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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Stones appear throughout Farewell to Manzanar as
symbols of Japanese endurance. The Japanese national anthem, Kimi
ga yo, which Papa sings after getting in a fight, establishes
the image of stones that remain unchanged throughout the ages as
well as the layers of thick moss that make the stones look bigger
than they are. This image suggests that the Japanese ability to
endure the trials of Manzanar could actually lead to growth. It
is not easy for Jeanne to bear ethnic prejudice, but her endurance
enables her to see past the prejudice and discover her identity.
Stones also represent solace and rest. For example, the Issei men
gather small stones to create tranquil rock gardens, and Papa gazes
at the massive Sierra Nevada mountains to escape his thoughts. These
rocks remain even when Jeanne returns to the camp nearly thirty
years later. The endurance of the rock gardens and the concrete
foundations suggest that the camp will continue to exist through
the experiences of those who inhabited it.
The blonde prom queen of Jeanne’s dream symbolizes Jeanne’s American
standards of beauty as a young girl as well as her desire to be
accepted and admired by her peers. However, the window through which
Jeanne watches the girl symbolizes the barrier of ethnic prejudice
that lets her see her goal but never achieve it. As Jeanne fights
against more and more prejudice over time, this dream comes to symbolize
the hopelessness she feels at being excluded from the social world
open to her white friend Radine. That the dream persists even
after her prom queen dreams are long behind her suggests that Jeanne
has not entirely found what she is looking for and that ethnic prejudice
still stands in the way of what she wants to achieve in life.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Farewell to Manzanar!