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Lost Opportunities: Japanese Internment in Japanese American Plays and Films

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2015, 28(3), pp.231-255
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

허지 1 Hyung Shik Lee 1

1건국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The internment of Japanese Americans during the World War II is one of the examples of truism that history is always written by the winners. Together with the massacre of Native Americans, Japanese relocation became one of the most shameful pages that have been forgotten in American history. American history books rarely included this incident until recently so that only after the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 some efforts were made to educate the public about the injustice of the internment. This traumatic experience of being uprooted from their homes, jobs, and farms and being forcibly transferred to barren “concentration camps” affected Japanese Americans so much that only after a few decades this nightmare began to be dramatized by their sansei children. This paper aims to compare and contrast Fish Head Soup(1991) and The Wash(1987), the plays written by Philip Kan Gotanda, a third generation Japanese-American playwright, with Snow Falling on Cedars(1999) and American Pastime(2007), the films which fictionalized the relocation experience. Through this comparative analysis, this paper attempts to explore how deep and lasting was the scar left by the experience and how different media represent the same experience in a different manner. ‘Lost opportunities’ is a dominant theme which recurs throughout the four texts that are analyzed in this paper. Abrupt relocation did not allow enough time for Japanese Americans to sell or dispose of their property and businesses. The Iwasaki family and Nobu in Gotanda’s plays as well as Kazuo in Snow Falling on Cedars lose their land because of the internment, while Lyle in American Pastime loses his opportunity to go to college on baseball scholarship. Even though the films provide authentic detail with images of camps in bleak desert, they tend to have happy endings owing to the formula of Hollywood genre film, thus diluting their original messages.

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