.. identity because they feel this is the only way they can succeed in the unaccustomed lands. Although immigrants struggle with maintaining their identity, they are often robbed of their heritage by unbeatable forces. War and prejudice force immigrants to adhere to the ways of their new surroundings and loose their old traditions. Joy Kowaga depicts this immigrant experience through Naomis uncles life experiences. Being robed of his ships and placed in an interment camp because of his heritage, forced Naomis uncle to pull away from his past. Naomi follows in the footsteps of her uncle, and tries to pull away from her heritage also.
Naomis denial of her past is exemplified in the quote, ” Our past is a s clotted as old webs hung in dark attics , still sticky and hovering waiting for us to adhere and submit or depart” ( 54). Naomis past wants to cling to her however she detaches from herself from her culture by refusing to carry on the traditions of her Japanese heritage. Naomis opposing views against her Japanese origin were moulded during her adolescent years during World War II, when Canadians feared that the Japanese would attack Canada just as they had bomed the United States at Pearl Harbour. Leaving their past behind, immigrants struggle to survive by any means possible. Naturally humans are constant striving to survive.
This constant struggle compels humans to change their culture, in order to contiue and flourish. Immigrants in Canadian Literature are also faced with feelings of isolation from society and the land. The isolation that immigrants experience is usually isolation from society . Assunta Barrones character in The Black Madonna is an example of how immigrants are socially isolated from society. In the case of Assunta, however, this isolation is self-inflicted.
The fact that Assunta never really left her small Italian neighbourhood in the west end of Sault Ste. Marie was the reason why she was socially isolated. Assunta does not interact with anyone other than the Italian women in her neighbourhood. “Assunta had never gone beyond short Sunday car rides to the outskirts of the Sault.” (Paci 7). Even though Assunta was an ocean and a half away from her homeland of Italy, she was still isolated from society.
“It seemed she had gone from one Italian village in Marche to another one in Northern Ontario-the west end.” (11). Assuntas refusal to learn the English language, also contributed to her isolation from society. In the poem “Alien” by Mary Elizabeth Colman, the main character also feels isolated by Canadas land. “I AM afraid. This land is strange to me,/So new, so fierce, so large, with noisy folk.” (Colman lines1-2).
The immigrant is isolated by the land because it is so new for them. The poem goes on to say “How can I love this vast clamorous land”(line 10). The main character portryed in the poem “Alien” feels isolted in the unfamiliar land. Being in forgein surroundings, leaves the immigrant feeling helpless and isolated. Throughout Canadian Literature isolation has an extreme effect upon the developement of an individuals character.
Immigrants in Canadian literature will at one point be faced with isolation, but must think positively to overcome these feelings. Canadian literature shows immigrant children to be embarrassed and shameful of their heritage. It seems as though all children of immigrants try their hardest to rise above and create a better life for themselves than what their parents before them had. This is evident through the character of Marie in the novel The Black Madonna. Marie works diligently at her school work because she feels that her school smarts will help her rise above her past, and they do when she gets accepted to university.
“She would show her soon enough that she could do things alone. Go to Toronto. Become a doctor even. There were even endless possibilities once she got away. She would be so glad to be rid of them all. Shed show them that she didnt need them” (Paci 79). This quote shows the hostility that Marie holds towards her heritage.
Most Canadian works on the immigrant portray immigrant children as being shameful of their past and longing to escape the reality of who they really are. Feelings of emptiness and helplessness seem to be inevitable for the immigrant in Canadian literature. For the immigrant Canada is a land of reoccuring disappointments. Canadian Literature is filled with failure because of immigrants origin. The novel The Black Madonna is a good example in showing the many negative aspects of an immigrants life.
The main character Assunta portrays the many disappointments immigrants are faced with when travelling to new lands. The short story “Hunky” and poems “I Fight Back”, “Alien”, and “Land of Opportunity” are works which portray the immigrant as a victim. “Hunky”, “The Land of Opportunity” and “I Fight Back “portray characters who are disappointed with the immigrant experience. The immigrant struggle with identity is exemplified in the short story “Obason” by Joy Kowaga. Denying his Japanese origin Naomis uncle hoped to become successful in Canada.
Canadian works depict immigrant children as being embarrassed or shameful of their past. Maries character in The Black Madonna and Naomis character in Obason exemplify the immigrant childrens dishonourable attitude towards their culture. It is unfortunate that immigrants must experience hardships during their time in new lands. Immigrating to a new country should be an exceptional opportunity enabling foreigners to become auspicious. Unfortunately, the only lesson that immigrants embark upon when inhabiting among Canadas vast land is: Endurance, Survival, No Victory. In the past other Canadians made great sacrifices so that we today can enjoy the freedom , the quality of life, and the ezdard of living that we have. Hopefully, in time, immigrants will feel more comfortable with life in new lands and adapt to the constant culture changes in the world. Bibliography Allen, Lillian.
” I fight Back.” Canadian Poets. Canada: Little Brown and Co., 1970. Colman, Mary Elizabeth. “Alien”. An Anthology of Canadian Literature in English .Canada: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Garner, Hugh. ” Hunky.” Canadian Poets. Canada: Little, Brown and Co., 1970. Kowaga, Joy. “Obason.” An Anthology of Canadian Literature in English. Canada: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Paci, Frank. The Black Madonna. Canada: Oberon Press, 1982. Scott, F.R. ” The Land of Opportunity.” Canadian Content.
Canada: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992.