Study Guide

Farewell to Manzanar Freedom and Confinement

By Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Freedom and Confinement

Ever been into a fun house with all those weird mirrors that distort everything? That's kind of what Japanese-American internment is all about in this book. You go into Farewell to Manzanar thinking of course internment camps suck (which they do—don't get us or the book wrong here), only to walk away scratching your head. Why? Because sometimes total freedom is very scary and sometimes confinement—even against your will—can provide a place of safety and rest. That's the conundrum in this book: how do we deal with the awfulness of locking up American citizens against their will while understanding the complexity of camp life and people's relationships to it? We'll let you think on that one…

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. How is Cabrillo Housing Project—the "ghetto neighborhood" (2.21.2)—both liberating and confining?
  2. Why does Jeanne consider camp to be "like a birthplace" (1.6.1) for her but a place where Papa's life "end[s]" (1.6.1)?
  3. Is Jeanne able to be free of Manzanar or is she still haunted by the place?
  4. Do the traditional Japanese values of endurance and family help to confine the Wakatsukis or do they help liberate them?

Chew on This

Jeanne can never truly say farewell to Manzanar, and because of this she can never truly be free.

Internment is awful, but it's the mind that holds the key to true freedom.