Based on the experience of Japanese immigrants described in The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, what do you think the American Dream represented for them, and was it attainable?

Expert Answers
kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Julie Ostuka's Buddha in the Attic is a heart-wrenching novel-- part memoir, part historical fiction-- that describes the kind of experiences faced by Japanese immigrants in America during the first half of the 20th century. Many who came to the United States had hopes of a better life, and had even been promised such. Picture brides, women who came to the United States for marriage, had been promised lives of comfort, respectable husbands, and beautiful homes. These women left their homes and families in Japan, where they most often worked as farmers, to find themselves isolated and farming yet again. 

While the book focuses on a narrative of Japanese women and their struggles in the United States, there is insight into the dynamic of families and children, as well. Many people who came to the United States had children who rejected their heritage in favor of American culture. Assimilation is a source of shame for many immigrants, especially in the second generation. The Japanese people who came to the United States suffered doubly-- first the struggle of leaving behind their "old life," and then the arrival to the United States, where they are marked as the enemy! With the beginnings of World War II, the Japanese people were forced to give up the homes, businesses, and lives they had fought to build, and were relocated to internment camps. 

For Japanese immigrants in the first part of the 20th century, the American Dream was all but attainable. These people were promised, implicitly and explicitly, a better life. The United States were touted, world 'round, as a better place where people could have opportunity and freedom. Unfortunately, this was not true for everyone. Chasing the American Dream presented obstacles for many Japanese immigrants, and every success required sacrifice.  I think that the idea of the American Dream is an intensely personal one. Life in the United States must have held different dreams and promises for everyone who traveled there. I imagine that some descendants of these Japanese immigrants have only achieved their American Dream very recently. 

Read the study guide:
The Buddha in the Attic

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question