Trauma In Elie Wiesel's When The Emperor Was Divine

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During the last three years of World War II approximately 120,000 Japanese-American people were forcibly detained and put in internment camps. The stories of the people put in these camps aren’t well known despite this being an extremely important part of the U.S past. But the novel When the Emperor was Divine tells a fictionalized version of the camps based on the experiences of people in the camps. The characters in this novel were alienated from the outside world and this took a toll on them. All of the characters reacted to this differently but in the end the trauma was long-lasting. This novel illustrates how different people cope with trauma and how this trauma can shape a person's perspective of themselves and others.
The trauma from …show more content…

This can be seen when he first arrives at the camps and was, “worried he was [at the camp] because he’d done something horribly, terribly wrong.” This illustrates how his reaction to this horrendous experience is to try to rationalize it. He is trying to have a reason that he is in the camp because he doesn’t realize that he is just there because other people are afraid of Japanese-American people. This quote really makes it apparent how naive he is. His age also makes it so he reacts to his trauma in different ways than his family members. This quote highlights how the trauma has already started to alter how the boy views himself. Additionally the boy has a very different reaction to the camps, this is apparent when he was looking at the moon and he wondered “if you could see the same moon in Lordsburg, or London or even China…He decided that you could… ‘same moon’ he whispered to himself, ‘same moon.’” It can be inferred from this quote that the boy is still trying to stay connected to the outside world and not lose hope. This is important because most of the people in the internment camps and the other characters at some point lose hope and him actively searching for hope shows how he differs from the other characters in how he deals with trauma. This quote also proves how his mind defaults to wanting to believe that there is good in the world rather than not seeing …show more content…

The kids notice immediately that the dad has changed because he has no interest in many of the things that he had done for them before. He no longer “[drew] for [them], or sang songs for [them] in his wobbly, off-key voice. He did not read [them] stories.” Him not having interest in playing with his kids shows how much these camps have made it so he has lost interest in things that would bring him joy in the past. While this may seem like he has just fallen into a depression or something along those lines, that is not what this is. What it is, is him being disconnected from himself and lacking motivation to do things with his kids. This is a direct result of the trauma because before this he did lots of things with the kids as the quote proves. This quote could also prove that the trauma the dad has experienced has caused him to dissociate from what is going on around him as a way to protect himself from the camps. Him being in a dissociative state would explain why he is seeming disconnected from the kids and not acting like himself completely. Another way that the dads trauma was shown was when he would fall asleep for a nap “only to awaken, moments later, with a start, not knowing where he was. He [would sit] up and [shout] our names…” This demonstrates how his mind has developed

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