Drastic Effects of War in Otsuka's When the Emperor was Divine

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In times of war society tends to exaggerate national security measures by categorizing foreigners and immigrants as threats. During WWII many families were torn apart just for being Japanese-Americans. The excerpt from Julie Otsuka’s “When the Emperor was Divine” illustrates the traumatic events experienced by a young boy, and how his innocent mind attempts to cope with the painful loss of his father. Through literary techniques such as imagery, symbolism, and diction, Otsuka projects the false hope of a boy yearning to once more feel the presence of his father. Otsuka’s use of imagery allows the reader to experience the pain that the boy is going through. “[He] pressed his fingers into the smooth oval depressions left behind by his …show more content…
The boys’ father was taken away by the FBI in a very demeaning manner; he was striped of his dignity and his family. The fathers many belongings seem to all have a significant meaning to the boy and his father. “The shoes were black Oxfords,” those were shoes that the boys’ father left behind because he never had the chance to put them on. He had to leave with the battered and faded slippers with “the rubber soles curling up at the edges,” something that he had probably never would have done. The shoes symbolized the father’s dignity and success in the business world, without them he seemed like a nobody to the FBI, to them he was another nobody. The boy’s father perhaps knew how much his departure would affect his son so he left “the blue pin-striped suit he had worn on his last Sunday at home.” That suit symbolized who he was and all that he had accomplished; he left this in order for his son to remember him in a dignified and honorable manner. Otsuka’s diction throughout the excerpt opens a window to different levels of understanding, she allows us to comprehend the different emotions that the family is going through. When the FBI tells him “Grab your toothbrush./Come on. Come on. You’re coming with us./We just need to ask you a few questions./Into the car Papa-san.” The fact that they ask the father to grab his toothbrush makes things very

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