Throughout this novel we see the character Hatsue from many people’s perspectives which give us a good overall view of her, although we never get to know her completely. Hatsue is a complex character who does not seem like she will ever be fully understood by anyone at all. In the novel we come to understand why Hatsue is who she is and why she acts the way she does. In this essay I will attempt to show how the writer Guterson represents Hatsue through the different perspectives of her and through her own eyes.
When Hatsue first appears she is sat outside the courtroom Ishmael sees her seated on a hall bench (we see her here for the first time through Ishmael’s eyes). She clearly wants to be left alone and from her meeting here with Ishmael it seems that she is upset, sorrowful and distant. “She had not been exactly cold to him, not exactly hateful, but he’d felt her distance anyway.
“Go away” she’d said… This shows that Hatsue wants to be left alone and because Ishmael only seems to want to help her and make sure she is okay she seems to come across as unfriendly and aloof even though at this time it would be probable that she would need support. Since Hatsue is being slightly cold towards Ishmael in a circumstance were most people may need support it may seem that there is a past between the two. Ishmael notices how Hatsue’s hair has been arranged and he mentions her neck which is quite a sexual part of the body so this may imply that they had a relationship.
Hatsue’s enmity here could merely be because of her uneasy feeling while being in the presence of Ishmael. In chapter 7 we find out more about how Hatsue is coping with her husband’s imprisonment. We see Hatsue here from the narrator’s point of view which shows us that she is not coping with her children so well because her life was “on hold” while Kabuo was in prison. “She went because she was lonely and needed to hear the sound of voices. The women made sandwiches, cakes, and tea and chattered in the kitchen while the children played, and this is how the autumn passed, with her life arrested, on hold”.
She even sometimes fell asleep and it even says “in the past she should never have done such a thing” which to me implies that Hatsue is a proud woman who does not like to take advantage of others hospitality. Just after the paragraph about her emptiness without Kabuo it described how she now wears mascara and lipstick; but her not being vain but has accepted that she’s fading. Guterson then describes how Hatsue’s beauty was “public property” because she was the Strawberry Princess in 1941 and Ishmael Chambers’ yearning of desire and admiration for her only increases our image of Hatsue Imada/Miyamoto being an extremely beautiful girl.
Guterson then tells us how Hatsue was sent to take lessons from a lady called Mrs Shigemura who taught her how to “act like a proper Japanese girl” as you might say. “Mrs Shigemura, who taught young girls to dance odori and to serve tea impeccably” taught Hatsue all that she knew about being Japanese. She knew to cut her hair would be heresy and Mrs Shigemura taught Hatsue “the intricacies of the tea ceremony as well as calligraphy and scene painting. She showed her how to arrange flowers in a vase and how, for special occasions, to dust her face with rice powder.
She insisted that Hatsue must never giggle and must never look at a man directly… ” along with this she was taught how to “sit, walk and stand gracefully” and how she must “marry a boy of her own kind”. All of Mrs Shigemura’s training of Hatsue to be a “proper Japanese girl” paid off because Guterson presents Hatsue as a very good example of a beautiful and composed Japanese girl “unified and graceful”. The lessons from Mrs Shigemura did not really affect Hatsue much when she was growing up.
She did not act as a Japanese girl supposedly should because for one she had a relationship with a hakujin boy, Ishmael, but when she settled and married Kabuo she seems to be a perfect Japanese girl. When Hatsue was young she kissed Ishmael in the sea. “Hatsue would remember on the day of her wedding that her first kiss had been from this boy, Ishmael Chambers, while they clung to a glass box and floated in the ocean. But when her husband asked if she had kissed anyone before, Hatsue had answered never”.
This may show that when Hatsue was young she was tempted by lust and desire but now she was older she wanted to be the perfect little Japanese wife but if she revealed the truth about her past she could never be that. When Hatsue reminisces about marrying Kabuo it says “She was glad to have married him” and “He was precisely the boy Mrs Shigemura had described for her so many years ago… “She told Kabuo it was her destiny to marry him and it is revealed that she wanted to marry him because he wanted the same things as her; it seems to be a marriage for convenience; but it works.
It later says that on Kabuo and Hatsue’s wedding night that “soon, she would feel another boy’s hardness deep inside of her” which shows that she has done this before and that she lied when she said “never” to Kabuo when he asked her if she’d done it before. Whether Hatsue in her mind believes she did not make love to Ishmael or whether she believes that he did but she does not want to seem untraditional we never find out because Hatsue is so intensely complex and we never know everything about her; we are left to speculate which makes her eternally mysterious.
In chapter 8 there is a brief conversation between Hatsue and Ishmael, which to me, seems to sum up what Hatsue is like. This happens at their first meeting after Ishmael kissed her for the first time and he says to forget it happened and Hatsue says nothing. He says “It was like Hatsue not to answer” which I think interprets the mysteriousness and our unknowingness of Hatsue all together. This quote could show us how she doesn’t answer, how she doesn’t speak to no one, how she can hide things and compose herself just like Mrs Shigemura taught her to.
For example we would never know why Hatsue broke up with Ishmael; whether she really thought it was wrong deep down inside of her or whether it were the imbedded thought that were drilled into her as a child, by her mother and Mrs Shigemura, that having a hakujin boyfriend was wrong. “It was like Hatsue not to answer”. It was like Hatsue to not let us know the real truth. Guterson seems to portray her as an anti-revelation type. In chapter 12 we hear Ishmael’s side of his and Hatsue’s relationship. Hatsue never really revealed anything so we get to know her past relationship with Ishmael through him.
