Quotes on the theme of silence are:
"The language of her grief is silence...Over the years, silence within her small body has grown large and powerful" (P. 17, middle of Ch. 3).
In Japanese culture, grief is expected to be borne without complaint. This is one of the reasons why the Japanese in Canada were so compliant with the order for their relocation. Obasan exemplifies this tradition, drawing dignity and power from quiet endurance.
"The memories were drowned in a whirlpool of protective silence. Everywhere I could hear the adults whispering, 'Kodomo no tame. For the sake of the children'" (p. 26, last pg. of Ch. 4).
The Japanese believed children should be sheltered from the traumas of life, so in the face of war the adults suffered in silence so as not to upset the children. This philosophy is carried to the extreme by Naomi's mother, who, horribly disfigured by the atom bomb, chose to let her children believe she was dead rather than have them see the terrible truth.
"...I know it's the children who say nothing who are in trouble more than the ones who complain" (p. 41, first half of Ch. 7).
In the same way that she recognizes inarticulateness as a problem in her students, Naomi finds that the silence so prevalent in her heritage causes difficulties for herself. She is tortured by the secret of her childhood molestation, and haunted by not knowing her mother's fate.