(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Kogawa’s third novel, The Rain Ascends, presents as narrator and main character Millicent Shelby, a Canadian of British descent. Daughter of an elderly Anglican clergyman, the Reverend Doctor Charles Barnabas Shelby, she has repressed memories of her father’s past crimes as a child molester. She feels that she lives in a mental and emotional fog that hides the painful truth that her father was himself abused by an older neighbor boy and later sexually abused hundreds of young boys.

Millicent’s older brother, Charlie, distances himself from his father at an early age, bonding closely with his mother as his father bonds with Millicent. Charlie marries a truth-telling woman, Eleanor, who thinks that the Reverend Shelby is despicable and prods Millicent to accuse her father.

Eleanor tells her over the telephone that the Reverend Shelby had abused Millicent’s illegitimate son Jeffrey. Much of Millicent’s discussion with Jeffrey takes place over the telephone long distance from Canada to England. The scene of revelation is repeated several times, the key phrase being Jeffrey’s statement that he thought his mother knew.

Dreams help Millicent to slay the fictions that hide her father’s evil. In a recurrent dream about a lion king who preys at night, the princess tries to help both her father and the king’s victims. She also has a recurrent fantasy about a gnat that spreads lies; she finally kills it. From the ashes...

(The entire section is 495 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Cheung, King-Kok. Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Chua, Cheng Lok. “Witnessing the Japanese Canadian Experience in World War II: Processual Structure, Symbolism, and Irony in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan.” In Reading the Literatures of Asian America, edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Amy Ling. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

Davidson, Arnold E. Writing Against the Silence: Joy Kogawa’s “Obasan.” Toronto: ECW, 1993.

Goelnicht, Donald C. “Minority History as Metafiction: Joy Kogawa’s Obasan.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 8 (Fall, 1989): 287-306.

Rose, Marilyn Russell. “Politics into Art: Kogawa’s Obasan and the Rhetoric of Fiction.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 21, nos. 2/3 (Spring, 1988): 215-226.