Ichiro Out of Lockup but Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

The impossibility of his situation is made poignant through characters like Eto Minato, a soldier who said "Yes" to service in the U.S. Armed Forces; Bull, another veteran of WWII; and Taro, Ichiro's own brother. The fact of Ichiro receiving bitter verbal and physical assaults on his body and his identity indicates an important point in Okada's book: these individuals have whole-heartedly accepted the twisted social standards established by the dominant Caucasian society.

If your cultural brethren, other Japanese-Americans you own age, have bought into the racism of the white society, and have begun to practice that hatefulness and bigotry, there is nowhere to hide and no shelter is available. Again, it's impossible now for Ichiro to obtain membership in any particular society. His mother is of no help to his crisis because she is a fanatic Japanese patriot, clinging to the pathetic notion that the Japanese had won the war.

The barroom attackers have their own fears; their fears are symptoms of the fact that on one level they cannot dislodge themselves from Ichiro because of their shared racial and ethnic heritage. That bothers them a lot. On another level, the attackers' fears lead them to rely on racist slang against their own Japanese-American culture, the same bigoted, mean-spirited racism which members of the European-American culture perpetrate against them. They are left with the fear that they too will be scarred forever by events beyond their control, and the ability to lash out at others like Ichiro, who made a decision and paid the price (he thought) with two years of his life behind bars.

Ichiro on page 76 is drunk, but he is willing to dump his only friend at the bar, the war-injured Kenji, because he feels so isolated, so wholly without substance and identity, and he wants to make a strong point out of his non-person status. "Son-of-bitches. That's what they are, all of them," Ichiro tells Kenji at the bar, responding to the meanness he sees in the eyes of the other Nisei in the place.

To Ichiro, they all are son-of-bitches except himself; he says, "Me, I'm not even a son of a bitch. I'm nobody, nothing. Just plain nothing" (76). Ichiro takes this lack of belongingness to another level by offering to walk out of Kenji's life. "Best thing I can do for you. Forget you, that's what," Ichiro asserts to his friend (76). After all, if you are the most hated person in the bar, you are doing your friend a favor by leaving so that friend can't possible be identified with you.

In fact the bigoted hateful rhetoric has the effect of reducing Ichiro from his humanity as a living breathing man to "it"; "Does it talk?" "Talks Jap I bet." "It doesn't look very happy." (78-79). Woven into the dialogue's hatefulness there is irony: "That's a Jap, fellas," one of the Nisei blurts out. "It's got legs…and arms too. Just like us" (78). And through all this, Ichiro agrees to follow his brother out of the bar, carrying with him the haze of alcohol saturation and "…a heavy, brooding madness" (78). Madness is indeed a pivotal theme in this novel, reflecting the insanity that war creates and embraces.

In any story whether fiction or non-fiction, when one brother joins a mindless gang of raging racists to launch a physical attack on another brother, readers receive a reality slap in the face. How did this family reach this point of bitterness? A brother does not as a rule of thumb join up with a hateful group of hostile punks to attack his older brother. Unless something terrible has gone wrong, like jealousy over a girlfriend, or money owed and not paid, brothers stand together in ethnicity and familiarity. But order #9066 changed all that. With the motion of his signature on a printed document, the president of the United States sent a sense of belonging rocketing out into space. He sent brother against brother in the name of patriotism and nationalism. He created a situation for a man named Ichiro that was impossible to wriggle out…

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