Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Literary Elements

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Literary Elements


A novel, historical fiction

Setting and Context

The events of the story take place in Seattle. Time frame varies between 1942 and 1986. The protagonist of the novel, Henry Lee, struggles to find his lost identity, help himself heal after his wife’s death and strengthen father and son relationships.

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told from the third-person point of view by an omniscient narrator.

Tone and Mood

Tone is thoughtful, while mood changes from sad and desperate to stirring and hopeful.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Henry Lee is the protagonist of the novel, while Henry’s father, to be more precise his bigotry, is the antagonist of the story.

Major Conflict

There are two major conflicts. The first one is person vs. self, it is Henry and his struggles with finding his lost identity. The second one is person vs. person, which is revealed in disagreements between Henry and his father. One more conflict is person vs. society. Although Keiko is born in America and is the second generation, not to mention that her father fights against the Nazis in Europe, she is treated awfully because of her Japan roots.


Sheldon’s death is the climax of the novel.


The more Henry thought about the shabby old knickknacks, the forgotten treasures, the more he wondered if his own broken heart might be found in there.
This sentence foreshadows the events of the story. The readers learn that Henry has a secret and it is somehow connected with findings in the basement of the Panama Hotel.


The war was everywhere. The presidential memorandum didn’t seem out of ordinary.
The presidential memorandum Henry so carelessly thought about meant the forced relocation and incarceration of thousands of Japanese Americans.


The novel alludes to World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Nanking Massacre and the internment of Japanese Americans.


Imagery is used to describe the emotions of the characters.


He walked to school each day, going upstream against a sea of Chinese kids who called him “white devil”. He worked in the school kitchen as white devil called him “yellow”.
The paradox is revealed in unacceptance.


I am Chinese. I am Lebanese. I am Pekinese. I am the ever-loving bees’ knees’.
In such a way Sheldon mocks bigotry of Henry’s father.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

He thought about those three Japanese couples lying face down on the dirty floor of the Black Elks Club in their evening finery. (Evening finery is metonymy which stands for the best clothes for special events).
She’d doff her hairnet and vanish with her lunch pail and a pack of Lucky Strikes. (A pack of Lucky Strikes is synecdoche, for the name of the brand is used for the content of the pack).


Four was an unlucky number.
A number can’t be lucky or unlucky; it is people who come up with characteristics like this one.

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