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Papa, one of the most complex characters in Farewell
to Manzanar, is the only character besides Jeanne whose
development we see from beginning to end. Wakatsuki uses the character
of Papa to explore one of the principal themes of her work: the
danger of judging an individual by ethnicity alone. Jeanne’s own
story addresses this theme as well, but Papa’s experiences give
us a different and more tragic view of its significance. Jeanne
is Japanese by heritage but American by birth, so she really belongs
to both Japan and America. Papa, on the other hand, chose to leave
his homeland to become a noncitizen in the United States, so in
a sense, he belongs nowhere. He has virtually ceased to exist in
Japan, where his family buried his memory nine years after his departure.
On the other hand, as a noncitizen in the United States he is one
of the lowest people in the social order. The only things he has
to hold on to are his family, business, house, and pride in having
made something of himself in the United States despite the odds
stacked against him. His imprisonment, together with the charge
of disloyalty leveled at him at Fort Lincoln, strips him of his
possessions, tears his family apart, and worst of all, turns his
pride into bitterness and anger. He is a tragic figure,
and one of the reasons that Wakatsuki rarely places blame in her
memoir is that she prefers to discuss the injustice of the internment
by showing the extent to which it destroyed the loving man that
was once her father.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Farewell to Manzanar!