Hisaye Yamamotos Seventeen Syllables expresses the significance behind difficulties faced by Japanese immigrants to the United States, as well as the racial separation between these immigrants and their families. The Japanese immigrant experience many obstacles, such as poverty and unstable marriages. Yamamotos story implicates a teenager and her mother, Tome Hayashi who takes an interest in writing haiku for the Japanese language paper in San Francisco.
Her daughter however is practically illiterate to speaking Japanese, which is ironic since that is her culture and furthermore, fails to understand the haiku her mother writes. See Rosie, she said, it was a haiku, a poem in which she must pack all the meaning into seventeen syllables (Yamamoto 154). This is an interesting aspect in a sense that while Tome expresses her relevance on haikus, Rosie pretends to understand the concept and meanings of her mothers learning, but realistically she refuses to comprehend. More importantly, Tome Hayashi only took an interest in haiku to overcome everything that she went through. The truth was revealed when Tome admits to telling Rosie of her past.
As her mother told her the story, Tome remained in control of her life, which is extremely difficult after gathering that she faced horrible memories. Rosie was shocked to believe such things, Her mother, at nineteen, had come to America and married her father as an alternative to suicide (162). Before her father, her mother had met a lover, but only did she know that her lover already had an arranged marriage by his family. Many of these married couples are unsuited for one another and usually, forced to be with one another.
Another important significance is that these problems were concealed from their children, which is why Rosie had no idea until the end of the story. Disappointed about her past, Tome asks Rosie to promise never to marry and never be blinded by young romance. The story portrayed an intergenerational conflict between first generation and second generation. What Rosie went through may not have the same outcome as her mother did. Ronald Takakis excerpt Gam Saan Haak demonstrates Chinese immigrants as travelers to Gold Mountain (Takaki 80).
Due to hard economic times, government corruption and deficiency in China, forced many men to pursue opportunities overseas, such as the arrival in California. This separated many men from their families because there was a control of migration to America. Chinese women were excluded by the law, which show signs of prejudice, but instead were marked as laundry workers, which was a womans occupation (Takaki 93). Furthermore, Chinese worked in a variety of occupations: they were housekeepers, servants, laundresses, seamstresses, shoemakers, cooks, miners and fisherwomen.
But overwhelmingly, especially in the early years, Chinese women were prostitutes (Takaki 121). There were lots of employments for the Chinese women, but most of them were in a condition of debt, therefore they turned to the role of being prostitutes. Lives for the prostitutes were treacherous because they were beaten on occasions and looked down on based on their status. However, they were enormously profitable for their owners. Since women are incapable of working in heavy labor force, it had caused men to travel away from home to make some money.
A great number of Chinese immigrants came up with the same plan to migrate to America, causing the Chinese to make up 25 percent of the work force. At first they were doing great, owning businesses such as a shopkeeper and merchant, while some are artisans, farmers and labor contractors. However, the Americans did not like how the Chinese are taking over their land. A riot broke out between Americans and Asian Americans over the elimination of competition from foreign miners.
Takaki generates in his story the ultimate solution to prevent Asian immigrants from advancing anymore in the workforce, To halt the threat, the committee recommended the enactment of a foreign miners license tax (Takaki 81). This form of resentment towards the Chinese was extremely unfair. The racial purpose of this new tax was transparent: aimed mainly at the Chinese, this new tax required a monthly payment of three dollars from every foreign miner who did not desire to have become a citizen (Takaki 82).
This law imposed on the immigrants was mainly an act to drive away Chinese immigrants and take away their businesses. Slowly after, lives for the Chinese have become increasingly difficult. Instead of owning businesses, some have to organize themselves into small groups. Chinese people were marked as inferior people among the white Americans. A common connection between the Chinese and Japanese is that women are usually restricted from their men of the same culture, causing Chinese and Japanese men to go for women other than their traditional culture.
This usually leads to men marrying a white woman, in addition to having a family together, meanwhile losing all cultural traditions. Moreover, when the law was passed that Asian immigrants are allowed into the United States, they were stopped with the Asian Exclusion Act, where they are sojourned from migration and naturalization. The constant racial discrimination against Asians has become the main argument behind these immigrants experiences. Many immigrants hoped to move to America, wishing to adapt to American culture and lifestyles and believing that it is possible to be white.
However, they were driven out of American due to being a minority. Historically, whites generally perceived America as a racially homogenous society and Americans as white. Long before the Chinese arrived, they had already been predetermined for exclusion by this set of ideas; the Chinese future in America could be seen in the black and Indian past (Takaki 100). This can be seen as racism towards the Chinese workers. This distinction was made because the Chinese, like the blacks were viewed as threats in white society. In the eyes of Americans, there are no differences between Chinese and Japanese.
They have a shared history and lots of community, especially seen through racism. This is true to a certain extent only because the Gentlemens Agreement Act have created some equality for the Japanese. The Japanese were treated slightly better than the Chinese. While the United States would impose restrictions on Chinese immigrants, they were more lenient with Japanese immigrations in that there were no restrictions imposed. There were government differences because Japanese victory against Russia has made Japan demand for their identity in America.