Farewell to Manzanar

by: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

Papa’s life ended at Manzanar.… Until this trip I had not been able to admit that my own life really began there.

Jeanne makes this observation when she sees her eleven-year-old daughter walking through the ruins of Manzanar in Chapter 22, “Ten Thousand Voices.” Manzanar was the most important event of Jeanne’s life, and by tearing her family apart and forcing her to face up to prejudice, it made her start her life from scratch. Manzanar wiped out her fondest memories of prewar family life and made her look at herself in the light of postwar American prejudice. Yet, until now, Jeanne never accepted the important role Manzanar played in shaping her identity and had begun to erase the camp from her memory. Going back to the site brings her experiences back to life; she realizes that despite the difficulties she faced there, her time in Manzanar made her stronger as a person, both during and after the war.

Jeanne contrasts her own experience at Manzanar with Papa’s, whose life, she says, ended there. After Manzanar, Papa’s life becomes such a struggle and is so unfulfilling that it can hardly be called a life, and Jeanne hints that it was Manzanar that weakened him and left him unable to cope with returning. Upon leaving the camp, Papa continues to drink himself to death, remains dependent on Mama and Woody because he is too proud to take a menial job, and desperately clings to empty hopes such as his doomed housing project. He drives a permanent wedge between himself and Jeanne, and ceases to be an important part of Jeanne’s story. Jeanne grows up looking up to Papa, but with the virtual ending of his life in Manzanar, she must begin a new life with a new outlook.