Farewell to Manzanar

by: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Stones

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.

Jeanne’s Dream

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.