Study Guide

Obasan Narrator Point of View

By Joy Kogawa

Narrator Point of View

First Person (Central Narrator)

The narrator in Obasan is none other than our very own Naomi. Sure, Aunt Emily hijacks the story for a bit with her journals, but in the end it still Naomi telling us her story. Since the novel begins when Naomi is very young, and we see everything through her eyes, the narrator is very important to how we understand Obasan.

When it begins, Naomi is too young to understand war, death, or illness. So these things are explained through fairytales. She imagines:

Tad is what I think I'll call my frog—short for Tadpole or Tadashi, my father's name. [...] Prince Tadashi. He wears a dark green suit, not the rough green army garb, but a smooth suit, silky and cool as leaves. He is from the mountains. Certainly not from Granton. He was hidden under the tree roots waiting for me, a messenger from my father. (31.24)

It's more comforting to think your father is a frog Prince than swallow the knowledge that he's dead.

As she gets older, Naomi learns more about her surroundings and so we do to. By the time she's a grown-up, she is kind of tired of all of her memories. She says:

I am tired of living between deaths and funerals, weighted with decorum, unable to shout or sing or dance, unable to scream or swear, unable to laugh, unable to breathe out loud. (27.6)

We get it; we'd be tired of all of that too.

By choosing Naomi as her narrator, Kogawa not only tells us the story of Japanese-Canadian internment, but the individual story of one little girl growing up through wartime. Naomi both speaks for all the Japanese-Canadians interned during WWII and speaks for herself, with her own unmistakable voice.

We would totally be friends with Naomi.