Contrast and Dialogue in Monica Sone's Pearl Harbor Echoes in Seattle

Published: 2021-09-16 12:35:07
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“Pearl Harbor Echoes in Seattle,” reveals Monica Sone’s account of the effects caused by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a Japanese-American, Sone discloses the tragedy of the event and how it effected her family and friends. One major theme in the story is the irony of being American and being treated with injustice and inequality. Because of the incident at Pearl Harbor, Sone’s family underwent prejudice for being Japanese. Sone and her siblings physically looked Japanese but were born in America. Being born between two cultures, Sone writes about her inner and outer conflict with being treated as an alien and enemy in her own native country. Sone successfully portrays this theme through irony. She creates irony by using contrasting devices and dialogue. Though contrast and dialogue, Sone creates a clear voice to convey her central theme.
Sone uses irony to create vivid contrasts that make her story more dynamic. She begins the story with an opening sentence that creates contrasting suspense. She writes, “On a peaceful Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Henry, Sumi, and I were at choir rehearsal singing ourselves hoarse in preparation for the annual Christmas recital [ . . . ]”(122). Sone sets up a voice that suggests that the “peaceful Sunday morning” is a prelude to a climactic event. The specific date of the bombing of Pearl Harbor adds to the irony of such horrific event beginning so peacefully. Like a movie using silence to prepare the viewer for the surprise, Sone uses the word “peaceful” to create the dramatic contrast to what’s to come in the story. Another example of Sone’s use of irony is when she describes her brother Henry driving after she and Henry find out the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She states, “Usually Henry was a careful driver, but that morning he bore down savagely on the accelerator. Boiling angry, he shot us up Twelfth Avenue, rammed through the busy Jackson Street intersection, and rocketed up the Beacon Hill” (123). Sone shows the reader the contrast between Henry’s driving during normal circumstances to his reaction by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She describes Henry “usually” being “a careful driver.” She then contrasts the description by depicting Henry’s driving with verbs like “shot,” “rammed, “and “rocketed.” The reader is then led by Henry’s reaction that something urgent and alarming is happening. Sone also is showing her brother’s reaction to show the significance of how the event effects her family. Through Sone’s vivid comparison, she is able to create more weight to the importance of how the bombing of Pearl Harbor altered her family’s lifestyle.
Sone also uses irony to depict the danger for all Japanese people during the Pearl Harbor event. She describes her mother talking to Mr. Yorita, the grocer, by saying:
When Mother said, “Yorita-san, you must worry about getting a call from the FBI, too,” Mr. Yorita laughed modestly, pushing his glasses back up into place. “They wouldn’t be interested in anyone as insignificant as myself!”
But he was wrong. The following week a new delivery boy appeared at the back door with an airy explanation, “Yep they got the old man, too, and don’t ask me why!” (127).
The irony is that status of Japanese men didn’t matter. All Japanese men were being taken. Mr. Yorita was a grocery man. His status had no relation to any political ties, yet Sone shows that the mere fact of being Japanese was dangerous. The threat was not only toward political and corporate Japanese leaders, but to all people with Japanese origin.
Dialogue is another effective way that Sone shows the irony of her being American but being treated as Japanese, the enemy. Sone describes Mrs. Matsuii, the family friend, informing her family about the procedures when her father is to be taken away. Sone writes Mrs. Matsuii saying, “You must destroy everything and anything Japanese which may incriminate your husband. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s printed or made in Japan, destroy it because the FBI always carries off those items for evidence”(128). Sone uses dialogue to bring the reader into the reality of the story. She also shows the emergency and extent of the accusations made against the Japanese. By the way Mrs. Matsuii says, “It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s printed or made in Japan,” we see the ill approaches made against the Japanese. The fact that any article that had a relation to Japan could be evidence of being a terrorist, is faulty. The irony is reflected through Mrs. Matsuii’s statement. Sone conveys how her being American doesn’t matter. She was ultimately Japanese in the eyes of the American Government. The irony is shown by how Sone’s family, although Sone is American, they must prepare themselves to be taken. Through Mrs. Matsuii’s dialogue, Sone shows the reader the injustice and mistreatment toward the Japanese.
