Senior Research PaperYamamoto’s literary technique of dialogue introduces racial tensions and injustices minorities encountered with their white counterparts.
The story continues with the entrance of a drunken white male and an elderly Chinese couple. Because of the man’s loud conversation to himself, the Chinese woman, who sat next to Esther, jerked her head around to view the man. This lead him to say, “… Why don’t you go back where you came from? Why don’t you go back to China, where you can be coolies working in your bare feet in the rice fields?” (Yamamoto 4). Race begins to appear more dominant in the plot through the newly created racial tensions presented among the characters.
It’s evident the dominant culture in America at the time is white, western features. Since they’re the majority in the post WW2 society, racism frequently shapes the way we interact with one another. Esther’s realization of her Japanese identity and self-consciousness prevented her from speaking during the ride (Mullins). Esther’s lack of voice throughout the text implicitly critiques everyone on the bus, thus representing all Americans and their failure to forcibly address the injustices presented before them. However, this critique takes her silence while being a witness to the verbal harassment in the story and the historical context as the primary topic. “What the narrator describes as the “moral shabbiness” of Esther’s silence proves to be rooted in Esther’s recent experience in a World War II Japanese American “concentration camp” (Elliott).
While it’s not explicitly mentioned in the text, it’s likely to assume Esther resided in an internment camp during the war, given the context and era in which this story takes place. The harsh living conditions in these camps is likely the cause of her silence as a result of Esther’s repressed trauma. Esther’s lack of dialogue impacted her behavior towards the end of the story, showing her realization of the state of denial and detachment she lived in. “She was filled once again in her life with the infuriatingly helpless, insidiously sickening sensation of there being in the world nothing solid she could put her finger on, nothing solid she could some to grips with…” (Yamamoto 6). Upon arrival to her husband’s room, Esther “broke into sobs she could not control” (Yamamoto 7). The deliberate racism she encountered in events outside of the story as well as being a bystander to another minority group lead her to recognition of her detachment of the past trauma. Yet, Esther fails to communicate her experiences “when faced with an audience who resists reality and urges repression” (Mullins).