Racism in Society, an essay on "Obasan" written by Joy Kogawa.

Essay by mark_vi_A, February 2003

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The issue of racial conflict has caused great controversy for many centuries. Conflict which is incited by racism is often thought to be the worst of all conflicts because it is unfounded and based on utterly false beliefs. In society today, there are many racist people who put down and almost ostracize the people of another community. In Joy Kogawa's novel, Obasan, the issue of racism is discussed through the various letters kept by Obasan which in turn provides a first-hand look at was done to Naomi's family. In Obasan, there are many instances where the Joy Kogawa uses images of animals, such as insects, kittens and especially chickens to support a general theme of dehumanization. Also these animals always seem to correspond to human beings, whether they are generalized groups or individual characters. In other words, it is very apparent to see the foreshadowing of the story and also the close connection between the animals in the story and the human condition of the story, through the use of these vivid images of the animals.

At the very beginning of the novel, when Obasan and Naomi are

rummaging through the attic and getting reminded about all of the memories, they come across a family of spiders. These spiders are described as being "round black blots, large as a cat's eye" (24) and in a sense, disgusting enough to send shivers down any persons' spine. This description of the black and creepy spiders is a foreshadowing of all of the memories that Obasan and Naomi have, as the memories and the plot itself is quite dark and horrific. There are many "large and black" memories that Naomi has such as the death of her mother and the incident in Old Man Gower's bathroom. However, it is possible to...