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The Odyssey

japanese-American During WWII By: Sean E-mail: emailprotected Japanese immigrants and the following generations had to endure discrimination, racism, and prejudice from white Americans. They were first viewed as economic competition. The Japanese Americans were then forced into internment camps simply because of the whites fear and paranoia. The Japanese first began to immigrate to the United States in 1868. At first they came in small numbers. US Census records show only 55 in 1870 and 2,039 in 1890. After that, they came in much greater numbers, reaching 24,000 in 1900, 72,000 in 1910, and 111,000 in 1920.(Parrillo,287) Most settled in the western states.(Klimova,1) Many families in Japan followed the practice of primogeniture, which is when the eldest son inherits the entire estate. This was a “push” factor. Because of primogeniture, “second and third sons came to the United States to seek their fortunes.”(Parrillo,287) The promise of economic prosperity and the hope for a better life for their children were two “pull” factors. These foreign-born Japanese were known as Issei (first generation). They filled a variety of unskilled jobs in railroads, farming, fishing, and domestic services. (Klimova,1) The Japanese encountered hostility and discrimination from the start. In California, a conflict with organized labor was due to their growing numbers in small areas and racial visibility.(Parrillo,287) White workers perceived Japanese as economic competition. Their willingness to work for lower wages and under poor conditions brought on hostility from union members. The immigrants became victims of ethnoviolence. In 1890, Japanese cobblers were attacked by members of the shoe maker’s union, and Japanese restaurateurs were attacked by members of the union for cooks and waiters in 1892. It was very difficult to find steady employment; therefore, most of them entered agricultural work. They first worked as laborers, accumulated sufficient capitol, then as tenant farmers or small landholders. Some became contract gardeners for whites.(Parrillo,287) The Japanese farmers were very knowledgeable of cultivation, which made them strong competitors against white farmers. More discrimination by the dominant group soon followed. “In 1913, the California legislator passed the first alien landholding law, prohibiting any person who was ineligible for citizenship from owning land in the state, and permitting such persons to lease land for no more than three years in succession.”(Parrillo,287) This was ofcourse aimed at keeping the Japanese in the working class. Their native born children, the Nisei (second-generation), were automatically US citizens. Thus, the Issei had land put under their children’s names directly or by collectively owning stock in landholding companies. Discrimination against the Japanese continued after World War I. The California legislature passed a law in 1920 “prohibiting aliens form being guardians of a minor’s property or from leasing any land at all.”(Parrillo,288) Yet another attempt by the dominant group to preserve power. Japanese American children also suffered racism and discrimination. In 1905, the San Francisco School Board of Education passed a policy sending Japanese children to a segregated Oriental school in Chinatown.(Parrillo,288) “Superintendent, Aaron Altmann, advised the city’s principals: “Any child that may apply for enrollment or at present attends your school who may be designated under the head of Mongolian’ must be excluded, and in furtherance of this please direct them to apply at the Chinese school for enrollment.”(Asia,1) Japanese immigrants being extremely racially distinct, had different cultural customs and religious faith, and tended to chain migrate and stay within their own small communities. This aroused distrust and the idea that they could not be assimilated.(Klimova,2) Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 fueled the irrational distrust and prejudice. It led to the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908, secured by President Roosevelt, which “Japan agreed to restrict, but not eliminate altogether, the issuance of passports.”(Parrillo,288) This attempt at reducing Japanese immigration had a huge loophole, it allowed wives to enter. Many Japanese practiced endogamy and sent for “picture brides.” “Several thousand Japanese entered the United States every year until World War I, and almost 6,000 a year came after the war.”