Heart of a Samurai
Identity forms an integral element in an individual`s life because it defines the principles on which such an individual was socialized. Socialization process enables any member of society to understand his or her environment with regard to the prevailing norms and values. Based on these norms and values this person begins to develop an identity by which he or she can be differentiated from other members of the society. Identity founded on principles helps in the development of personality. In the book, Heart of a Samurai, Margi Preus presents a protagonist, Manjiro Nakahama, as an individual with a relatively constant identity despite his migration experience from Japan to America. Manjiro’s identity has a close relation to his strong principles, that helps him to develop ways of riding out all the worldly changes that he experiences. Despite the relative constancy, there appears to be some split in the possibility of acquiring a double identity since the protagonist is influenced by both Japanese and American cultures.
Theme of Identity
From the book, it is evident that unlike his immigrant counterparts, Manjiro is not conflicted in terms of identity because his ultimate objective is to return to his home country, Japan, and inspire them into eradication of their isolationist ideology. An individual’s identity is often revealed in situations where there is a need to provide solutions to problems. When Manjiro says, “I’ve been thinking though… maybe there’s another way,” it can be an indication of his creative nature (Preus, 2010, p. 25). It is by his identity that he is always thinking of the possibility of developing a creative solution or providing an alternative whenever there is a problem. This can also be used in explaining why the phrase “maybe there’s another way” is used in the book repeatedly.
In the process of trying to maintain an original identity, it is possible that there will be situations, which try to introduce changes to this identity. However, the strong foundations of the original identity can make it possible for the individual to experience a double one. When Manjiro lives in America with the captain, he is given the name John Mung. “John Mung! So, they would really call him that… now he had two…names like a Samurai” (Preus, 2010, p. 120). At this moment in the book, it is possible to develop the sense that Manjiro has a split in his identity. This is because there are two parts of his American and Japanese identity that are in conflict. Although it seems that he has a Japanese name for his Japanese self and an American name reflecting the American upbringing, this does not eradicate his original Japanese identity considering that he does not name his American self but the captain does.
The theme of identity is considered to be an outstanding feature in the book Heart of a Samurai because it reflects on cultural conflicts that threaten to place the protagonist on the merge between the American and Japanese cultures. Throughout the book, it is possible to identify examples when the identity of Manjiro was tested and the strategies he developed to ensure that he maintained his original cultural orientation. Despite the shipwreck and his upbringing in America, Manjiro believed that he would eventually return to Japan where he would inspire the country into moving away from isolationist ideology.
Preus, M. (2010). Heart of a samurai: based on the true story of Manjiro Nakahama. New York: Amulet Books.