A Gesture Life

A Gesture Life Analysis

A Gesture Life is about a lot of things. For one, it's a pretty good account of how a Japanese WWII veteran made a life for himself in America as an immigrant. It's also an account of post-trauma and PTSD, since it shows how Doc's mind jumps from present-day back to the brutality of his time caring for rape victims, the rape victims of his own army, no less. He can go from thinking of his daughter to remembering a violent, brutal gang rape, with almost no warning. Although his mental health isn't treated in the course of the novel, it's an obvious attempt to show how insidious those kinds of post-traumatic events can be.

In another sense though, all those thematic strings could be pulled together by one specific conflict, the conflict between Doc and women after the evil he witnessed in the war. He goes so far as adopting a daughter, literally laying down his life to make one woman's life better, trying to sacrifice himself in a way he couldn't do for the woman he calls 'K.'

The novel picks up this theme in medias res, since Doc and Sunny, his daughter, are already separated by some sort of conflict when we meet them in present day. We learn about even another female character, a neighbor of Doc's who becomes an accidental girlfriend after they hang out too much. She has thoughts about how Doc should raise his daughter, and when the relationship turns romantic, she tries and fails to connect with Sunny, and by the time Sunny is old enough to run away, she does. She ends up in the wrong crowd, victim to the forces that Doc swore to protect her from.

By the time they reconnect, the thematic effect of the novel ends up being that Doc is not the sole power responsible for the health of safety of women. In fact, he depends on them for his day to day health, just as they depend on him for different needs. He finds peace to move forward when his life has the male/female balance he yearned for. Therefore, the dominant interpretive element of the novel is Doc's relationship to femininity in a world of such abominable misogyny.

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