Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Principles

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Chapter 1

He'd been raised to care for loved ones, personally, and to put someone in a home was unacceptable. What his son, Marty, never fully understood was that deep down there was an Ethel-shaped hole in Henry's life, and without her, all he felt was the draft of loneliness, cold and sharp, the years slipping away like blood from a wound that never heals. (1.4)

Marty thinks Henry doesn't want to put Ethel in hospice in order to save money, but Henry is actually sticking to what he believes in—which is that someone shouldn't die in a strange place. They should die at home, cared for by the people who love them.

Chapter 13

But his sweet Ethel was gone now, and with it his responsibility to her.

Henry thanked Ms. Pettison and wrote a single name on the sheet: "Okabe." (13.32-33)

All this time, Henry has been faithful to Ethel and pushed the memory of Keiko far out of his mind. But now that his wife is dead, he can start looking for his first love again without having to feel guilty or disloyal.

Chapter 18

Marty struggled for the words. "And you know, you married Mom and did the whole traditional wedding thing. And you sent me to Chinese school, like your own old man did—and you always talk about me finding a nice Chinese girl to settle with, like Mom." (18.38)

Because Henry ended up doing exactly what his parents wanted, Marty assumes that his father shares their same principles and traditions. It's a shock for him to realize that his father is actually a lot more progressive and open-minded than he believes.

Chapter 26

He'd have to make them understand, somehow. How could they not? Father was closed-minded, but knowing soldiers were herding thousands of people to an unknown destination, an unknown fate—that would change everything. How could they sit back and do nothing when this many people were being taken away—when they could be next? (26.63)

Sure, Henry's father has always had a thing against Japanese people, but even he can't approve of the mass evacuation… right? That's what Henry thinks until he brings up the subject to his father—and learns that they're on completely different sides. Oof.

Chapter 30

Henry scooped up a heaping spoonful of chicken and gravy, cocking his arm, eyeing Chaz's bony, apelike forehead. That was when he felt thick, sausage fingers wrap around his forearm, holding him back. He looked up, and Mrs. Beatty was standing behind him. She took the serving spoon from his hand and eyeballed Chaz. "Beat it. There's not enough food left," she said. (30.19)

Henry has never been sure if Mrs. Beatty is on his side or not, but when it really counts, she swoops in to save the day. She can't stand all the school bullies who pick on Henry and Keiko because they're Asian Americans.

A few blocks from home, Henry found the nearest trash can and threw his new button on the heap of overflowing garbage—broken bottles that couldn't be recycled for the war effort and hand-painted signs that forty-eight hours earlier were held up by cheering crowds in favor of the evacuation. (30.11)

Henry refuses to be like his father, who distances himself from the Japanese and cozies up to the same Americans who are harassing and attacking their Japanese American neighbors. He's not going to wear that American flag pin because he doesn't support the evacuation.

Chapter 35

He'd be thirteen in a few months; maybe this was what it meant to stop being a boy and start being something else, Henry thought as he put his coat back on and headed for the door. He couldn't leave the photos outside.

He turned to his father. "I'm leaving to get her photos. I told her I'd keep them for her—just until she gets back. And I'm going to keep my promise." (35.47-48)

Henry has to make a tough decision when his father throws Keiko's photo albums out the window: He has to stand up for what he believes in personally instead of just blindly following orders.

Chapter 39

"You did say good-bye…"

"Not the way I should have. I was so worried about my family. Worried about everything. I was confused. I didn't know what I wanted. I didn't know what good-bye really was." (39.141-142)

After Keiko and her family leave Camp Harmony, Henry realizes that he can't live his life guided by fear and worry. He has to follow his truth—and that's to seek out Keiko and tell her that he loves her.

Chapter 41

"Loyalty. We're still loyal to the United States of America. Why? Because we too are Americans. We don't agree, but we will show our loyalty by our obedience. Do you understand, Henry?" (41.39)

Despite all the things that have happened to Japanese American citizens, Mr. Okabe still considers himself a proud American. He's not going to give up on the United States even though he's being treated so poorly by the government.

Mr. Okabe gave him a proud look, the kind Henry always wished his father had given him. "Henry, you have been incredibly honorable in your intentions toward my daughter, and you are a constant help to us as a family. You have my full permission—as if being here sleeping on our floor wasn't permission enough." (41.58)

The Okabe family embraces Henry as one of their own because he is so loyal and filled with conviction. He's proven himself to be an honorable and caring person who will do anything for their daughter.

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