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Hisaye Yamamoto Morning Rain: Analysis


Hisaye Yamamoto, Author of the Research Paper

Amongst her many works of Hisaye Yamamoto, Seventeen Syllables, and other short stories, is one of the most famous works by Japanese American, Nisei (“Second Generation”) author. With her technique of double-telling, Hisaye Yamamoto’s short stories reveal her perspective on gender roles in Japanese culture and generational conflicts between the Issei and Nisei, as well as her perspective on gender roles in Japanese culture.

Hisaye Yamamoto was born on August 23, 1921 in Redondo Beach, California to immigrant parents. She spent her childhood in an agricultural community where immigrants were not allowed to own land, so her family moved frequently. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were interred in an internment camp in Poston, Arizona for three years. During this time her 19-year-old brother lost his life while fighting in World War II (Matsumoto “Hisaye Yamamoto”). His death inspired Yamamoto’s most renowned work – The Legend of Miss Sasagawara – which tells the story of a woman suffering from mental illness in a US camp. When the war ended, she returned home and began writing shorter pieces that would become part of the Seventeen Syllables collection; due to her having little time to dedicate to writing because of caring for her children (Hong “Author Profile: Hisaye Yamamoto”). Her stories divulged the tribulations encountered by Japanese women before and after WWII. This body of work earned her awards from the Association of Asian American Studies and Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. King-Kok Cheung, a prominent critic said about her:

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Hisaye Yamamoto Analysis Essay

The story Seventeen Syllables focuses on Rosie, a young Nisei girl, and her immigrant mother. It tells of two distinct stories: Rosie’s first experience with love and the traditional ideals that clash between her parents. Moreover, The Brown House is about the complicated relationship between a Japanese family – with a gambling-addicted father – and cultural norms that prevent the mother from leaving him. Morning Rain delves into the day a Nisei daughter learns for the first time her Issei father is going deaf along with language barriers that exist between immigrant parents and their children. Yoneko’s Earthquake follows similar parallel stories; Yoneko, a Nisei daughter, is unaware of conflict surrounding her mother’s affair with Marpo, a Filipino worker, who later impregnates her which leads to her husband forcing an abortion.

Hisaye Yamamoto’s short stories are typically placed in the category of Realistic Fiction. As defined by Carson, this type of literature “contains stories that could actually happen, in a time and setting that is plausible and contains realistic characters” (Carson “What is Realistic Fiction?”). Her characters generally consist of young Nisei women, as well as their Japanese families, who have to grapple with everyday life issues. A vivid example from her work Morning Rain reveals a family sitting down together for breakfast and discussing the day ahead. Another story of hers, The Brown House, includes language indicating a possible argument between a husband with an addiction to gambling and his wife: ‘Now mother…I’ve learned my lesson. I swear this is the last time,’ Mr. Hattori said; ‘Please stop the machine, Mr. Hattori. I don’t want to ride another inch with you,’ Mrs. Hattori replied (Yamamoto “The Brown House” 41). This type of dialogue, which Chen deems “genuine and realistic,” symbolizes how Yamamoto uses Realistic Fiction to accurately show Japanese women’s experiences (Chen “Realistic Fiction”).

King-Kok Cheung, a critical analysis writer, comments on Yamamoto’s style of writing as one that is “disarming” and does not show its “alarming subtexts” on the surface. This is because she was strongly influenced by her own ethnic community which discourages open protests. As a result, she used a technique of double-telling to convey her messages subtly, so they are difficult to spot without prior knowledge. Consequently, Yamamoto included an Introduction at the beginning of Seventeen Syllables and Other Short Stories to provide history and context for her stories. However, Anne Thalheimer argued that this should have been placed at the end instead in order to keep a much-needed element of surprise alive for readers when attempting to understand the inner meanings and secrets behind the stories.

Influenced by Confucianism, which puts much emphasis on family, Japanese women were expected to be confined within the household and to fulfill a subordinate role; they were to take care of cooking, cleaning, housework and children while their husbands were out working. By tradition, their happiness was defined only by marriage, with arranged marriages being commonplace. The effect of this was that women struggled with identity beyond the societal contribution placed upon them (Kincaid “Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan”). There was little opportunity for the expression of hobbies or interests outside the role of wife and mother; it wasn’t until 2002 that men took on an average 30 minutes per day of domestic work (Kincaid “Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan”). Pre-WWII from 1602-1863 women as legal persons did not exist in Japan and even after this period gender equality still had a long way to go. Yamamoto illustrates such societal gender roles in her short stories Seventeen Syllables and The Brown House. In Seventeen Syllables Rosie’s mother’s interest in haiku divides husband and wife into two separate classes – literary vs non-literary – which goes against expectations. Need help with Early Childhood education assignments !!

The Issei were the first wave of Japanese immigrants to arrive in the United States after 1907. They are also referred to as the “First Generation”, while their children, who are born and educated in America, are called the “Second Generation” or Nisei. In Hisaye Yamamoto’s short stories, the Issei are often depicted as parents while the Nisei represent their offspring. This distinction between birthplace and generations results in a deep language barrier between the former and latter group. Narratives by Yamamoto depict said barrier from the standpoint of a daughter with an Issei mother. Her pieces reveal how her mother’s speech is oppressed due to her confined circumstances, leaving her voiceless in a life of seclusion. 17 Syllables features this situation embodied by Rosie: even though she couldn’t understand Japanese properly, she would still agree with her mother to avoid embarrassment; further attempting to conceal this gap from others by explaining her poems anyway. Morning Rain expands on these conflicts through its main character struggling with two men in her life unable to communicate; a situation that greets her with anguish and grief no matter which way she turns. Such obstructed communication can clearly be seen within traditional Japanese-American. Get help with cookery assignments !!

King-Kok Cheung coins the notion of double telling to describe one of Yamamoto’s writing techniques seen in her works Seventeen Syllables, Yoneko’s Earthquake, and The Brown House. This style is characterized by weaving two stories together as if it were a single narrative. A prominent example of this technique is seen in Seventeen Syllables, where Rosie sets out with the intention of meeting Jesus and falling in love but fails to notice the conflict between her Issei parents which is subtly hinted at throughout the story until its conclusion. As Rosie narrates her romantic journey, underlying themes of heartache and sorrow become more distinct. The true drama of the story lies within the adult sphere that Rosie can only observe from afar. Through being kept in ignorance, a suspenseful atmosphere develops due to Yamamoto’s clever use of intertextual silence between parent and child.

With her technique of double-telling supporting her insight into the gender roles in Japanese Culture and the generational conflicts between the Issei and Nisei, she was able to create Realistic Fiction short stories that exposed audiences to the obstacles Japanese women face on a daily basis. Despite the fact that many Japanese women feel silenced today, Hisaye Yamamoto’s writing inspires them to speak up regardless of what they think.