Julie Otsuka's When The Emperor Was Divine

Words: 765
Pages: 4

During World War II, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in internment camps because of their race and cultural background. In these internment camps, they were stripped of their identity. After they were released, they could never go back to the life they once had. When the Emperor was Divine, written by Julie Otsuka, tells the tale of a family that was forced to live in one of these internment camps for years. This book shows the struggles and changes that both the children and parents faced, trying to survive in a country that was once their own, but has now labeled them “enemy aliens”. When the Emperor was Divine illustrates how xenophobia can poison society, destroying people’s lives, with the use of literary devices, imagery and symbolism, and its particular writing style. One way that the author demonstrates this theme is by use of the literary device of imagery. When the father comes home, the author describes him as a defeated man, aged from the years in a detention camp. He became, “a small stooped man […] his head was bare. He moved slowly, carefully, with the aid of a cane, a cane we had never seen before. He wore bright white …show more content…
The girl has begun to delve into her teenage years, “[leaving] the barracks early in the morning and [not] return[ing] until long after dark. […] [smoking] cigarettes,” (Otsuka, 92). It can be seen that the environment of the internment camp has changed her. Physically, her chances of getting lung cancer are significant to her mortality predictions, while mentally, she can never go back to living like a normal teenager, free from all the troubles of the world. From this scene, it is made clear that the girl has become a different person in the internment camps, as she has turned to drugs as an escape for the mental punishment that the internment camp