Farewell to Manzanar

by: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Chapter 22

The visit to Manzanar is a way for Wakatsuki to reclaim what she lost when her family fell apart in the camp. In her stroll through the ruins and through her memories, she searches for signs of her family and Papa, both of which the camp destroyed, in order to restore her memory of what was good in them. The sign she finally finds is a memory of Papa’s final proud and defiant ride through camp in his car. Like Woody, Jeanne comes to understand through a memory of Papa that his stubborn pride was really just a corrupted version of the flourish that had always been his greatest strength. His flourish is what she remembers most about him before the evacuation, so it is appropriate that she returns to Manzanar, where this dignity was lost, to reclaim her family’s pride. For Jeanne, coming to terms with Manzanar means coming to terms with what it took from her and those she loved.

Wakatsuki’s memoir focuses on the endurance of memory rather than on the ability to leave experiences behind. Though the title Farewell to Manzanar implies that Wakatsuki uses the act of writing this memoir to leave the camp behind, the final scene illustrates that the time she spent in the camp will always remain with her. Wakatsuki ends the book not with a description of her life after her time at Manzanar but with a reminiscence from her camp days. In this section, she uses stones to exemplify this endurance of memory and experience. Some of the few physical reminders of the camp’s existence, the precisely placed stones and concrete slabs, act as a testament to Wakatsuki that the events at Manzanar actually occurred. Like the stones, Wakatsuki’s memories persist over time. She cannot simply bid the camp farewell and forget about her time there, because her experiences there helped shaped who she is.