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Obasan

Characters

Aunt Emily

Characters Aunt Emily

Aunt Emily is a smart, energetic woman who campaigns relentlessly on behalf of Japanese Canadians. She insists on the importance of facing up to the past, of talking about it, analyzing it, protesting it, and understanding it. All of her conference-attending, letter-writing, and data-compiling is founded on the idea that only by understanding the past can we expunge our anger over former mistakes and thereby prevent ourselves and others from repeating them. A passionate woman, she cares deeply about her family members and their happiness. Her intelligence is admirable, as is her engagement with the world she lives in. Still, her obsession with chronicling the past, and her efforts at advocacy, are treated with deep ambivalence. Emily witnessed plenty of appalling sights during the war, but there is some suggestion that she wasn’t in the trenches with Obasan and Uncle, or Father and Mother, and doesn’t quite grasp how painful it is for other people to remember their wartime experiences. To that end, Naomi remains skeptical about Aunt Emily’s constant flurry of letters and petitions. Aunt Emily is a whirlwind of energy, but it is never clear that her efforts make more of an impact than does, for example, Obasan’s deeply quiet and concentrated focus on her immediate family members.