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Joy Kogawa


Key Facts

full title ·  Obasan

author · Joy Kogawa

type of work · Novel

genre · Historical fiction

language · English

time and place written · Toronto, Canada, 1981

date of first publication ·  1981

publisher · Anchor

narrator · Naomi Nakane

point of view · First person

tone · Elegiac, lyrical, impassioned

tense · Present

setting (time) ·  1972 and World War II

setting (place) · Canada

protagonist · Naomi Nakane

major conflict · Naomi struggles to come to grips with her painful past.

rising action · Naomi’s Uncle dies, precipitating a series of recollections.

climax · Naomi discovers what happened to her mother.

falling action · Naomi returns to the coulee.

themes · The benefits of silence; the dubious necessity of remembering; the difficulty of balancing cultures

motifs · Red; military men; the sea

symbols · Obasan’s house; spiders

foreshadowing · The spiders that scuttle around in the attic foreshadow the onslaught of Naomi’s memories; Naomi’s throwaway phrase “slow can go” foreshadows Rough Lock’s tale; the death of the chicks foreshadows the sexual abuse Naomi suffers.

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