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Obasan

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Obasan

author Joy Kogawa

type of work Novel

genre Historical fiction

language English

time and place written Toronto, Canada, 1981

date of first publication 1981

publisher Anchor

narrator Naomi Nakane

point of view First person

tone Elegiac, lyrical, impassioned

tense Present

setting (time) 1972 and World War II

setting (place) Canada

protagonist Naomi Nakane

major conflict Naomi struggles to come to grips with her painful past.

rising action Naomi’s Uncle dies, precipitating a series of recollections.

climax Naomi discovers what happened to her mother.

falling action Naomi returns to the coulee.

themes The benefits of silence; the dubious necessity of remembering; the difficulty of balancing cultures

motifs Red; military men; the sea

symbols Obasan’s house; spiders

foreshadowing The spiders that scuttle around in the attic foreshadow the onslaught of Naomi’s memories; Naomi’s throwaway phrase “slow can go” foreshadows Rough Lock’s tale; the death of the chicks foreshadows the sexual abuse Naomi suffers.