Study Guide

Obasan Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Joy Kogawa

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

This isn't the kind of comedy that ends with laughter. It's the kind of comedy that ends with truth: the kind of truth that sets you free and paves the way for happiness. Naomi learns the truth about the past, and she's able to move on with her life. No laughs. Just truth. Can't lose.

Shadow of Confusion (No One Knows The Truth)

Everyone is confused when the novel starts.

In the present-day of the novel, adult Naomi is still confused about the past, but she's managed to block it all out and has nothing to show for her past trials and tribulations but a bunch of shadowy, super-unpleasant dreams.

This history of confusion has gone on for-freaking-ever. Back in the 1940s, young Naomi doesn't know why her mother leaves, but everyone tells her she'll come back soon. No one in Naomi's family understands why internment camps are happening, or even who will be next to go. Every time someone is certain of something it's wrong. No one, not even the adults, knows the truth.

Pressure of Darkness (Everyone thinks they know the truth)

We stay firmly in the past in this section of the novel: it's all big band music and sweet 1940s fashion (did someone say shoulder pads?) here.

Several years later, and Naomi has gotten used to her new life. She's accepted it: she is sent into exile to remote, dusty towns by the Canadian government. Her father is dead and her mother is missing. She's never going back home. She'll live out the rest of her days in a filthy shack, spending her waking hours on a sugar-beet farm. Life is Grimsville.

The characters are normally under the spell of darkness. They think they know the truth—that life will continue to suck forever.

Everything Comes to Light (Everyone finds out the real truth)

Things get way worse before they get better; just letting you know. Naomi finds out the truth about her mother: she suffered horribly in the Nagasaki bombings and was permanently disfigured. She wanted to hide the truth from her children in order to shield them from the possibility of evil in the world.

When Naomi finds this out, back in the present-day of the novel, the clouds lift. The sky turns blue. The birdies start singing. She understands her mother's love towards her and, with that, comes happiness.

Okay, yes: this isn't a laugh-out-loud kind of comedy. But still: comedy in its basic form is the persistence of a sort of twilight state of doubt for the majority of the novel/play/story, followed by an emergence into the light. This can come in the form of a "Will they or won't they?" sexual tension that culminates in happily-ever-after with a wedding… or it can be about one woman's doubts about the past finally lifting.