is still not able to leave. Her freedoms are stripped, but she does not let that stop her. Manzanar improves immensely, by adding schools, gardens, and clubs, and Jeanne describes that “In such a narrowed world, in order to survive, you learn to contain your rage and your despair, and you try to re-create, as well as you can, your normality, some sense of continuing” (100). Jeanne is still enclosed within this barrier and she does not have the freedom to leave, but in response she adapts to Manzanar and embraces all the opportunities it has to offer. She does not complain and she does not fight, but instead, she re-creates the world on the outside. She forms new relationships, joins clubs, goes to school, and even develops a hobby of baton twirling.
Embracing Manzanar allows her to make the most of what is offered to her and let the experience have a positive impact on her life. Furthermore, in the poem, the speaker introduces the conflict by explaining how the government discriminates against the Japanese. The simple life she lives is ruined because others feared her because of her race. The speaker explains that her freedoms are “taken and disregarded by those who govern our home/ But my past is over, nothing to be done” (13-14). The way that the speaker responds to the conflict of having her freedoms being taken is by having the shikata ga nai mindset which is a motif illustrated through the memoir and poem and it is a mindset the Japanese people have. It means that nothing can be done, and therefore it allows them to make the most of their experiences instead of protesting them. The speaker uses this to accept the injustice people have against her and that her freedom being taken is a situation that cannot be changed, therefore she does not dwell on it.
In conclusion, both Farewell to Manzanar and the poem “Farewell” demonstrate how Jeanne and the speaker respond to the conflicts of being taken away from their homes and their freedom being removed from them. The memoir illustrates the conflicts by providing other major characters other than the narrator and having these characters experience these hardships as well. The poem portrays the speaker as being the only main character without her having a detailed or in-depth connection with anyone. Similarly, to Japanese internment camps, during World War II people that lived in European countries, were also discriminated against and forced to be put into concentration camps based on their religion, sexuality, race, or if they were disabled. This horrible event caused millions of people to die and both atrocities inform people that prejudice is immoral and could lead to horrible tragedies if not stopped.
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