Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus is the story about a Japanese boy, Manjiro who worked as a fisherman. However, he put to sea in a fishing boat and was rescued by American whalers. The significance of this book consists not only in its reliance on adventures and life challenges. This story is more meaningful and deeper as it reveals the problems of family, language, communication, art, national identity, foreignness, and tradition. It means that Heart of a Samurai is the depiction of the Japanese experience in understanding of the Western culture. Consequently, Heart of a Samurai is the story of overcoming the gaps between Eastern and Western cultures and illustrating the differences between Japan and American societies.
The Theme of Culture in Heart of a Samurai
The culture and cultural differences are the fundamental aspects that the book Heart of a Samurai depicts. It is evident that the main character who is the representative of Japanese culture is adapting to the American one. Without a doubt, he feels homesickness, but he learns English, travels all over the world, attends the American school, and finds a job in California. It implies that it is achievable to overpower the cultural barrier even between absolute distinct cultures. The main character Manjiro is the symbol of the possibility of the integration of cultures and the ability to absorb the foreign environment without abandoning the native one. Manjiro manages to appreciate and understand Western culture and demonstrates that every culture is unique and valuable. It is impossible to evaluate another culture without experiencing it. Thus, Manjiro provides his people with the image who Americans are, and he becomes a driving force of the political shift between both countries. It indicates that this book is dedicated to changes. First, these alternations refer to the fate of Japanese and American communities. Second, it reveals how the stable and principled character delivers these transformations to both cultures.
The family and the attitude to it belong to the components of culture. Meaningfully, the main character alters the vision of a family. He realizes that a family consists not only of relatives but other people can become the part of it as well. For example, Manjiro meets Captain Whitfield, his wife and a child and they embrace his idea about family (Preus, 2012). One should mention that Manjiro develops a father-son connection with the captain. It suggests that people can become close despite the cultural differences. Manjiro feels as at home in America. However, he faces discrimination as he is the only Japanese boy at school (Preus, 2012). Thus, unequal treatment and cultural disrespect are the milestones that prevent cultural interaction. It is essential to acknowledge that Japanese government is also hostile to the Americans considering them to be barbarians. It means that the hostility between Western and Eastern cultures is prolonged, and this dilemma is still relevant today. The identity as a crucial cultural aspect is an additional theme of this book. It is obvious that Manjiro saves his national identity living in the American community. He has strong principles that prevent him from refusing from Japanese culture. Thus, at this point the author demonstrates the case of the double identity as long as Manjiro feels attraction and respect to both cultures.
Language and communication belong to supplementary aspects that can become the turning point for achieving the interaction between people from the diverse cultures. However, the book Heart of a Samurai demonstrates that it is possible to obtain knowledge of a new language and culture and find the mutual understanding with the natives. In this manner, Manjiro is the exemplary young man who is characterized by the strength of will, persistence, and tenacity that support him in surviving in the absolutely foreign and unfamiliar environment. This book also proves that one cannot treat all people in equal measure. Every person has his/her principles. For example, Captain Whitfield and his wife believe in equality for all people (Preus, 2012). It means that they do not take into consideration any differences between individuals. Concerning Manjiro, he has the ability to find humanity and remains kind-hearted facing any trials. The stable bond of the main character with nature should also be regarded as a meaningful cultural aspect. The author underlines it to show the appreciation of nature by the Japanese people. Consequently, this factor can unite Americans with Japanese. However, the weakness of the book lies in the presentation of a stereotypical perception of Japanese aesthetics. Thus, the gap between Americans and Japanese, as it is evident from this story, consists in the attitude to nature and people.
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In conclusion, it is paramount to state that the book Heart of a Samurai is the narration of overcoming the gaps between Eastern and Western cultures that are diverse in its values, attitudes, and principles. This book demonstrates the changes of Japanese man’s vision of a family as he manages to obtain a new family connection in America. It ruins the stereotypes about language and communication barriers that exist between Western and American cultures. However, the main character depicts that it is possible to overcome them by applying stable principles and character. This book is valuable as it shows the life and adventures of the Japanese boy in the cultural, family, and social contexts. Moreover, it presents the differences between Japan and American societies that should become the driving forces for further interaction. Thus, it is attainable to build a bridge between the diverse communities.