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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249

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Rosie Hayashi: Rosie is the teenage protagonist of this 1949 short story about intergenerational and marital communication difficulties in a Japanese-American family. Rosie cannot speak Japanese any better than her mother can speak English, so the two have a hard time understanding each other. On a cultural level, too, their lives have been so different it is difficult for them to relate to one another meaningfully.

Jesús Carrasco: Jesús is a teenaged Mexican boy, a member of a family that Mr. Hayashi, Rosie's father, has hired to help with the harvest. Rosie is attracted to Jesús, especially after she slips out to see him while her family has guests, and he gives her her first kiss.

Tome Hayashi: Rosie's mother, Tome is a sensitive and artistic soul who finds joy and fulfillment writing haiku. Because of her own bad marriage, she would like Rosie not to marry.

Mr. Hayashi: Tome's husband and Rosie's father, Mr. Hayashi is a practical man whose concern is running his farm and making a living. He doesn't understand or appreciate his wife's haiku, destroying the award she gets for her poetry.

The Hayanos: This Japanese family consists of four daughters and their parents. When the Hayashis visit the Hayanos, Tome enjoys talking about haiku with Mr. Hayanos, while Rosie enjoys spending time with the Hayanos girls. Mr. Hayashi, however, does not like talking to Mrs. Hayano and is jealous of his wife's connection with Mr. Hayano over their shared love of haiku.


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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177

Hisaye Yamamoto's short story “Seventeen Syllables” is centered around The Hayashi family, a Japanese immigrant family struggling to adapt to life and culture in America and a generation gap between mother and daughter. The main character is their Nisei daughter, Rosie—born in America and fluent in English. She struggles to relate to her Issei mother, Tome, who tries to connect with her through the traditional Japanese poems that she loves to write called haikus. Not only is there a language barrier between them, but Rosie is much more interested in her secret romance with Jesus Carrasco, the son of the Mexican family that works on her family’s farm. Meanwhile, Rosie witnesses the power struggle between her parents as Mr. Hayashi becomes bitter about Mrs. Hayashi’s successful writing career. Their loveless, competitive marriage becomes even more evident when they visit their friends, The Hayanos, who live more like a traditional Japanese family in which the father is the head of the household and, unlike Tome, the mother does not work and has a submissive role.