Symbolism In Julie Otsuka's When The Emperor Was Divine

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Music is universal, and we all use it for different reasons. It can help you get through a bad day, cheer you up, and it even enhances the mind. What about literature? Usually, when an author refers to a song in literature, the reader doesn’t think too much of it. However, a closer look at the text may change your view. For example, author Julie Otsuka uses this element in her the novel, When the Emperor was Divine. This novel is set during World War II. It is about a Japanese family sent to the internment camps because of the American prejudice towards their people. The author includes a lot of vaguely written details, including the main characters’ names. So, the reader relies on indirect characterization and symbolism to comprehend the story and the characters within it. One example of this symbolism is the musical aspect that the author decides to include, the songs. Through the songs and the context in which they are used, the author establishes the mood, provides the reader with better …show more content…

His voice was sweet… she ate them slowly as she listened to the tenor sing,” (Otsuka, 9). At first glance, the reader would never suspect that the woman is about to kill White Dog. However, a closer look at the background of this song hints at what she is about to do. “La Donna E Mobile” translates to “The Woman is Unstable” in English. Some of the lyrics include, “ Always a loveable, cute face, in tears or smiling, it says lies.” This represents how well the woman takes care of White Dog by feeding him and keeping him healthy, but in reality, it is all just a facade. White Dog “trusted” the woman, yet, she betrays him. This song also represents the betrayal. The instrumental part of the song adds drama and suspense to the mood. It is from an opera, and it goes from highs to lows, dragging on the suspenseful

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