Study Guide

Obasan What's Up With the Epigraph?

By Joy Kogawa

What's Up With the Epigraph?

To him that overcometh
will I give to eat
of the hidden manna
and will give him
a white stone
and in the stone
a new name written….
(Revelation 2:17)

What's up with the epigraph?

This quote from the Bible is a promise to Christians who overcome adversity.

Let's break it down. Manna is the food that God created for the Israelites to eat while they wandered through the wilderness after escaping Egypt. Manna is also later associated with Jesus, since he tells his followers that he is the bread of life. If you want to know more about manna, head over to our Bible section and check it out.

The white stone may be a reference to the stones that were like concert tickets in Roman times. We guess that the concert is heaven. Overall the message is that Christians who overcome difficulty will be given heavenly bread/sustenance and tickets into the kingdom of heaven.

Now, where else have we seen stones and bread in the novel? Oh right, Uncle Sam's stone bread. If you've checked out the Symbols section you'll know that we talked about stone bread as a metaphor dealing with adversity. If you haven't, mosey on over. It's good stuff (unlike stone bread).

We know that Naomi and her family have experienced and overcome adversity, so what is their reward? In the Symbols section we discussed how Aunt Emily's parcel is just like Uncle's stone bread, so maybe it is the hidden manna. But what about the white stone and the new name?

In ancient Hebrew tradition people were given new names if they survived illnesses or adversity. We know that Naomi doesn't literally get a new name, but you could say that she gets a new identity after she learns about the fate of her mother. She's not just the Naomi that hates the past anymore, she's the Naomi that's accepted her past.