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Obasan: A Never Ending Past Essay

1205 words - 5 pages

In life, people live in moments that later become great memories that they look back at and smile about. At the same time, people also experiences memories of undergoing hardships and unfortunate events that may cause them distress and trauma. In Joy Kogawa's novel about a family of Japanese Canadians, Obasan, it is seen that traumatizing experiences that one faces can carry a burden on them for the remainder of their lifetime. This is conveyed through internal conflicts faced by various characters in the story, the style the story is written in, and the setting the story takes place in.
Kogawa conveys that past events can impact an individual's life due to the traumatizing memories and cause them to feel conflicted. For instance, Naomi, one of the main characters, was molested by Old Man Gower, a family friend of hers. When she recalls the vivid images of Old Man Gower handling her and sexually abusing her, she claims that it was "unthinkable to be held by [such] force" (67-68). Here, Naomi cannot even bear the thought of being suppressed in the hands of Old Man Gower when she looks back at the painful memories. It is clear that the sexual violence that was inflicted against her long ago as a child still has an impact on her to the present day and causes her emotional distress just by thinking about it. Furthermore, Naomi experiences frequent nightmares of Old Man Gower sexually harassing her, contributing to her already unstable emotions and fear. She describes one of the nightmares: "The room is dark, the blinds drawn almost to the bottom. I am unfamiliar with such darkness. The bed is strange and pristine, deathly in its untouched splendor" (68). Evidently, Naomi is victimized by the horrific memories of Old Man Gower sexually abusing her and is terrorized by them in her sleep. The description she gives of the nightmares proves that she is absolutely horrified by them and feels uncomfortable just by being in the mental environment of Old Man Gower's bedroom. Considering these events where Naomi recalls her unfortunate events in her past, it is beyond doubt that traumatizing memories of the past can cause a person to feel conflicted with them self later on in the future.
Moreover, the internal conflict faced by Obasan, another main character in the story, further proves how one's past and the unfortunate events faced by them in it can have a negative effect on them for the remainder of their lifetime. Situated in the present, Obasan, who is also Naomi's grandmother, mourns the death of Naomi's mother and father who died during the bombing of Nagasaki and begins to pray. According to the story, "Obasan's eyes are closed as she continues kneeling on the bed, her head bowed. Her lips move imperceptibly as she breathes her prayers" (270). Here, it is evident by the behavior of Obasan and the way she is reacting to the memories of her loved ones passing away through such unfortunate means, that she is greatly impacted by them. She prays...

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