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Obasan

Characters

Obasan

Characters Obasan

Naomi’s aunt is the quietest character in the novel, but she is also one of its most forceful personalities. As a young woman, she is almost silent. As an old woman, her silence intensifies because she is nearly deaf and because she intentionally uses wordlessness as a shield against a world in which she doesn’t feel she belongs. Despite the scarcity of her words, Obasan is a source of love and unwavering support for Naomi and Stephen. When their parents disappear, it is Obasan who steps in, selflessly shouldering the burden of caring for the nearly orphaned children. She feeds them, clothes them, and looks after their well-being in impossible circumstances. She is unflaggingly committed to them, even when they neglect her or, as Stephen does repeatedly, treat her impatiently or rudely. According to Naomi, Obasan embodies the Japanese ideal of wagamama: She always thinks of the needs of others. Her every action is geared toward making the people around her comfortable and happy. Despite her silence, Obasan stands at the center of the narrative and of Naomi’s life, making both possible.