(Parrillo,288) The anti-Japanese attitudes grew stronger. The Immigration Law of 1924 stated that all aliens ineligible for citizenship were refused entry. Thus, “…the Japanese migration to America came to a complete cessation.”(Klimova,2) The law stayed in effect until 1952. By 1941, “about 127,000 ethnic Japanese lived in the United States, 94,000 of them in California.”(Parrillo,289) Only “37 percent were Issei…”(Klimova,1) On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of the attack reached the west coast, Japanese neighborhoods were surrounded by police. Within the first day, the FBI arrested 1,300 dangerous aliens’. They had jailed nearly 2,000 more by the end of December.(Spickard,93) Most of them were business executives, leaders of Japanese associations and community leaders whose only suspicious act was visiting relatives in Japan or contributing to the Japanese equivalent of the United Service Organization (USO). Those arrested were thrown into county jails and then transferred to detention centers run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).(Spickard,93) The fear of bombing or even an invasion caused rumors to spread about treachery and deceitfulness by the Japanese Americans. The allegations of sabotage and espionage were twisted by racial bias and lacked any evidence or rationale. Some were absolutely ridiculous. Such as poisoned vegetables and planting tomatoes so that they formed arrows pointing at US military objects.(klimova,2) The anti-Japanese paranoia held by the dominant group echoed in the media. Newspapers printed unfounded racist reports about Japanese Americans, starting in December 1941 and more throughout February 1942. Common examples of racist articles, some openly using degrading ethnophalisns, are these headlines from the Los Angeles Times: “Jap Boat flashes Message ashore” “Two Japs With Maps and Alien Literature Seized” “Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air Base”(Spickard,96) The fear and hostility toward the Japanese Americans was accompanied by a wide spread hysteria. People began to call for their removal from the western states. White farmers were among those advocating their evacuation. By now, Farmers of Japanese origin had turned dessert into some of the most fertile farmland, which was less than 4 percent of the California farmland, and produced 10 percent of the total value of the states farm crop.(Klimova,3) Autin Anson of the Grower-Shipper Association of Salinas, California, made this statement while lobbying for the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans: “We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do. It’s a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over.”(Spickard,97) This terribly racist statement explains on e conflict over the limited resources available. The dominant group wants the competition removed and deep the minority group with as little as possible. Lieutenant General John L. Dewitt, the head of the Western Defensive Command, Major General Allen W. Gullion, and other high ranking officers, all guided by their own racism, also campaigned for the Japanese American Population to be removed. Dewitt said: “A Jap’s a Jap. They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not. there is no way to determine their loyalty…it makes no difference whether he is an American; theoretically he is still Japanese, and you can’t change him…you can’t change him by giving him a piece of paper.”(Spickard,98) They claimed the evacuation was a military necessity; however, such a necessity was never demonstrated. The Department of Justice defended the rights and liberties of U*S. citizens guaranteed by the constitution of the United States.(Klimova,3) J. Edgar Hoover also opposed the mass evacuation. He argued that all the dangerous Japanese Americans were already jailed.(Spickard,98) Dispite the protest, the Roosevelt administration supported the evacuation. On the 19th of February, 1942, “President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No.9066, authorizing the War Department to prescribe military areas and to exclude any or all persons from these areas.”(McWillans,108) “More than 110,000Japanese…were removed from their homes and placed in “relocation centers” in Arkansas, Arizona, Eastern California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.”(Parrillo,289) They lost everything they owned. Joseph Kurihara was a Japanese American soldier in the US Army and was for Americanization prior to the evacuation, he recalls the Terminal Island evacuation: “It was cruel and harsh. To pack and evacuate in forty-eight hours…mothers bewildered with children crying…Did the government of the United States intend to ignore their rights regardless of their citizenship?”