Sone also uses dialogue to directly immerse the reader into her own character within the story. When Sone describes the prejudice made by other Americans she quotes one of the “professional guardians of the Golden West” saying,
A Californian sounded the alarm: “The Japanese are dangerous and they must leave. Remember the destruction and the sabotage perpetrated at Pearl Harbor. Notice how they have infiltrated into the harbor towns and taken out best land. (130)
Sone purposefully ends the paragraph with this quote to help the reader create his/her own opinion. She understands the preposterous claims made against the Japanese that she does not need to explain her feelings. The most effective part of the quote is the accusation made against the Japanese and how they have surreptitiously possessed the most valuable lands. Sone knows that any reader would be just as appalled, as she was when she heard the same quote.
Throughout Sone’s story, she uses much dialogue and contrasting techniques to create irony in her story. She gives the reader not only the room to feel and develop his/her own opinion, but also gives the possible reactions that could have occurred under normal circumstances. Although Sone uses contrasts and dialogue to create irony, her central theme of Americanism is itself the essence of irony. What is it to be American? Sone writes her story to challenge just that. Sone is American, yet the injustice, inequality and lack of freedom show otherwise. The irony of it all is exactly as Sone portrays at the end of her story. As she describes her peaceful epiphany after talking to her friend Marta, she says, “There was too much beauty surrounding us”(134). How could Sone feel that beauty exists when she and her family are being taken to an internment camp? How could Sone feel at peace when she is an American and is being treated as an enemy because of her physical appearances? Irony creates Sone’s story as it is being created by Sone. Although Sone’s story could be assumed a replica of many other accounts of internment victims, she manages stylistically create irony with contrast and dialogue.
Lemorne Versus Huell Leanne Lee
The article written by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard was as said before difficult to comprehend at first. I actually like it very much because of the cynical perspective of the main character Margaret.
One of the main themes I believe is the issue of choice. Througout the article, Margaret is made to stay with her aunt while she is tending to her health. In the beginning of the article Margaret makes it a point to show how she had absolutely no choice in taking care of her aunt. Yet throughout the story character’s ask her questions and she responds according as if her opinion does not matter. It is almost as if Margaret hates her lifestyle yet does not do anything to ameliorate it. When she describes her lifestyle at first with her aunt she states, ‘I was in the habit of dwelling on the contrast between her way of living and ours. We lived from “hand to mouth.” Every thing about her wore a hereditary air; for she lived in my grandfather’s house, and it was the same as in his day. If I was at home when these contrasts occurred to me I should have felt angry; as it was, I felt them as in a dream-the china, the silver, the old furniture, and the excellent fare soothed me’ (2). Margaret envied her aunt for her luxury yet despised her. She shows a sort of sulking attitude when she describes her aunt having inherited everything and not working at all.
Margaret tries to show her plain and low status as much as she can. When her aunt tells her to make a dress for the ball, she describes how she made it plain. When she tells Mr. Uxbridge about herself she says, “I am not what I seem. I never wore so splendid a dress as this till tonight, and shall not again” (12). Margaret does not like being of low status, nor does she feel like she should act out of it, even when dressed above status. Margaret to me, is a complex character. She is envious, cynical and a bit manipulative. When Mr. Uxbridge says what he thinks of her he states, “You have courage, fidelity, and patience-this character with a passionate soul. I am sure that you have such a soul”(12)? Margaret is exactly not what Mr. Uxbridge thinks she is, yet she marries him.
Ultimately the story is built by ambiguity. It is sort of hard to make of the story, yet my feelings are that Margaret is just as manipulative as the aunt is about winning Lemorne. They both got what they wanted. The aunt won Lemorne and Margaret married into money. Was it a happy ending? Well, Stoddard, of course ends the article with another ambiguous line. Margaret dreams and states, “My husband is a scoundrel”(16) This is where I’m just clueless. But what can you expect? Elizabeth Drew Stoddard wants to ambiguous, so it can mean many things.
I decided to choose Slone because of how much I enjoyed the story. I felt like I had a connection to Sloan because of being Asian-American. I also felt like I had similar experiences in questioning what it is and means to be “American.” What stood out to me was when she describes one of the church members asking, “Do you think they’ll consider us Japanese or American?” I had quite the same reaction in Italy, yet probably with not the same degree. I also thought about how frightening and stressful it would have been to be constantly waiting for the government to take my father away. I also wanted to understand why Slone’s ending was so relaxed and not the disturbing ending I expected.

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