Additionally, in the Oriental Club Bull gives Ichiro a difficult time for not serving in the Army, claiming, “‘No-no boys don’t look so good without the striped uniform’” (74). The Japanese were Damato 4 so criticized solely on the basis of their ethnicity that they despised anyone within their community who proved the white Americans and U. S. government right; this leads Ichiro to feel a significant amount of guilt. “Yes-Yes” and “No-No” boys antagonized each other out of spite and hatred for those within their community and possibly for themselves as well.
Okada depicts the Nisei as having a dominant discourse. They seem to be obsessed with who fought, who didn’t fight, and punishing those who didn’t fight. Therefore, it becomes very difficult for the Nisei generation to break out of their discourse when their peers have baggage of their own. It’s important to see that the culture divide between parents and children doesn’t only affect men old enough to fight. It most certainly has an influence on the younger generation as well. Take a close look at Taro, Ichiro’s younger brother. He comes across as heartless and angry at the world.
He is headstrong and has made up his mind about entering the armed forces. In one intense moment, Taro decides to go in to the army, forever severing his relationship with his family when, “He stood and looked down at Ichiro, wanting to speak but not finding the words in himself to tell his brother that he had to go in the army because of his brother, whose weakness make it impossible for him to do otherwise” (67). Taro’s self-complexities come from two directions: one from his brother, who could not go to war because of his “weakness” and another from his mother who made Ichiro weak.
One may question whether Taro truly wants to enter the army or if he feels he has no choice but to prove his “Americaness” to his own peers. This causes Ichiro to understand Taro’s decision to go, not just in order to make up for the mistake that Ichiro made but also to separate himself from their mother, who could ironically lose Damato 5 her self of self while Taro attempts to find his. Taro has not only lost himself due to his mother’s severe upbringing but to peer pressure as well.
Thus, the influence the Nisei had over each other and the effect the Issei had on their children up to this moment in time was strong. The discourse that develops from both age groups becomes as strong as ever in Ichiro’s life; he feels trapped and confused. Similar symptoms are seen in Nisei such as Freddie. The veteran has so lost his sense of self that he has become lazy, angry at the world, and reckless. Bull on the other hand, appears strong to outsiders but breaks down “like a baby” after killing Freddie (250. ) What these mean suffer from is a discourse that drives them to insanity every day.
Due to the circumstances at hand, the Japanese men were forced to question everything they knew about being Japanese-American in a land that despised Japan. Ichiro makes the situation quite clear when he states: When one is born in America and learning to love it more and more every day without thinking it, it is not an easy thing to discover suddenly that being American is a terribly incomplete thing if one’s face is not white and one’s parents are Japanese of the country Japan which attacked America. (54) The Nisei grew up with two different cultures.
Their parents tried to instill in their children the customs and practices of Japan while the American lifestyle became more dominant for the Nisei. Unfortunately, many Issei were very unhappy with their children’s rejection of Japanese societal norms in exchange for that of America’s. For example, Mama breaks Ichiro’s record player while he is out with friends, thus denouncing the very life and social cultural Ichiro has grown to love (204). It is almost as Damato 6 if she is telling him to turn away from America altogether. Children were left to decide what was more important: pleasing their parents or pleasing themselves.
Some Nisei choose to obey their parents, some disobey them to prove their patriotism, and some like Kenji choose to fight because, “he loved America … did not wish to live anyplace else” (121). Race is also emphasized in Ichiro’s quote as well. The Japanese were often discriminated against. After all, “Americans rejoiced in the ultimate euphoria of victory over people whom even our schoolchildren had been taught to hate,” (Goulden 6). Clearly, a great deal of Americans had a sincere hatred for Japanese-Americans if people as young as schoolchildren were taught to despise the Japanese.
They looked different from other Americans and therefore, were easy to target. The animosity Ichiro (and quite possibly many other Nesei) feels towards this is shown by claiming that, “being American is incomplete if one’s face is not white. ” Although the war did bring out the Nesei’s identity-loss to the forefront, it is more than possible that their identity conflict has always been a part of their lives. The Japanese stand out from white Americans and have an extremely contrasting culture.
In particular, Mama often became distraught when Ichiro wanted to do something “American” instead of focusing on his studies. While the American culture tended to allow teenagers to go out and have fun, the Japanese culture, or at least the one the Issei tried to construct for their children, was much more structured. The divide between parents and children created a divide between cultures and ultimately, a divide between each Nisei him or herself. Japan-born parents tried their best to raise their American born children with Damato 7 Japanese morals and socio-culture.
Unfortunately, doing so in an environment as strong as America’s led the Nisei to feel confused about who they were. Were they Americans because they enjoyed the same music, games, and dances as white teenagers or were they Japanese because they looked more Asian than they ever could white? This inner-confusion no doubt lived within the Nisei until it exploded during WWII when they were forced to prove themselves American. In No-No Boy this lack of identity the Issei developed within their children is the reason why the Nisei cannot break out of their dominant discourse when returning home from war and jail.
Clearly, there was a lack of communication and understanding when looking at the relationship between Issei and Nisei during and after WWII. This communication failure can be a lesson learned for future generations in order to prevent a mass identity crisis within a specific age group. In modern day America however, embracing one’s own ethnicity is much more acceptable; therefore, it is safe to wonder if another Nisei/Issei situation could possibly happen again.
Works Cited: Goulden, Joseph C. The Best Years, 1945-1950. New York: Atheneum, 1976. Print. Okada, John. No-No Boy. Seattle: University of Washington, 1981. Print.