Ichiro’s imagined dialogue with his mother speaks the frustrations of a second generation immigrant conflicted with his duty to family and the expectations of young American men. Ichiro questions his decision to side with his parental nation rather than the one in which he grew up. In a broader context, the story speaks of a generational clash seen uniquely in immigrant youth.
Okada’s modernist approach to the issue highlights the conflict in immigrant communities at home. Ichiro lacks the self-confidence and maturity to answer the two questions with how he actually feels. Ichiro expresses his wish to serve in the United States military but suppresses these wants to satisfy his mother. This prevent him from developing his own identity separate from that of his family. However, Ichiro is bounded by his allegiance to his family. The tale of Momotaro structures the level of sacrifice expected of a Japanese family and that of Japanese youth to their parents. Much like in the children’s tale, Ichiro’s domineering mother expected Ichiro to forgo his freedom to maintain allegiance to Japan and to his family.
Had Ichiro chosen his mind, his mother would have devowed Ichiro for betraying his family and nation. Ichiro feels the conflict is resolved with the death of his mother, against whom he still holds a grudge. In comparison to Ichiro’s family, Kenji’s family deals remains united due to their willingness to accept conflicting values. Kenji’s father did not wish for Kenji to join the military but accepted it nonetheless. Ichiro’s mother’s expectations left Ichiro with bitterness towards his heritage even after his mother’s death. These expectations for Ichiro to object to service led to his conflict within himself, with his mother, and with other immigrant youth.
Despite these pressures to side with Japan, Ichiro yearns to be an American. By choosing to be a no-no boy, he is not being true to himself. In the beginning of the novel he states:”One is not born in America and raised in America and taught in America and one does not speak and swear and drink and smoke and play and fight and see and hear in America among Americans in American streets and houses without becoming American and loving it.”After being released from prison, Ichiro not only has to integrate as a Japanese American, but also combat his image as a defector.
Ichiro must except that by rejecting his home, he will never be accepted.