What did the trees symbolize for Jeanne in Farewell to Manzanar?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Manzanar is located in the Owens Valley; the area was once green with orchards and alfalfa fields.

When the family is relocated to Block 28 at Manzanar in the spring of 1943, Jeanne notices that there are still some apple and pear trees there. She tells us that the trees stand in her memory for the turning around of her family's fortunes and that their lives changed 'from the outrageous to the tolerable' there. The trees come to symbolize new hope and new beginnings for Jeanne and her family.

Her father prunes and tends to the trees. That first summer, Jeanne and her family pick the fruits green and store it in a makeshift cellar dug by Jeanne's father beneath their barracks. In Block 28, the family finds their living space doubled. They now have ceilings above their heads and linoleum floors. Jeanne also relates that the authorities eventually give the families permission to take their recreation outside the fencing area. Jeanne's father takes the opportunity to hike along the creeks.

From his excursions, Jeanne's father brings back chunks of driftwood to carve into furniture for his family. The residents of the camp are also allowed to create beautiful gardens; Jeanne tells us that vegetable, flower, cactus, and rock gardens crop up all over Manzanar.  In due time, the vegetable gardens provide plenty of food for the mess halls. Manzanar eventually becomes a quintessential American town, complete with shops, schools, churches, beauty parlors, tennis courts, fire departments, and police departments. Jeanne tells us that, in this way, the Japanese learned to create their own normalcy and hope amidst the uncertainties of war and conflict.

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