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The Question of Loyalty by Mitsuye Yamada

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The poem “ The Question of Loyalty” by Mitsuye Yamada discusses the emotions and reactions of a time in American history where the loyalty and honor of the Japanese people are questioned. In creating this distrust, the Japanese people were put into a position to choose between the loyalties to their families and history and that of their present relationships in their new homeland, America. The poem shows how she received the events as a young adult having spent most of her life in the United States, but also provides context for how she is now perceived by the population of her new homeland, a homeland to which she is not actually new.

It affects her mother profoundly, but she only sits back as events unfold as they have only a cursory meaning. She is arbitrary in how she feels about the events. As such, she presents her story in a few words filled with embittered irony. The last line of the poem  “ The Question of Loyalty” by Mitsuye Yamada states “ I signed my only ticket out” (Patterson 198). This reveals how she has come to understand that she is being asked to sign away her identity in exchange for her freedom.

The poem could have waxed long about how she had been forced to sell her identity to the American government as the price of her freedom.   She sets her commentary on her skills with math with the event that gave her the freedom that had such a high price. She makes it clear that she has signed away something of value in order to create this freedom. She shrugs her shoulders at the event suggesting that she has decided to devalue that which she signed away in order to gain the freedom that meant more to her than her heritage.

She has given in to the pressures of the American people to assure them that she was not covertly conspiring against them. Even in this act of courage and loyalty to the American people, she knows that she has sold out her own heritage, giving this signature with the understanding that in doing so she was renouncing her loyalty to the Japanese people.

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