Joy Kogawa American Literature Analysis
Kogawa’s bicultural identity shows in her use of both Asian and Christian religious themes. As she explores the powers of good and evil and the daily human choices that can create both, she returns to her Buddhist roots coupled with a Daoist worldview. The power of love, mercy, and prayer is available to all her characters. Kogawa portrays the Japanese Canadian experience and their community in Obasan (“Aunt”) and its sequel Itsuka (“Some Day”). The fictional Naomi Nakane’s experience from childhood to middle age parallels Kogawa’s life. In addition, in The Rain Ascends she explores the predation of an Anglican priest who molests boys.
Christianity in Kogawa’s novels tends to operate on the surface of her novels, often identifying power figures. The Anglican priest from the good Vancouver days, Reverend Nakayama, tends his scattered flock by visiting his parishioners in the dispersed communities at important junctions of their personal and communal lives. He becomes almost a mythic figure, as does Reverend Charles Barnabas Shelby in The Rain Ascends; this Anglican clergyman is seen as mythic by his daughter even in middle age, until she begins to see more clearly.
However, it is Buddhist principles that deeply guide and change characters. Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, inspires the narrator Millicent Shelby to help her father uncover his crimes and helps Millicent to see her...
(The entire section is 2158 words.)
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