Summary and Analysis Chapter 15


Chapter 15 is narrated from Fujiko's point of view, chronicling the time she and her daughters spent being transported to and living at Manzanar. Fujiko notices the islanders who watch those of Japanese descent who had not been arrested — namely the women and children — board the ferry, but she refuses to acknowledge them. During the transport, Fujiko refuses to speak of her own discomfort because she tries to model for her daughters what she considers to be appropriate behavior.

This chapter describes the treatment of Japanese-Americans at Manzanar. Again, specific details — like having to wash in a trough but being given no soap — make the scene come alive. Living conditions at best are difficult, but the inhabitants don't complain too much; they survive the best that they can.

Fujiko intercepts and reads Ishmael's letter to Hatsue. Fujiko, understandably upset, forces herself to "behave with dignity" as she confronts her daughter. Fujiko claims Hatsue has been deceiving both her mother and herself. Much of Fujiko's rage stems from the fact that thoughts of romance are not a part of Fujiko's own life. She, herself, was deceived with her arranged marriage. Fujiko ended up learning to live with her husband, and "she found that she had learned to love him, if love was the proper word to use, and it occurred to her then . . . that love was nothing close to what she'd imagined. . . . It was less dramatic and far more practical than her girlhood had led her to believe." Thus, Fujiko's marriage is a result of her conscious decision to stay married to Hisao — not out of any sort of romantic love.

In an effort to help her daughter and herself bring closure to the interracial relationship, Fujiko writes a letter to Ishmael's parents. After Hatsue reads the letter, her mother allows her to write her own instead. Later, Fujiko invites Kabuo to stay for tea after he brings a chest of drawers to their room. Soon he asks Hatsue to go for a walk. A few months later, Hatsue agrees to see Kabuo because she can't "grieve over Ishmael Chambers until the end of her days." Hatsue is grieving over the loss of a relationship or the loss of Ishmael, or perhaps a little of both. As she gets to know Kabuo, she realizes that she admires him and that they both have similar dreams; however, during their first kiss, she remembers Ishmael.

Guterson uses this chapter to interweave character and plot development with social commentary. Many Americans know little, if anything, about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Oftentimes, people who are outraged about the concentration camps in Germany never condemn the atrocities committed against Americans by Americans during the same war. Guterson's style enables him to expose readers to the difficulties experienced by those in the camp without having to be didactic or preachy. A detailed description about the conditions of Manzanar provide all the commentary Guterson needs to illustrate his point of view. This chapter also effectively portrays the difficulties of being a Japanese woman living in an American culture, a difficulty that is passed from generation to generation.


typhoid a bacterial infection resulting in severe intestinal disturbances and rose-red spots on the chest and abdomen.

giri doing what is expected or required, without emotion or response.

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