Does Wantanna kill off Taro to discuss her racial identity? Watanna is a descendant of a Chinese mother and British father. As we have discussed in class, she writes with no real knowledge, other than grossly overstated stereotypes, about Japan like Edgar Burroughs and his famous stereotyped Tarzan. She may never have had the chance to learn about her family roots and traditions by growing up in the Western world. By killing off Taro, Watanna could be commenting that a Western racial melting pot is not possible. The two cultures cannot exist harmoniously like we would want to believe. With the introduction of the Occident into Yuki’s life, the Orient side of Yuki was going to disappear. Taro then, the representation of her past life, had to die.
Meaning for Watanna to Kill Taro
3 thoughts on “Meaning for Watanna to Kill Taro”
I’m so glad you posted about Taro, because I’m kind of stuck on him too. I’m also glad you brought up Taro to connect to the question of assimilation or the lack thereof – like Yuki, he has to negotiate the area between these two worlds, and his death presents a negative ending, as you said, for Yuki’s connection to her family and origins. The other thing, though, is that I think Taro can’t perfectly represent the ‘Orient’ side of Yuki because he, too, is caught between the two sides. I do think his death could connect to Watanna’s negotiation of assimilation and the possibility or impossibility thereof – he, after all, never gets to go back to America to continue his education, and the novel is in fact catalyzed by his desire to return to Japan. I think the issues of cultural non-belonging and assimilation were definitely on Watanna’s mind in some form when she wrote the character of Taro, and I think the violent suddenness of his death speaks to a realization that these thoughts can’t intermingle with the sentimentalized romance she’s meant to be writing.
On a similar note, I was thinking in class today about the way the opposition between Yuki and Taro ties into what we know of Watanna’s actual life. I’m not really arguing that this was intentional, but it’s interesting that she had a sister who faced the reality of life for Chinese-Americans in the US today, whereas Watanna escaped it to a degree by creating a fictional version of herself and crafting ‘Oriental romances’ for Western consumption. A version of that split occurs between Taro and Yuki – Taro states the reality of the situation between Yuki and Jack, but it’s ultimately the fantasy of the happy romantic ending that triumphs over his insight.
I have to agree with the above statement, especially the last paragraph towards Watanna’s possible intention of making Taro and Yuki similar to her and her sister. I hadn’t really thought of that reasoning/possibility of why Watanna would do that.
Watanna is like Yuki in the sense that she becomes this person, who really isn’t her (referring to Watanna claiming she is Japanese when she really isn’t). She does what she has to do, even deceive people in order to get what she wants or needs, which happens to be money. On the other hand, there is Taro who could represent her sister, who spread the truth of biracial people, yet never got any recognition until her time in this world was gone. And the moment Taro is killed off, it is as if everyone seemed to forget about him and his existence.
I think it’s interesting what was said in the last comments made about Watanna creating Taro and Yuki’s relationship similar to the relationship between her and her sister because I had thought about this as well. Taro criticized Jack and Yuki’s relationship because it brought shame to him and his family. I could bet that Edith criticized Watanna for her writing that also shamed their family and their heritage. Taro wanted more for his sister and his family and he left the stereotypes behind when he went to the U.S. to study and begged his friend to help him break the mold of white men taking advantage of young Japanese women. Edith wanted to break the chain of stereotypes and write about the honest truth of what was really going on in Chinese American communities while her sister, like Yuki, continued to feed the racism and exoticism ideals. So Taro had to die not only so that Yuki and Jack would not longer feel stifled, but so that Watanna could rid herself of those same criticisms without being able to rid herself of her sister.