Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Guilt and Blame

By Jamie Ford

Guilt and Blame

Chapter 17

He thought of Ethel too. What would she think? Would she approve of him snooping around down here, digging into the past? The more he thought about it, the more he realized what he'd known all along. Ethel would always approve of things that might make Henry happy. Even now. Especially now. (17.10)

All this time, Henry's shoved the memory of Keiko away because he's been afraid that it's disrespectful to Ethel. But now that Ethel has died, he realizes his wife would've wanted him to seek out happiness.

Chapter 18

Henry listened, feeling remorseful. Maybe I spent too much time taking care of Ethel—maybe I left him out, he thought. If I did, it wasn't intentional. "You don't need to apologize for anything. I'm immensely proud of you," he said. (18.27)

Being a parent can be hard, and Henry isn't sure if he did things right in raising Marty. He's afraid he ignored Marty during Ethel's long illness, and he wants to reconnect with his son now.

Chapter 31

"I'm sorry," Henry said; he suddenly felt foolish having come empty-handed. "I didn't bring you anything."

"That's okay. It's enough that you came. I knew you would. Maybe it was my dream. Maybe I was just wishing it. But I knew you'd find me." Keiko looked at Henry, then took a deep breath. "Does your family know you're here?" she asked. (31.63-64)

When Henry visits Keiko, he's struck by how little she has now and how hard life is within the camps. Even though he didn't cause the internment (or even support it), he feels guilty that his life has carried on as usual on the outside. He still has a home.

Chapter 34

"Can I ask you something, Pops?"

Henry nodded again.

"Did you keep Mom at home to spite me?" (34.11-13)

All this time, Marty has resented his father for a perceived slight—he thought Henry kept Ethel home instead of in hospice to spite Marty. But really, Henry just did kept Ethel home because he loved her and wanted her near.

All these years, Henry had loved Ethel. He had been a loyal and dedicated husband, but he would walk blocks out of his way to avoid the Panama Hotel and the memory of Keiko. Had he known her belongings were still there […]. (34.27)

Henry knows he's done the right thing by leaving Keiko behind and starting a life with Ethel, but he still feels guilty for causing her any unhappiness or worry. He still wonders what could have been.

Chapter 35

He saw her, a look of shock and disappointment on her face that Henry would ever be so disobedient. The look quickly faded to a quiet acceptance, but with it, so much guilt settled on Henry's small shoulders. He rested his head in his hands, ashamed of speaking so loudly in front of his mother. (35.43)

Defying his father is one thing—Henry has never exactly gotten along with him—but seeing how his disobedience hurts and scares his mother causes Henry to feel completely guilty and ashamed.

Chapter 36

Keiko looked at Henry shocked, with sadness in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen. I feel terrible. How could a father treat his son—" (36.85)

It's totally not Keiko's fault that Henry is having issues with his father, but she still feels bad. After all, if he'd never met her, this wouldn't be happening. Without her, he wouldn't be a pariah in his own home. Or so her logic goes, anyway. Do you agree?

Chapter 38

A wave of guilt crashed over Henry. He was sinking beneath it. His mother took his hand. "Not your fault. Don't think this. Not your fault—his fault, understand?" (38.26)

The news of his father's stroke definitely upsets Henry. He feels like he caused it by being a "difficult" child—one who refused to listen to his father and do exactly as he told him to.

Chapter 39

"Henry." Sheldon looked at him more seriously than he'd ever done before. "Your daddy having himself a heart fit, that ain't your fault either. He's been fighting the war in his head, in his heart, ever since he was your age back in China. You can't take credit for stuff that goes back to before you were even born. You understand me?" (39.32)

Henry has a tendency to blame himself when things go wrong, and Sheldon has to set his friend straight. He reminds Henry that it's not his fault that his father has experienced some atrocities and sorrows in his life. No harm, no foul, bro.

"I let her go."

"Henry, she was going whether you let her go or not. It's your your fault."

"No—I let her go. I didn't even really say good-bye as much as I sent her away." (39.17-19)

The government is sending Keiko and her family to another camp, but Henry feels like he's the one personally responsible for their move because he didn't ask Keiko to stay or tell her how much he loved her.

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