(Myer,3) Life in the internment camps was hard. They had to endure unsanitary conditions.(Asin,1) Most of the imprisoned Japanese Americans conformed and followed orders. There were some that protested what was being done to them, but their resistance came very late.(Spickard,108) Kurihara was one of the few that practiced defiance. He eventually renounced his US citizenship.(Myer,4) These people that openly expressed their new hatred for America as a result of the injustices they suffered were known as the “no-no’s”. On the other side, there were those that desperately wanted to prove their loyalty to the United States. In January 1943, The US War Department announced the formation of a segregated regiment. Theses Nisei volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) to fight for their country. They joined forces with the 100th Infantry Battalion, formed in May 1942 and were also Nisei volunteers, in Europe. The 442nd RCT eventually consisted of the 2nd, 3rd, and 100th Battalions; the 522nd field Artillery Battalion; the 232nd engineering Company; the 206th Army Band; Anti-Tank Company; Cannon Company; and Service company.(Research,1) The famous 442nd RCT were the most decorated unit in US military history for it’s size and length of service. In total, there were 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500 purple hearts, and seven Presidential Distinguished Unit citations.(Research,2) After W.W.II, Japanese Americans were demoralized and in economic disarray. Because all of their possessions and property had been taken away, they simply had to start all over again. There were emotional and psychological consequences for the Nisei. It took decades for them to overcome a lingering shame.(Spickard,134) There is also a generation and cultural gap between the Nisei and Sansei. The Sansei are in a Quandary over their identification with their “dual cultural heritage”. Their parents push then to become “white and to “subscribe to the legacies of American society”. Yet they are told by their major social environment that they are not white.(Miyoshi,20) The Japanese Americans have indeed prospered since the 1940’s. The Nisei and Sansei strongly emphasized conformity, aspiration, competitiveness, discipline, and encouraged the Yonsei (fourth-generation) and Gosei (fifth-generation) to higher education. Their numbers are increasing in the professional fields. The higher education achievements equate into their having higher incomes than any other ethnic group, including all whit Americans.(Parrillo,294) The Japanese Americans have come a long way. Bus ofcourse some prejudice and discrimination still exists today. The “contemporary depiction’s of the Japanese tourists and samurai businessman…offer little of value to clarifying the identities and realities of Japanese Americans…these stereotypes continue to shape how they are perceived.”(Kiag,2) Early Japanese immigrants came to the United States in search of economic prosperity. They were met with hostility, prejudice, and discrimination. Everything they worked so hard for was taken and their rights violated. The dominant group demonstrated total economic exploitation. After enduring such injustices and hardships, many are now enjoying the life the Issei dreamed of for their families. Bibliography Work Cited Parillo, Vincent N. Strangers to These Shors: Race and Ethnitc Relations in the United States. Needham Heights, : Massachuchetts: 2000, 287-289. Klimova, Tatiana A. “Internment of Japanese Americans: Military Necessity or Racial Prejudice.” Old Dominion University. 1-9 (5/2/00) Asia, Ask. “Linking The Past to Present: Asian Americans Then and Now.” The Asia Society 1996. 1-3 (5/1/00 Spickard, Paul R. Japanese Americans: The transformation and Formation of an Ethnic Group. New Yourk:1996,93-159 McWilliams, Carey. Prejudice Japanese Americans: Symbol of racial Intolerance. boston: 1945,106-190. Myer, Dillon S. “Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara.” Upprinted Americans 1971. 1-5 (5/1/00) Asin, Stefanie.”Poignand Memories.” Houston Chronicle 7/31/95.1-3 5/2/00 Reaseach Center.”research on 100th/442nd reginent conbat team.:NJAHS.1-2 5/2/00 Miyoshi, Nubu.:Idenity Crisis of the Sansei.”Sansei legacy project 3/13/98.1-21 5/1/00 Kiang, Peter.” Understanding the Perception of Asian Americans.” Asian Society1997.1-2 5/2/00 Word Count: 1862

