When the Emperor was Divine Novel
“In Julie Otsuka’s novel When the Emperor was Divine, the boy sees visions of his father and what he believes his father is like physically and personality wise. Even though the boy hasn’t seen or talked to his father for many years, he still talks very highly of him. Therefore, some people might argue that the boy is delusional. In fact, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown would also agree that the boy is being delusional; people aren’t who they seem to be. By diving deeper into the boy’s mentality and how he views his father, it is understood this concept is important to note. Why can’t the family, the boy specifically, in When the Emperor was Divine accept that the father is not the man they had once thought he was? The answer to this question can come from many different angles. One reason that sticks out is, they want to protect their father. Just as in Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown doesn’t believe his father is a devil worshipper because he wants to protect his father and becoming one with the devil is a dangerous thing to do.
When the Emperor was Divine is a story about a Japanese American family that gets taken from their home during World War II in a nationwide issue that affects all Japanese Americans and sends them to various barracks in Utah. The families that are sent to the camp are based on looks, if you look Japanese or Asian you were taken, and are stripped of all rights previously owned. The story is told in many different voices, characters, and is told from each of their perspectives of what is going on. Readers get a look into the emotions that each character felt going through the whole process. As the book continues readers get a slight introduction of the mysterious father and who he is, but until the fathers’ point of view readers don’t actually get to see the father for who he truly is. Young Goodman Brown is a novel that follows Goodman Brown and his encounter with the Devil. The story reveals many people who Goodman thought were pure and good to actually be in cahoots with the Devil and Goodman is forever changed after it. A once lively man turned to a depressed, distrustful man who lives out his days in sorrow.
The boy in When the Emperor was Divine holds his father to a different standard. The boy remembers him as, “a loving, mild-mannered, and gentle man” (Otsuka 90). But upon his return readers come to know the father as bitter and weary, reeling from the psychological effects of being unjustly interned as an alien enemy. The same issue presents itself in the story of Young Goodman Brown. Goodman speaks very highly of his father. The devil is talking with Goodman and the devil reveals that “it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s war” (Hawthorne 939). Hearing this news, Goodman is crushed. Readers begin to wonder why, why do families, young boys in general, speak so highly of the men of their families when they really don’t know them at all. One possible answer to this is that the boy is protecting the image of his father for his own sake. Growing up without a father being an adolescent boy can pose its challenges. He is protecting his father by keeping his name from being dragged in the mud because of what others will think of him after the arrest. Goodman uses the same tactic when his father is named a devil worshipper, he wants nothing but to protect his father’s image in his own mind so he can keep sane.
The solution to this issue could also be, the boy refuses to accept his father is anything else but a lovable man because he wants normality within their family and the image of his father keeps him sane. With World War II going on, his father was taken from him, and their family is having to pack up and leave everything behind. This gives the boy a reason to want a little normality in his life. His visions of his dad being the cowboy that saves the town gives the boy a little hope. Hope that one day all will go back to normal. The constant referring back to the boys’ father and how good of a man he is/was shows, readers, that the boy looks up to his father. To get through these rough times the boy needs something to get him through and feeling normal gets people past those tough times. Goodman Brown can also be explained by this answer. Even though his father is a devil worshipper, Goodman is going through a tough time and needs normalcy within his life. Seeing others as someone they used to be, gives a sense of ease and makes the bad parts of that person go away. Even though refusing to accept the truth is not always the right answer, it is an answer that can give people the time it takes for them to heal.
Another possible solution to this ever-growing list is, that the outcome the boy was given wasn’t the outcome that he had expected or wanted. Instead of dealing with the issue head-on, overlooking it and remembering his father as he once was is easier. The boy in When the Emperor was Divine painted the image of a superhero father one that did it all. Upon finding out that the father is not who he imagines him as, the boy reverts back to his imagination and chooses to remember him as he once was. The father is gripped by his rage and resentment at America for imprisoning him and his family, the father slowly disconnects from his family, becoming more sullen and withdrawing into his inner world. “Though he did not physically die at the camp, he does return as a ghost of his former self” (Otsuka 98). The boy loses his father mentally and given the outcome wasn’t expected the boy continues to revert back to his own mind and how he saw his dad.”