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Obasan

Joy Kogawa

Contents

Chapters 31–34

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 31

In Granton, Naomi often went to the swamp to hang out. One evening Stephen came along on his bicycle. She showed him a frog with a broken leg, and he told her to come home. She brought the frog with her, imagining that it might be a prince. Nakayama-sensei was at the house. Naomi says she doesn’t remember when she was told, though at this point in the narrative, we’re not sure what Naomi is referring to. She remembers going outside, gathering water and mud, and making a home for the frog in a glass bowl. She feeds the frog for weeks, until its leg heals and it escapes.

Summary: Chapter 32

In 1951, the family moved to a house in town. Stephen worked on a cantata for a school production. Penny Barker, the daughter of the farmers for whom Naomi’s family worked, came to their house, probably to petition Stephen for a part, and Naomi told her that her father was dead. As soon as she said the words aloud, she felt sick.

Stephen said that Mother and Grandma must be dead, too. Aunt Emily had written hundreds of letters trying to find them, with no success. However, two letters in the package Emily sends to Obasan’s house in the present day concern a request for Mother’s readmission to Canada, which suggests that the sisters had been in contact.

Summary: Chapter 33

After high school, Stephen went to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. There, he won a prize for a piano competition and toured Europe. He also spent time with Aunt Emily, whom Naomi hadn’t seen in twelve years at that point. When he came home to Granton from school, he was surly and quiet. He sometimes refused to eat Obasan’s food. During one of Stephen’s summer breaks, Aunt Emily came for a visit. She was warm to Naomi, but didn’t smile when she greeted Obasan. One night, Naomi hears the adults whispering about whether or not to tell the children something. Obasan prays, and Aunt Emily cries.

Summary: Chapter 34

The cardboard folder Aunt Emily had on that mysterious night is included in her package. Earlier that day, Naomi had seen Obasan reading its contents with a magnifying glass.

Mr. Barker, the family’s former employer, comes over with his second wife, Vivian, to say he’s sorry for Obasan’s loss. Vivian reminds Naomi of the first Mrs. Barker, who didn’t want her daughter Penny playing with Stephen and Naomi. Through Vivian’s eyes, Naomi sees how cluttered and unappealing the house is. Mr. Baker asks after Stephen, but Naomi hasn’t seen him in eight years. The last time he came home, he brought a divorcée from Paris with him.

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