The Odyssey

The Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of the two great epic poems written by the ancient Greek poet Homer. Due to its antiquity, it is not known when or where it was first written, nevertheless, the approximate date and place is 700 BC Greece. Later publications are widespread as the text is transcribed in modern English with no deviation from the original story.

The story is set in the lands and seas in close proximity to Greece changing by books as Odysseus, the protagonist hero, recounts of his many fated adventures and misfortunes in a series of flashbacks. Odysseus, a survivor of the bloody Trojan War that left many Greek heroes dead and a city plundered, yearns to return Ithaca and his wife Penelope, who is solicited by countless suitors, yet due to an accidental grievance done to the God of Sea, Poseidon, Odysseus is plagued by misfortunes and spend nearly ten years traveling the seas searching a path home.

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The Odyssey is written in the third person omniscient perspective, perhaps the only voice capable of integrating Homer’s usage of the Gods and the supernatural. This perspective shifts as necessary to give the reader a full understanding of Odysseus’ journeys. In fact, without incorporating the supernatural forces, there would be no way of understanding why Odysseus is met with such inhospitality from certain Gods or constructing a majestic recount of the actions in the plot.

Odysseus is the classic Greek hero by all standards. He is a hardened warrior who has fought against the Trojans, a dutiful husband who would journey years to return home, a cunning wayfarer who fares well with any host hostile or amicable, and a mortal in bipolar relation with the Gods. He may be the protagonist, yet as a mortal, he is only a servant to the Greek Gods. Poseidon has a bitter grudge against Odysseus for blinding the Cyclopes Polyphemus, yet Homer balances Odysseus’ fate by giving him the aid of the Goddess Athena. Thus, Odysseus’ fortunes and misfortunes are all the deeds and misdeeds of the Gods, and the protagonist is subject to his fate as determined by the supernatural. Homer’s implications about the life and fate of a man could be easily recapitulated as uncontrollable. Though the Greek Gods do not exist, man’s fortunes and misfortunes still contain unexplainable entropy, leaving mortals with no precise knowledge or grasp of their future yet mortals do have an unfailing sense of hope, just as Odysseus is determined to return home despite his foes and hardships.

Odysseus’ wife Penelope is also an important character in the story despite the fact that Homer only writes in fragments about her. Without any news of Odysseus after the end of the Trojan War, she is treated as a widow and wooed by many soliciting men from the neighboring area. Homer has characterized her with an unfailing constitution and loyalty to Odysseus. She fends off the suitors with her cleverness, exemplified by her pretentious indecisive publicized to all the suitors, and waits desperately for Odysseus for indefinite years. Penelope is seen as stubborn in the eyes of her lovers, yet, unbeknownst to these men, her loyalty will be awarded when the Gods finally return Odysseus back to her as according to his fate. The Goddess Athena also favors her and help guides her faith despite the pressure of the suitors and Odysseus’s years away. Homer has fictionalized Penelope with the necessary traits that make an ideal wife in Greek times. She is imbued with unyielding character, quick wit, and lasting beauty.

Athena is a prominent figure of the plot. According to Greek mythology, she is the daughter of Zeus, King of gods and men, and the goddess of wisdom and battle. As with many feminine supernatural figures in The Odyssey, she has a predilection for Odysseus and would watch over him passively throughout the plot. Homer has underscored her aid to Odysseus to counterbalance the weakening brought upon him by Poseidon. This careful equilibrium of heavenly forces is the constant recurring element in the plot that keeps Odysseus alive yet suffering at the same time. Her appearances in the plot are often under the disguise of mortal figures, mystifying her true identity as a goddess to all, yet she does reveal herself to Odysseus at several points, which shows a deep favorability that Homer protrudes to glorify Odysseus.

Telemachus is the son of Odysseus who has lived for twenty years without seeing his father. His role, as the protector of his mother, is part of the parallel subplot that Homer creates in Ithaca. Since most of Odysseus’ adventures are told as flashbacks in his last journey in the land of the Phaeacians before finally returning home, the chronological order of events match up to Telemachus’ first sea journey searching for news of his father. His journey is minor and obscured by the heroic proportions of Odysseus’ journey, nevertheless, Homer uses this subplot to prepare for the reuniting of Odysseus with his family and the climax as Odysseus lead Telemachus in battle against the suitors. Homer illustrates Telemachus in the same fashion as Odysseus with a minimized range of heroism, the same method as most proteges are described.

The plot of The Odyssey is mainly a chain of events as described by Odysseus as he retells his story to his Phaecian hosts. The chain of events starts with his unfortunate landing in the Land of the Lotus Eaters after leaving the shores of Troy. Briefly after that, Odysseus lands on the island of the Cyclops and thus deepen Poseidon’s grudge against him after the blinding of his son Polyphemus. After that, Odysseus spends a year as the unfortunate prisoner of the beautiful witch Circe. Circe eventually allows Odysseus to leave and he continues past the tempting Sirens to Hades, the land of the dead, to consult Tiresias, the dead prophet whose guidance can send Odysseus to the right direction. Another unfortunate incident with the sea monster Scylla, a six headed beast that consumed six of Odysseus’ sailors, left Odysseus searching for shelter on the island of the Sun, on which all of Odysseus’ men were sent to their doom by Zeus for pillaging the cattle of the Sun. After that, Odysseus is swept by a storm to Ogygia, the island of the Goddess Calypso. The land of the Phaecians is his next stop and with the aid of the generous Phaecian king, Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca.

Although there is a lot of action in Odysseus’ adventures, the climax of the story is the reclaiming of Odysseus’ estate and the battle with the suitors. The main rising action is when Odysseus prepares for the surprise attack on Penelope’s suitors with Telemachus. Their entire plan was kept secret from everyone except two loyal herdsmen who would fight alongside. After the battle, the story ends with Odysseus reuniting with his family formally and Athena bringing peace to the Odysseus estate as the suitors’ family demand vengeance.

