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Emblazoned symbols of decadence - Essay Example

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Name here Professor English 25 October 2012 From Hope to Despair: Emblazoned Symbols of Decadence Throughout “The Nice Thing about Counting Stars,” poet Dwight Okita uses a number of key symbols to help the reader understand what it was like for Japanese Americans to be thrown into World War II internment camps…
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Emblazoned symbols of decadence
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Download file to see previous pages By using various symbols as literary devices in the poem, the poet is able to successfully illustrate what he felt like and the painful processes he underwent as he lived the life of a prisoner within the harsh confines of a remote relocation camp. The powerful imagery and relatable concepts Okita manages to muster out of concrete nouns help him to masterfully paint mental pictures of what he and 110,000 other Japanese Americans emotionally went through from 1942 to 1946. Being forced into internment camps was a very invasive and demoralizing experience for Japanese Americans, and Okita eloquently captures the essence of how they felt by relating this hardship to a turtle’s smashed shell, which symbolizes not only the gutted houses they had to leave behind, but their squashed pride and self-respect. the middle of the poem, Okita relays how his neighbor Jimmi described the way people prepared turtle soup in the deep south as a way to symbolize what he went through as a result of being displaced, “A huge sea turtle ─ take a sledge hammer to the massive shell, wedge it open with one simple, solid blow till the turtle can feel no home above him, till everything is taken away and there is nothing he will carry away from this moment,” (Schmidt and Crockett 331). Without the poet spelling it out, the reader can easily see that victims of internment camps underwent a painful process similar to that of a turtle being stripped of his shell, which represents the security of his home. The reader understands that once the shell (home) is taken away and destroyed, much of the defenseless victim’s identity and self-worth is stolen away, as well. The vivid imagery of the turtle, which symbolizes both Japanese Americans (body) and their ravaged homes (crushed shell), is used as a precision instrument to artfully and poignantly depict the tragedy that wartime prisoners endured. Okita also goes on to use a barbed wire fence as a symbol to draw an image of the harsh conditions faced by detainees, as well as the different perspective from which they viewed life. The poet draws on the past pleasure he took in counting stars from his home in Fresno, California, where he often sang with the joy it brought him - gazing at the celestial wonders. He then describes the stars he sees in his Arkansas internment camp, which are accompanied by the sharp, unattractive stars made from barbed wire fences, “The nice thing about counting stars is you can do it just about anywhere . . . Even in a relocation camp miles from home, even in Jerome, Arkansas where a barbed wire fence crisscrosses itself making stars of its own - but nothing worth counting, nothing worth singing to,” (331). The barbed wire fence symbolizes the constraints from enjoying the world the way it was meant to be, while the fake stars it forms are symbolic of how internment camps provide horrible substitutes for real (enjoyable) life on the outside. These literary conventions give the reader a better grasp of what life was really like inside the confines of the camps. Lastly, Okita uses the imagery of his family’s car before and during his internment to symbolize the condition of the detainees and their lives. He creatively does this while recounting about his mother, “At night, she’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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