Farewell To Manzanar

by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston

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How is Papa's manhood undermined in Farewell To Manzanar?

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I think that one of the most profound elements of the narrative is to show how the effects of internment change any individual.  The forced removal and movement of a group of people at the hands of a government has a tendency to emasculate all of the males of that social group because they are no longer in a position of control.  Prior to the internment, Papa was the head of the household and responsible for its direction.  Yet, with the internment, his own imprisonment, the government had effectively taken over his family and, by extension, his own role for determining the family's direction or purpose.  This change is something that the young child notices in her father upon his return:  "The narrator explains that her father was returned to the family at Manzanar but that he returned a different man—ill-tempered, alcoholic, and abusive."  The emasculation that he experiences is one where he can only lash out at his family.  Temporary displays of anger and intensity are the only ways he can assert his own voice because of his own lack of power and his sense of being completely without autonomy over his own situation and predicament.  It is precisely because he is abusive, succumbing to alcohol, and unable to control his emotions that the reader knows that the government has figuratively emasculated him.  These are the only expressions in his state of being that he knows, reflective of the complete disarray into which his life has been rendered.

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