The Children By Julie Otsuk
Julie Otsuka is a prolific writer who is known for her good novels that reflects on the day today lives of each human being. One of her works is The Buddha in the Attic. This novel talks about Japanese women and their families in the twentieth century. These women travelled all the way from japan to America by boat hopping for a better life. they meet their brides whom they only knew from the pictures they were sent. on reaching to America, life turns out to be different from their expectations. They have to work hard beside their husband to make a living. The book is comprised of different scenes some of which are; the travel to America by boat to meet their husbands. It turns out that their promised husbands were not attractive and financially stable as they were promised. The women’s first night is the second scene. Third scene talks of how Japanese were treated on their places of work. The fourth and fifth talks about the numerous babies born by Japanese and how these children tried to fit in the American culture. In this analysis I will be interested chapter four and five which deals with the children based on conflict and the setting.
Otsuka tells of the bad conditions under which they gave birth to their first babies. She says that they gave birth under oaks trees, in the hot summer where the heat was so much. Some gave birth in barns and fields where they worked. Some husbands wanted sex right after their women gave birth. Some women would be forced to go to work the next day after giving birth. The conditions under which they give birth were extremely harsh that their babies would die after three weeks. Some would give birth to deformed babies although you could not miss a healthy one. Every year they had babies and no matter how much they asked their husband to stop, the babies kept coming. They tried to force miscarriage but they sometimes would not succeed. Those who could not give birth were left to die.
Otsuka continues to narrate that after the women had given birth, they would carry the babies and children to the fields where they worked. Their mothers gave them sticks to play with in their absence and usually called them at different time intervals to let them know they were still around them. The children were left to entertain themselves until they fell asleep. Each mother had the favorite among her children. The sons received more care than daughters since mothers knew that it is their sons who would take care of them at their old age. The daughters would be married. When the dark came, they would wake up their children, brush off the dust and carry them home. At home they would meet their husbands seated reading magazine. All child care and house chores were left for the woman. The husband was so fierce that even the children would not take to them directly unless they sent their mothers. The mothers would not sleep before the husband or wake up after them. that was setting a bad example to the children.
When the children were old enough, they started working on the fields. Their mothers would not have wanted this kind of life for them and sometimes they would wonder if it was right to bring them into such a world. but before long, the children started to forget Japanese and adopted English. They started began to learn about the American children living beyond the farms. They would eat much, drink milk like Americans and started feeling ashamed of their parents. they no longer respected their parents and gap between them widened. They started to drift away and joined the Americans.
From the topic of the children, the setting of the farm represents the conflict between the children and their adversaries. As shown from the novel the farm is a hard place where the women have to toil and moil throughout the day to get a living. the hardships that the children go through from when they are born is like a hard farm. Even after they are born their farm of problems continues. Their mothers even go to an extent of asking themselves if they had been right to bring the children into such world. This shows the parents state of mind; they are conflicted and troubled by the uncontrollable circumstances in their lives. The conflict within the children itself is seen when Otsuka says that they had different visions and dreams. Some said they would save enough to buy a farm of their own and become a tomato grower like his father. The situation is conflicting even with their spiritual beliefs. One swore she will marry a preacher so that she will not have to pick berries on Sundays. The life at the farm was so hard that some had dreams of becoming artist so that they would live in a garret in Paris. Even though all what parents saw was darkness and no way out of this farm of problems, they let the children dream on.
Julie Otsuka: The Buddha in the Attic, Knopf, 2011.
Ahlin, Lena. ““All we wanted to do, now that we were back in the world, was forget”: On Remembrance and Forgetting in Julie Otsuka’s novels.” American Studies in Scandinavia 47.2 (2015): 81-101.