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Obasan And Poh Poh Essay

1766 words - 7 pages

Oftentimes when reading fictional texts with similar themes, readers will find themselves encountering similar characters. In the realm of modern literature, elderly Asian women are often portrayed with many similarities; they are seen as protective, caring people who possess great wisdom. Ayako Nakane, also known as Obasan, the title character of Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, and the character Poh-Poh in Wayson Choy’s novel The Jade Peony, are very similar in this regard. Both Obasan and Poh-Poh drive forwards their respective narratives with their strong personalities. They have each suffered through troublesome pasts and as a result have become very wise. Obasan and Poh-Poh share many similarities but they also have their differences. Both women are very compassionate and do not hesitate to care for and protect their loved ones, however, the ways in which they interact with their loved ones are very different. Obasan is a very gentle and passive woman who takes on the role of a mother for the children in her care. Poh-Poh, on the other hand, is very forward and harsh, and acts as more of a guardian and mentor than a mother figure. While Kogawa’s Obasan and Choy’s Poh-Poh may seem very similar, they are in fact quite different.
In Kogawa’s novel, the title character Obasan can be described as having a forceful personality. She is not forceful in the sense that she imposes her will upon others, but rather she stands at the center of the narrative, making it all possible. Obasan is undoubtedly a quiet woman, so it is her actions rather than her words which make her presence so prevalent; she is more of an attitude than a person and she personifies the strength that can be found in silence. As a young woman, she is quiet. As an elderly woman, her silence increases because she is hard of hearing and she deliberately uses silence to guard her from the world. Even when her husband passes away, she does not break down into hysteria; she grieves quietly: “The language of her grief is silence... Over the years, silence within her small body has grown large and powerful” (Kogawa, 14). Despite her lack of words, Obasan is a source of love and steadfast support for her niece Naomi and her nephew Stephen. When their parents disappear, Obasan steps in, never hesitating to bear the weight of caring for the abandoned children. She feeds them, clothes them, and ensures their well-being under impossible circumstances. Her commitment to them never falters, even when they neglect her. Stephen repeatedly treats Obasan with impatience and rudeness. Regardless, Obasan constantly puts the needs of others before her own. Her actions are aimed at making the people around her happy. Obasan does everything in her power to ensure that her niece and nephew find a place for themselves in the world and Naomi takes comfort in her gentleness and dependability. Despite her silence, Obasan is a focal point of the narrative and at the center of the main character Naomi’s life.
In Wayson...

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