Blu's Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Blu's Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka tells a sad and realistic story of the Ogata family. With the absence of a mother and an uncaring father, the three children, Ivah, Blu, and Maisie, face insurmountable obstacles. Furthermore, various outside forces, such as sexual violence, poverty, and racism, make it even harder for them to cope with the harsh society. In spite of these hardships, it is the mother's invisible presence that keeps the three children together and guides them, although it also contributes to the unintended indifference of father, and the children's vulnerability of societal attacks.
Eleanor, "the mother", is often presented in the story even though she is dead, in terms of her ideas and family's memory of her. The children's effort to include their mother in family events and not forgetting what she has said to them show how naturally they think of their mother's existence with them. When Poppy asks "O-kay, who's first?" (98) on a Christmas day for gift exchange, Blu says "You and Mama" (98), as if his mother is still there with him. The children do not forget to visit Mama's grave on special occasions, such as mother's day. These rituals regarding their mother indicate the presence of her in the family. Poppy's longing for Eleanor is also demonstrated when he frequently sings the song "Moon River" throughout the novel, and tells Ivah that "your Bradda's voice-thass your Mama singing right out his throat" (140). The lyrical content of the song "Moon River" shows how much he misses her, and finding mother's resemblance in Blu's voice shows that Poppy has not forgotten about her. The family remembers her, and will not forget her, which keeps her alive in the novel; in the conversation between Ivah and Poppy, Ivah thinks to herself, "I think about her every day. Every day of my life" (169).
The presence of mother has a negative effect on Poppy and his relationship with the children. After the mother's death, Poppy is unable to go on with his life, but instead faces a downfall. The great affection that he had for her keeps him away from admitting the reality, and makes him to live in the past; he admits that he "walks every day of my fuckin' life with her tie to my back, so heavy on me ... but I no can cut the rope" (141). Ivah explains his ineffective life, describing "Poppy drinking thick yellow tea, staring at the TV, and falling asleep curled up in the orange chair" (171) everyday. He is unable to take care of children because of his responsibility for financial burdens, and unintentionally treats them badly as he becomes guilty of not being able to look after his kids; Ivah questions him "Why you gotta make things so hard, Poppy? ... You neva use to make so mean to us." (107). He expresses his concerns for the children indirectly, and in a mean way, telling Blu "I no like you be one fat shit" (105), and Maisie to "eat everything on your plate" (105) or that he...