Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Principles

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Henry is able to slog through the toughest of times in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet because he is firm in his principles and moral code. Even though he's young, he knows what he believes in. Henry is adamant that the internment of Japanese Americans is super wrong, and he sticks to his guns even when his father threatens to disown him. That's some serious conviction for you.

When Henry meets Ethel and falls in love with her, he leaves behind the memory of Keiko because he doesn't want to dishonor Ethel by keeping a flame for another woman alive, again dutifully adhering to his principles. It's hard for him to leave Keiko in the past, but he does so anyway because as far as he's concerned, it's the right thing to do. And Henry always does what he thinks is right.

Questions About Principles

  1. Do you think Henry fails to keep his promise to wait for Keiko? Why or why not?
  2. Why does Henry decide to go to China for his schooling even though he's angry with his father for meddling in his life?
  3. Why does Henry wait until after Ethel dies to seek out Keiko? How does he see this as honoring both women? Does he see it at all as a way of honoring himself?

Chew on This

Henry's father's prejudices might seem completely arbitrary and unfair, but they're rooted in his own childhood of growing up while China and Japan were warring—and he's developed his own (flawed) moral compass accordingly.

Henry waits until after Ethel's death and receiving his son's blessing to reconnect with Keiko because he doesn't want to be disrespectful to his wife, her memory, or his son.

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