Homer is most famously recognized by his two epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. These two related works are distinguished by their intense and captivating actions written in non-prose form, a feat unshared by other writers. Homer has a masterful control over the chronology of an epic story that spans years yet contain a consistent parallel chain of events and subplots. His plot is also consistent with the historical basis of the actual Trojan War and the mythology of his time period. Most noticeable is the fact that after book nine of The Odyssey, the main portion of the story actually begins as a long yet entertaining flashback that is described so realistically that the reader’s imaginary abstractions take over. Perhaps Homer’s unique style of non-prose narration is a part of his Greek education and culture that is homogenous only to writers of that era’s environments that would inspire the mind and soul in a way on a scale of epic proportions.

There are several symbols employed by Homer that are very visible starting from as early as the first Book. The presence of the divine gods and goddesses symbolizes man’s inability to control his own life. Even though Odysseus eventually returns to Ithaca, his success can only be attributed to his fate as determined by the Olympians. These authoritative forces are completely uninfluenced by man yet they are the most influential forces in man’s life. In modern terms, the deities are a representation of the volatile state of man’s life. For Homer, life is never settled for sure in the mortal’s eyes, not even after the passage to the underworld. Man cannot control his life nor his society, the world asserts its claws and manipulates life as a toy.

Homer also uses the monsters in The Odyssey as indirect depictions of his ideas. The Cyclops Polyphemus, a behemoth giant, symbolizes nature’s brute force. It has the power of hundreds of men, yet it is hindered by a diminutive intelligence. Thus, Odysseus’ cunning defeat of Polyphemus proves to be the conquest of wit over strength. Homer also glorifies the evolutionary advantages of mortals’ mind over pure nature, yet Homer carefully limits this daring statement by introducing Poseidon’s vengeful punishments. Perhaps Homer has two contrasting messages about man’s abilities over nature: man can defeat nature because of his intellect, yet it is often unwise to clash against nature.

Another monster, the Sirens, is the apparent embodiment of all the deceitful temptations in man’s life. The Sirens persuade men into their traps by beautiful hypnotic songs. Once a sailor has entered their trance, his or her life is doomed to Hades. Homer shows that there are many false enticements in the world; the only way to pass these obstacles is to maintain a linear course and never deviate from a fortified moral constitution. To be persuaded by these temptations is to fall into the fatal control of others, to be used without knowing. In the story, Odysseus hears songs about Ithaca and he is filled with nostalgia at that moment, yet his men controlled the ship and steered clear of danger. Sometimes, these temptations may be so alluring that a momentary emotional outbreak occurs, yet man should never rely purely on emotions, rather, rational thinking and logic must be prioritized to prevent fatal mistakes.

One other monster, the six-headed Scylla, is the symbol of sacrifice. As Odysseus sails past the strait between Scylla and the whirlpool of Charybdis, he is forced to make a harsh decision to sail by Scylla and lose at most six sailors rather than sailing by Charybdis and lose the entire crew. It was a hard decision for Odysseus to make, yet it is the only way to save the entire crew. Homer establishes a clear message about the necessity to sacrifice in time of need despite certain unpreventable losses.

Another important symbol employed by Homer also concerns the deities. Every time a deity visits Odysseus, a mortal form is chosen and the deity’s true identity is kept secret. This disguise represents the idea that life can never by judged purely by the outlook. The true significance of things is not proportionally reflected by their material form. The suitors can also be seen as thugs in disguises of gentlemen. Even though they promise to be civil visitors in the residence of Penelope, they are truly symbols of the lowest form that men can be. Their characterizations bring up only disgust and hatred, the far extreme low point of humanity. In other terms, the manifestation of anything may either be an overstatement or an understatement of the truth. Relevant to this idea, Homer also mentions the importance of modesty and amicability. Odysseus is always humble and gracious to the people he meets, despite their stature in the world. This is one of the many characteristics of Odysseus that makes him welcomed by many. Homer’s theme may be that hospitality is one of the more honorable traits of humanity and a moral that should be shared by many.

Homer has built a myriad of symbols and themes in The Odyssey. His epic is not only an entertaining enduring literature, but an education and enlightening of the mind. The plot moves continuously from action to action, yet weaved within the twenty-four books of this poem is numerous life lessons that are invaluable to even the modern society.


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