He gives the idea of a very lustful, sexual relationship “slippery softness of their lips and tongues… ” We learn here that it is not just us that cannot full understand the workings of Hatsue but Ishmael too. “Even when he held her it seemed to him there was a place in her heart he couldn’t get to. At times he worked himself up to discussing this, gradually revealing to her how it hurt him to feel there was a part of her love she withheld. Hatsue denied that this was so and explained to him that her emotional reserve was something she couldn’t help.
She had been carefully trained by her upbringing, she said, to avoid effusive displays of feeling, but this did not mean her heart was shallow”. She seems to be a character that is very moral and is very concerned with what effect her actions will have on her life and on others. This chapter also reveals that Hatsue has concerns about her and Ishmael’s relationship because it began in such a secretive and deceitful way. Here Ishmael starts to feel that his love for Hatsue is a one way thing. This may be true as Hatsue is beginning to realise their relationship will never work and Ishmael seems to pine for her more.
At the end of this chapter Hatsue walks away. Ishmael signals for her to go back to him but she carries on going. This seems to be the end of their relationship. In chapter 14 Hatsue develops as she has difficulty dealing with her cultural background. She no longer knows who she is or to which culture she belongs because she sees herself as an American because she’s been brought up there but they are treating her badly because of the Pearl Harbour bombing but because of her appearance and ancestors she is no longer accepted.
Her mother believes she is loosing her purity and says that she should stick to her culture because that’s who she is. Here she debates her love for Ishmael. Is it love or just friendship? All the ideas are provoked by her mother’s view on hakujin and her daughter’s purity. Here Hatsue thinks that if she did not have the face of the enemy then her and Ishmael could have a relationship but because she was Japanese “she had not fooled anybody, she had not fooled herself, as it turned out, either, she had never felt completely right.
How could they say, she and Ishmael, that they truly loved each other? ” In chapter 15 Hatsue’s little sister finds a letter from Ishmael and shows her mother. Fujiko is furious and Hatsue tells her mother she will end her relationship with Ishmael and that she had been doing a lot of thinking. Perhaps the journey to Manzanar has seriously changed her or maybe it has just been finality and a way to let Ishmael go. Fujiko says “Tell him the truth so you can move forward. Put this hakujin boy away now. ” Here we read of Hatsue and Kabuo’s relationship beginning.
It seems that Hatsue will never fully put Ishmael out of her mind because she thinks of him when she first kisses Kabuo. However, Kabuo offers security for her: “When the war was over he planned to farm strawberries back home on San Piedro Island” just like Hatsue did. In chapter 22 Ishmael and Hatsue meet for the first time in ages. Ishmael seems rather polite to Hatsue but she responds in quite a cold manner as when Ishmael asks if Hatsue wants him to give her a lift home she says “my father says he’s accepted” which indicates that she doesn’t want to have a lift from him.
It seems that Hatsue would really rather be somewhere else than in Ishmael’s car. She stares with “enormous deliberation” out the window which may show that she doesn’t care for Ishmael’s help or rather that she would rather not seem grateful and remains cold, or it may be from her upbringing by Mrs Shigemura that she doesn’t want to show any emotion. Ishmael finds that in the mirror of his car Hatsue meets his eyes and the look in her eyes is cryptic. Cryptic just like he can’t figure her out.
Maybe Hatsue hasn’t changed because when they were younger he always felt there was part of her that he couldn’t reach either so why now more than ever would she show her feelings through her looks. Hatsue then says to Ishmael “your newspaper” which in itself seems unfeeling and cold. She even cuts in when Ishmael is talking which is quite abrupt and adds to the aloof pretence of her conversation with him and says he should talk about her husband’s trial and say how it is unfair. Ishmael decides that her hostility was better than nothing which kind of shows that all he wants is for them to at least be on good terms.
He is content with the fact that her hostility is an emotion which she shares with HIM and no one else which is kind of sweet is a strange way. In chapter 24 Ishmael read the letter Hatsue sends him from Manzanar after many years and realises how she no longer loved him and how she realised that when he entered her. This seems to me that Hatsue cannot justify whether what she feels is right until she has had certainty like when Ishmael entered her she knew it was wrong and when Kabuo entered her she knew it was right.
Overall I think that Guterson explores and presents Hatsue in a very good way. She seems to be the kind of character were you always want to know what she is thinking because she doesn’t let emotion out. From her upbringing, especially with Mrs Shigemura, I can directly link and attempt to explain why she is how she is. For example when she took lessons from Mrs Shigemura she was always taught how to conceal her emotions and not be expressive but remain composed.
Hatsue has turned into the woman Mrs Shigemura and Fujiko wanted and it seems that Hatsue likes the acceptance of them and having a marriage that works rather than living a lustful life with Ishmael. I think the way that Guterson presents Hatsue to us as a character who we will never know fully makes her more enduring and interesting because we humans we like to get both sides of the story and for example with Ishmael and Hatsue’s relationship we only really know Ishmael’s true feelings.
What Hatsue seems to presents to us is what she thinks she feels. Guterson presents Hatsue wonderfully because she is an intriguing character and by making a direct link between her past and her future I feel I can see the whole outline of her life and understand why Hatsue is who she is and why she acts the way she does, but no one will ever know her heart.