Farewell to Manzanar: Metaphor Analysis
On the eve of Pearl Harbor, Papa burns the Japanese flag. Described as being “such a beautiful piece of material” (6), Papa burns it in anticipation of how it will be perceived by others, mainly the Americans. The flag symbolizes Papa’s political past. Papa, albeit proud of his heritage, burns the flag as a way of symbolizing that his political loyalties are no longer with the country of his birth, Japan.
Much of the emotional suffering that takes place in the text occurs in private, away from the watchful eyes of others. Invisibility serves as a metaphor for the ways in which some of the characters feel and express their emotions. Wakatsuki describes Papa’s tears as “almost invisible in the stove’s white glow” (80). Later, Jeanne wishes that she is invisible so that she doesn’t have to deal with the blatant anti-Japanese discrimination imposed upon her by one of her schoolmates, “From that day on, part of me yearned to be invisible” (142). In both of these instances, invisibility is associated with pain.
The samurai sword serves as a symbol of Papa’s connection to his family’s lineage and as a positive reminder of the richness and pride he has for his Japanese heritage. On numerous occasions, he reminds his family and Jeanne in particular that she comes from a great people. Described as “both their virtue and their burdens” (43), the sword is Papa’s tie to his past. The sword plays prominently in Woody‘s reconnection with his father’s family while serving in Japan. It also serves as a bridge in the reconciliation process between Woody and Papa upon Woody’s return from World War II.