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American Democracy: The Promised Redemption (No-No Boy novel)

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No-No Boy is a novel that was published by American writer of Japanese origin, John Okada, in Seattle, Washington, in 1946. The book talks of the post war life of Japanese American, a former student of the University of Washington. The “no-no boy” phrase originates from the Japanese-American community that decided to name those who declined to join the United States Armed Forces. Namely, it means those who answered “no-no” to the questions asked in the internment camp. The novel covers the life of Ichiro Yamada after he returns from the federal prison and internment camp, where he had spent four years. All the Japanese-American undergraduates who refused to join the army were sent to the federal prisons. However, Yamada’s new life after prison is not easy. The young man despises his parents; he tries to find his place into the society, where he faces hostility from those belonging in his own community or background. He also tries to find the answers to the questions as to why people are rising against each other and why the choices he had made led him to come back home.

Being American meant to devote one’s life to the customs of the United States, bearing in mind that it was a country that consisted of different cultures, traditions, religions and ethics. As long as one was American, he had the rights to liberty, life and happiness. That is what defined the democracy height in America. However, this rule does not work when it comes to war. War tends to change all the rules in an effort to conceal the vulnerability of the country. The story described in No-No Boy tells of the war time, when America was faced with the obligation to defend itself from the enemies. The first chapter of the novel describes the consequences of bombing of the Pearl Harbor which is located in Hawaii Island and which hosted the United States Army. The attack conducted by the Japanese army triggered the Second World War and resulted into a harsh treatment towards the Japanese community in the United States. Even the basic rights of the Japanese Americans were revoked as they were considered as enemies. The given event is what forced the young Japanese American, Yamada, to be sent to the armed forces. The men was further jailed and sent to the internment camp. In order to promote the democratic right of every American citizen, the novel explains how the new American generation, namely Japanese Americans, faced hostility from their own country (Okada 39).

The author recounts the actions of these American Japanese who went to jail for two years for failing to fight for Americans. The book describes those Americans who decided to fight for the army and despised those who refused to do it. The main aim of those that fought for the army was seeking for a meaningful life in the United States. However, those who did not fight aimed at the same thing, but as a consequence of their failure to fight, they lost their hope. The author also recounts the story of the young Japanese American who is afraid to go back to America due to the fear of losing his life as a result of renouncing his position in the army and focuses on his wife who is left worrying about her husband (Okada 70).

The author of the novel describes the tension that exists nowadays between the government and the immigrants concerning the rule of democracy. Due to the racism that exists in the modern world, the residents of the country enjoy the high level of democracy as compared to the rest. By presenting the era where Japanese Americans’ hatred towards each other was based on their own choices or those of their families of whether fighting or not fighting for America, the author shows the reader all the hostility brought about by the racism and negative emotions (Okada 89).

The novel No-No Boy explains the generational conflict that existed among the immigrant families, where the parents of the new generation identified themselves with their origin country. On the contrary, the new generation seemed to be more connected to the new country than to their native home. The given contradiction is evident when Yamada is asked the two questions when he reaches the internment camp. The first question sounded like this: “are you willing to serve in the United States armed forces on combat duty wherever ordered?” (Okada 30). The second one was: “will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and defend the country from all attacks coming from the foreign or domestic forces and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor or any other foreign government, power or organization?”(Okada 30). The first question meant signing a form of a contract and, therefore, no resistance was expected in the future. As for the second question, many answered “no” and were put into prisons for renouncing their own country.

Yamada’s parents, namely his mother, fail to conceive the news that Japan has lost a war. Moreover, they believe that Japanese warships will soon arrive in Seattle. Their loyalty toward Japan is what develops the conflict between them and with her son. The conflict itself is depicted in the first chapter of the novel. Japanese Americans were forced to make hard decisions. First of all, they were to deny their Japanese heritage and pledge allegiance with the United States. However, it is the US that made so many Japanese go to the internment camps and jails. Therefore, democracy that was very important to these individuals was ruled out completely (Okada 67).

However, the end of the novel shows that there is a glimmering hope for Japanese Americans. It appears after the fistfight between Freddie and Ichiro that leads to the death of the former. Ichiro makes an effort to find hope beyond the Japanese American community. Probably, there is a better future for Japanese Americans (Okada 46).

The development of Ichiro’s journey is described by the author in details. After spending two years in the internment camp and two more years in the federal prison, Ichiro returns back home. He left his family four years ago, and when he finally comes back home, he is faced with the changed ideals. At the end of the period, Japanese Americans are treated inappropriately compared to Americans. However, Japanese Americans should be treated much better since they gave their all while fighting for the country. When Ichiro leaves the camps and comes back from his journey, he adapts to the new changed world and looks for hope.

Wandering about the American land and facing hostility from Americans on a racial ground was the last attempt in search for the lost identities. Democracy as the main rule of the American nation is a hope for a better future. It is also a hope for the redemption that will come after the long wait. The author’s main desire was to show the other side of democracy and the horrible consequences of the many undemocratic actions that were taken in an effort to secure democracy.

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