Although Henry is just a little boy in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, he takes on a lot of adult responsibilities, even going so far as to blame himself when things go wrong, as though he actually were an adult. In particular, Henry blames himself for losing touch with Keiko, even though his father's totally the one who engineers the demise of their relationship. And speaking of his father, Henry also blames himself for his dad's decline; he can't help but feel that his father has a stroke because he's so disappointed in his son. And finally, Henry feels guilty for still having feelings for Keiko even after he marries Ethel. Such a heavy load to shoulder, right?
Questions About Guilt and Blame
Do you think Henry's father feels guilty for intercepting his letters to Keiko? Why or why not?
Why does Marty get mad at Henry for refusing to move Ethel from their house in her last weeks? Is he right to do so? Why or why not?
How does Henry fix things between him and Keiko at the end of the book? Can they truly be fixed? Why or why not?
Chew on This
Henry's father keeps him from getting Keiko's letters and vice versa, but in the end, Henry still feels guilty for not trying even harder to get in touch with Keiko in order to keep their relationship alive.
Even though Henry's father hasn't treated him very well in the years before his death, Henry still feels responsible for his stroke and agrees to finish his studying in China in order to make his father happy. In this way, guilt literally impacts the path Henry's life follows. Whoa.