So Far from the Bamboo Grove

by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

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Student Question

What was Ko doing in the park in So Far From the Bamboo Grove?

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This section of the novel marks a significant development and growth in maturity of the narrator, as she moves from thinking that her sister is bossy and controlling after her mother's death to recognising how sacrifical she is and how much she loves her and is willing to put aside her own comfort for the benefit of her younger sister, the rather naive narrator. In the park, the narrator discovers how Ko is going to earn money for some New Year treats so that they can celebrate the start of the New Year with some traditional foods:

Suddenly I saw Ko. She sat on the cold ground polishing a man's shoes. I froze. I realised then that with this idea she had been feeding me. And now I was sure she wanted to get some traditional foods, perhaps fluffy rice cakes, to welcome the brand-new year.

Ko therefore was doing what she had to do in order to survie and to help her sister survive. The narrator suddenly realises that her elder sister is not being bossy and annoying for her own benefit, but she is doing what she has to do in order for them both to be able to buy food. Even though this involves her doing such a demeaning job, she does not allow her pride to prevent her from doing what she has to. The narrator grows up significantly as a result, and feels very differently about her sister.

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