The main theme of Graham Salisbury’s novel Eyes of the Emperor is arguably a very simple one: each person deserves to be treated as an individual and each person also deserves to be treated with respect (unless s/he has behaved in a way that merits denial of such respect). This theme is implied in the novel in a number of different ways, including the following:
- Eddy’s father has expectations about what he wants his son to do with his life. He ostracizes his son when his son has other plans. Eddy’s father does not, at first, treat Eddy as an individual or show him respect.
- Eddy’s father suffers from what seems to be a racially motivated attack – an attack that destroys a boat on which he has been working. The attackers treat Eddy’s father as a member of a group rather than an innocent individual who has done nothing wrong and who therefore deserves respect.
- Many Japanese Americans in the novel are rounded up and confined to internment camps, even though they have done nothing wrong. This is another example of the ways people are often treated as members of groups rather than as individuals.
- Because Eddy and his friends are Japanese Americans, they are chosen for an experiment which presumes that Japanese people emit different odors than European Americans. In other words, they are treated as members of a group and are not treated with the individual respect they deserve.
- At the end of the book, Eddy and his friends have earned respect for their individual courage, patriotism, and loyalty. As one of their officers comments near the end of the novel,
"You've proved your worth and your loyalty ten times over...even in the minds of your most stalwart critics."