Speaking through the silence: Uncovering the Buddhist tradition in Joy Kogawa's "Obasan"

Carlotta Lady Izumi Abrams


Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan represents the seminal fictional articulation of the Japanese Canadian internment during World War II. As such, a fairly extensive body of criticism has been devoted to the work. The criticism focusses mainly on symbolism in the novel. This dissertation aims to take on a missing part of the criticism; that is, the investigation of the religious and spiritual influences from Buddhism. Critics such as Masao Miyoshi in Japan and Arnold Davidson in North America have begun to elaborate on Buddhist sensibility in Japanese Canadian literature. This study carries such an approach further by examining certain Buddhist concepts as they inform Obasan. Such concepts appear through the text overtly and at times in much more subtle ways.