What is the importance of the issue of motherhood in Kogawa's "Obasan"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Obasan" means "Aunt" in Japanese. Motherhood is represented by the titular character of Aya, and the significance of it is shown in the impact of Aya on the main character, Naomi Nakane. Aya is a stoic aunt to Naomi, yet it is clear that she loves her after all. Despite Aya's silent nature, her actions more than demonstrate her love and concern for Naomi. This is demonstrated when it is revealed that Aya hid the truth about Naomi's mother's disfigurement (resulting from the bombs that struck Pearl Harbor). Naomi realizes that Aya was trying to protect her from knowing the truth because of her motherly love; she didn't want Naomi to be hurt. Aya also demonstrates her love for both Naomi and Stephen, most notably when she shoulders the burden of caring for two orphaned children when their parents disappear. She feeds them, clothes them, and gives them a place to live. Therefore, the importance of motherhood is shown in the character of Aya, whose motherly love touches Naomi.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Motherhood is a very important theme of Obasan, which can be seen throughout the book. Perhaps the most obvious and important example of this is in the character of Mother, who is the symbol of motherhood and mother-culture. She survived the horrible events of Nagasaki only to continue, even expand, her mothering nature.

The author is saying that motherhood is a powerful force in the world that helps to define all people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial