The title is an indirect reference to life before World War II, a time when the Japanese still believed that their emperor was descended from the gods. When the very human voice of the defeated emperor announced the Japanese surrender, the illusion of divinity was shattered forever.
Her husband has already been taken in the middle of the night, in bathrobe and slippers — his crime unnamed, his sentence unknown. The mother packs away her life and prepares her family for an unknown other existence far away from all that is familiar.
She detachedly buys a hammer, refusing the credit the storeowner offers because she does not want to leave with unsettled accounts. She writes a note to herself that no pets are allowed and goes home to deal with the cat, the chicken, the lame dog and finally the talking bird. Her methodical, controlled movements are frightening in their helpless precision — she has no choice but to obey.
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Six months later, the family rides a dusty overcrowded train after being kept captive in hurriedly converted, rancid horse stalls. Spat on. Life was easier, they said, on this side of the fence.
Their newly reinstated, so-called freedom is an ironic slap in the face. The cruel face of the enemy.
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Why do the children feel this way? Why would their father remain silent about such an important experience? In what ways does the novel fight against this desire to forget? What does this statement reveal about her character? What strengths does she exhibit throughout her ordeal? Flowers appear throughout the novel. When one of the prisoners is shot by a guard, a witness believes the man had been reaching through the fence to pluck a flower [see p. What symbolic value do the flowers have in this final passage? Is the speech ironic? Why has Otsuka chosen to end the novel in this way?
When the Emperor Was Divine (book) | Densho Encyclopedia
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It is Berkeley, California, the spring of Pearl Harbor has been attacked, the war is on, and though the precise message on the sign is not revealed, its impact on the woman who reads it is immediate and profound. It is, in many ways she cannot yet foresee, a sign of things to come. She readies herself and her two young children for a journey that will take them to the high desert plains of Utah and into a world that will shatter their illusions forever.
With stark clarity and an unflinching gaze, Otsuka explores the inner lives of her main characters—the mother, daughter, and son—as they struggle to understand their fate and long for the father whom they have not seen since he was whisked away, in slippers and handcuffs, on the evening of Pearl Harbor.
Moving between dreams, memories, and sharply emblematic moments, When the Emperor Was Divine reveals the dark underside of a period in American history that, until now, has been left largely unexplored in American fiction. Questions and Topics for Discussion 1. After pursuing a career as a painter, she turned to fiction at age When the Emperor Was Divine is her first novel. LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices.
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