Farewell to Manzanar By Jeanne W. Houston and James D. Houston Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapters 15-17

Summary

Relaxation of anti-Japanese government policies allows more people to leave Manzanar. With only 6,000 remaining at the end of 1944, the leaving of Eleanor, Shig, and the baby, as well as Woody's conscription into the army in August, creates gaps in Jeanne's family. Two plaintiffs — Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu — fail to force the government to rescind racist laws. Pressed by a third, Mitsue Endo, a successful challenge to racial exclusion results in a landmark decision from the high court: "The government cannot detain loyal citizens against their will." Within twelve months, detainment ceases and detainees begin to return to their homes as the Western Defense Command begins to close internment camps.

Release brings mixed feelings. With no home to return to, the Wakatsukis are ambivalent about their new freedom to live again among racists whose "wartime propaganda — racist headlines, atrocity movies, hate slogans, and fright-mask posters — had turned the Japanese face into something despicable and grotesque." The imminent departure, freighted with the humiliation of three years of unjust confinement, puts Jeanne in touch with an indefinable ache which she terms "the foretaste of being hated." Rather than confront California-style racism, Jeanne's older sisters and brothers choose to move east to New Jersey.

Ko, of a different generation, continues to think of the West Coast as his home and, as diffident as a slave freed during the Civil War, sticks to the old way of life "out of habit or lethargy or fear." Since he can no longer hold a commercial fishing license and his boats and nets have been either confiscated, repossessed, or stolen, he chooses to let the government reinstate him in public life and commerce. At the hospital, Mama observes rampant psychosomatic aches and pains among internees, indicative of insecurity and hesitancy to leave Manzanar. To ease tightness in Mama's back, Jeanne momos (massages) the knotted muscles.

Meanwhile, Ko, in response to a need for housing, proposes a cooperative through which Japanese men will build a housing project in which to settle internees. The departure date looms as summer ends. In August, an atomic bomb incinerates Hiroshima.

By now, the once tightly knit Wakatuski family has, like the camp, deteriorated. Woody is in the army at Fort Douglas, Utah; Eleanor lives in Reno; her husband is stationed in Germany with the occupation troops; Bill and Martha and Frances and Lillian are living in New Jersey; and Ray is now in the Coast Guard, the only service that would take him at the age of seventeen.

In early October, the remaining Wakatsukis can no longer postpone departure.

Analysis

The paradox of internment stands out in bold relief as the days of internment draw to a close. The victims of unjust detainment are understandably reluctant to return to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, cities where they once lived in peace. With racist groups like No Japs Incorporated, Home Front Commandos, and the Pacific Coast Japanese Problem League already preparing a hostile welcome, Asians tended to cling to the artificial security of Manzanar. Long accused of clannishness and refusal to assimilate, Japanese Americans, after three years of living in a "desert ghetto," feared a return to wartime animosities, marked by assaults, arson, and KKK-style nightriders with shotguns.

In a skillful mating of Americana and incongruity, Jeanne notes, "All the truly good things, it often seemed, the things we couldn't get, were outside, and had to be sent for, or shipped in. In this sense, God and the Sears, Roebuck catalogue were pretty much one and the same in my young mind." Intent on testing her faith by challenging God's generosity, she prays devoutly for nine days for apricots, which fail to arrive. No longer assured that a beneficent deity answers prayer, she returns to a faith in Sears, Roebuck and "the outside, where all such good things could be found."

Glossary

Ex Parte Endo the Latin designation of Mitsuo Endo's legal case.

habeas corpus a Latin phrase meaning "let you have the body," a basic concept upon which all other freedoms rest: that American citizens are exempt from illegal or capricious detention or imprisonment.

rescinded struck down.

American Legion a confederation of honorably discharged wartime veterans. Founded in 1919, the group is comprised of more than 3,000,000 members.

The Native Sons of the Golden West a San Francisco-based men's fraternal order founded in 1875 and dedicated to preserving western history and landmarks.

novena a nine-day Catholic devotional requiring intense prayer.

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