They say that your dreams tell a lot about you: your hopes, wishes, and darkest fears. Dreams in Obasan definitely tell us a lot about Naomi. By working in a different language from everyday life, dreams provide a safe place for Naomi to acknowledge her feelings. So don't dismiss dreams just because they aren't "real life." They can be just as important and even more telling than the mundane, everyday truth.
Dreams are just as real as the so-called facts in Obasan.
Sometimes in Obasan, reality makes less sense than Naomi's dream world.
Be careful with your words, they're dangerous! In Obasan words are not just vehicles for communication. They can wound, they can heal, they can create new things, and they can tear those new things down. So all of the characters in the novel are very precise with the words that they use. That's probably why, with the exception of Aunt Emily, almost no one says very much of anything at all.
In Obasan, language is a strong and powerful weapon that should be wielded carefully.
Language is dangerous, and it's better to be silent than speak in Obasan.
There sure is a lot of talk about houses in Obasan. There's a house in Vancouver, the one in Slocan, the hut in Granton. But why does it matter? Home is just where you put your stuff, right? For the characters in Obasan, home is more than just a place because it is ripped from them just like their freedoms and childhoods. It's something that they can never get back, even though they try.
In Obasan, home is where the heart is.
No one in Obasan is ever allowed to return home.
It's prejudice's fault. Everything boils down to prejudice in Obasan. That's why Naomi loses her house, is sent to Slocan, toils in Granton, and overall has a pretty lame childhood. Throughout the novel it appears like an overwhelming irrational force. It's everywhere, and no one can do anything about it. Aunt Emily tries to fight back against prejudice, but it doesn't seem that she's doing so well. How do you fight back against a giant faceless monster?
After World War II there is no more prejudice in Obasan's Canada.
The prejudice displayed in Obasan is completely irrational.
Some people say that it's not good to live in the past, but Obasan begs to differ. Even though she doesn't want to, Naomi plunges into a re-examination of her past because of Aunt Emily's letters. And the whole climax of the book hinges on correcting a memory of the past that turns out to be fake. Naomi may say that she wants to leave the past in the past, but it's obvious that she's obsessed with her own history.
When things are bad in Obasan, it is better to forget than to remember.
Aunt Emily is right about the best way to approach memories. She and other characters in Obasan need to remember things in order to deal with the past.
Author writes semi-autobiographical novel about a protagonist who loves books. Hmm. Where have we seen this before? It's no big surprise that Naomi develops a love for the written word throughout Obasan. But it's not just any kind of literature that interests her, it's fairy tales. They are educational, fun to listen to, and they all have happy endings. What else could you want? Whenever Naomi runs into trouble, that's where she turns for help. But as much as Naomi hopes she will find a real life happy ending, we're not sure if that fairy tale will ever come true.
Fairy tales are just stories for kids in Obasan.
Fairy tales and reality are not so far apart, at least in Naomi's mind.
You can't turn a page in Obasan without coming across death. We see more instances of death in this novel than we see Naomi playing with friends. But because the novel opens with the death of Naomi's Uncle, and death is such a regular feature in the text, it's not really scary. The problem is that the characters don't know how to understand how to process the deaths that they see around them. That's what this whole novel is about.
According to Obasan, everyone dies so there is no reason to mourn.
In Obasan, the characters are never allowed to grieve their loved ones, so they can never move on.
Who gets to define a person's identity? Themselves? The government? Other people? In Obasan, the Japanese Canadian characters struggle to assert their own identity. They are called Japanese, enemies, and foreigners by everyone else, but they just want to be called Canadian. Who wins this fight? It's hard to say. But it's easy to see that even long after the war, people like Aunt Emily are still fighting.
Identity is a private and personal affair in Obasan.
Only the Japanese defendants born in Canada question their identity in Obasan.