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PLOT SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 5: Almost a Family
In a flashback, Jeanne reflects on her life in Ocean Park, which she misses greatly. She particularly misses the family dinners, where all of them would sit, talk, and eat together. In Manzanar, the young sons and daughters must eat blocks away from their families, despite the efforts of the mothers to keep their families together. The disappearance of the family dinner marks the beginning of the slow collapse of the Wakatsukis as a family unit. Even when Papa Ko returns from Fort Lincoln, weak and lean, he is unable to pull the family back together into a cohesive whole.
Part of the breakdown of the family is due to that fact that everyone who is able is expected to work in the camp. Mama works as a dietician for the kitchen; Jeanne's older siblings also get jobs. As a result, the younger children are left to their own devices and grow a bit wild. They invent and play games to help them pass the time. Jeanne develops an interest in the Catholic Church, especially in its amazing array of saints and martyrs.
Jeanne's mother and older siblings must work in the camp, so they are not always around to provide reassurance and stability to the children. Jeanne and the other youth, now unsupervised for much of the day, must find their own entertainment. To amuse themselves, the children eat at the various mess halls in the different blocks in order to try out all the camp food; but this game causes the loss of family cohesion, since the Wakatsukis no longer eat together. Jeanne fondly recalls how her family usually ate together before the war; she realizes with sadness that that time of unity is far in the past. In need of some new meaning in her life, Jeanne develops an interest in Catholicism.
As time passes at Manzanar, the Wakatsukis begin to relax, growing accustomed to their new lifestyle. Mama likes her job as a dietician, for it keeps her from sitting around and worrying. The family is also relieved when Ko returns from imprisonment, even though he looks much older; everyone notice that he has also grown thin and melancholic.
CHAPTER 6: Whatever He Did Had Flourish
In this chapter, the author interrupts the normal chronology of the narrative to comment and reflect upon the roles of her father; she sees him as a political prisoner, a husband, a father, and simply as a man. She recalls the story of his youthful days in Japan, when he was essentially idealistic and snobbish, largely due to the fact that he came from a respectable family of Samurais. He worked as a public official, a job that made him feel important and proud. But over the years, the status of the Wakatsuki family declined. His father turned to running a teahouse in order to support his family.
Ko, feeling humiliated by his father's occupation and the family's decline in social status, left Hiroshima for America, with the blessing of his favorite aunt. Upon arriving in the United States, Ko is proud and ambitious, certain that he can carve out the American Dream for himself. He begins to work as a houseboy, then as a law student, lumberjack, and dental assistant, always working hard to get ahead. He marries Mama, in spite of the protests offered by her family; they actually have to elope because of the disapproval of her parents. The couple settles in Seattle, Oregon; he works as a cook, and she works as a nurse and dietician until her oldest child is born. After the first child, another baby arrives every two years for the next eighteen years of her marriage to Ko; Jeanne is the youngest child.
Jeanne recalls that prior to the war, Papa and Mama celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Shortly afterwards, Papa was arrested, taken away and imprisoned, only because he was a Japanese living in America. When he is released and comes to Manzanar, Jeanne sees that he is a changed man. Still, however, Wakatsuki is respected by his peers; he even acts as a mediator between the authorities and prisoners of war. Part of his recognition comes because he is one of the few Japanese who speaks good English.
This chapter is solely dedicated to Jeanne's father, as indicated by the title "Whatever He Did Had Flourish." Jeanne explains the reason why Ko came to America, how he worked hard and when he married her mother. It seems to be a fairly honest, accurate, and objective portrait of Ko. Even though she criticizes her father as a braggart and extremely proud man, who always tries to have an audience and give a performance, it is obvious, from the chapter title and Jeanne's description, that she had a great deal of respect and admiration for the man she called Papa. She openly praises his strengths of character, which include hard work and adaptability.
Ko strives hard to make the American dream work for him and his family. His great sense of pride drives him to provide the best possible; when he is accused of treason and imprisoned, it destroys his pride and his sense of purpose. He feels that he loses everything he has achieved in America. He begins to drink to excess and to work far too little, leaving the burden on Mama.