No-No Boy Theme

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No-No Boy is a novel published by Japanese American writer John Okada. It tells the story of Ichiro, a Japanese American male who returns to Seattle after serving two years in prison for refusing to fight for the United States in World War II. Ichiro is identified as a no-no boy, a male who answered “no” to questions 27 and 28 on a loyalty questionnaire, which asked if the respondent was willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States and if they pledged allegiance to the United States of America. In response to this, Ichiro opts out of joining the war and is sent to two years in prison for the decision that he makes. Once Ichiro is released, he is left wondering if he had truly made the right decision at all. Ichiro carries with…show more content…
The theme of freedom is presented as a paradox, allowing Ichiro to roam free after serving his two years in prison, yet having him carry the weight of his decision and being ostracized from his own community for being a no-no boy. A quote that l felt really exemplified this, was when Ichiro stated, “Why is it that, in my freedom, l feel more imprisoned in the wrongness of myself and the thing l did than when l was in prison? Am I really never to know again what it is to be American?” Despite the physicality of being free, Ichiro struggles to live with the punishment of being trapped between two nations. This ironic freedom can also be related back to the court case of Korematsu v. United States (1944). In this case, the petitioner, an American citizen of Japanese descent, is convicted in a federal district court for violating two conflicting orders, Presidential Executive Order 90066 and Order No. 34. According to Korematsu v. United States (1944) “The two conflicting orders, one which commanded him to stay and the other which commanded him to go, were nothing but a cleverly devised trap to accomplish the real purpose of the military authority, which was to lock him up in a concentration camp.” Therefore, the petitioner is trapped into not being able to do anything, and by choosing to do nothing, he is punished for it. In a similar manner, Ichiro is trapped in his own freedom, not knowing how to act now that he is a free man (physically) but is still seen as an enemy of the country no matter where he goes. Ichiro’s freedom is disturbed by the ideologies of his mother, who believes that Japan won the war and has this Sojourner mentality that the Japanese ships will come back for them and that they will return back to their
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