Silence and voice can be expressed in diverse ways. Joy Kogawa portrays different aspects of Issei and Nisei towards the meaning of silence and voice. Naomi and Stephen are growing up under the influence of their two antithetical aunts, Obasan and Aunt Emily. These aunts have contrasting views of life. Obasan remains in the traditional Japanese lifestyle and lives in her silent territory, while Aunt Emily is an energetic and outspoken woman. Under Aunt Emily's influence, Stephen represses his memories and alienates from his Japanese culture. In between silence and speech, Naomi independently finds her own identity, and achieves self-understanding through different conflicts.
Obasan is a traditional Japanese woman who lives in a shell that hides her feelings and thoughts. She ignores the prejudice trials and tribulations of the war and retains her quietness. Her house is cluttered with antique furniture and old memories. .
The house is indeed old, as she is also old. Every homemade piece of furniture, each pot holder and paper doily is a link in her lifeline. She has preserved in shelves, in cupboards, under beds - a box of marbles, half-filled colouring books, a red, white and blue rubber ball. The items are endless. Every short stub pencil, every cornflakes box stuffed with paper bags and old letters is of her ordering. They rest in the corners like parts of her body, hair cells, skin tissues, tiny specks o memory. This house is now her blood and bones. (Kogawa 15) .
Inwardly, she survives her history and memories, and denies saying them aloud. On her outward appearance, "everything is forgetfulness". Her steadfast silence is for the sake of the children (Kodomo no tame). She uses her silence to protect Naomi and Stephen away from the horrible truth. Obasan refuses to tell the truth behind their mother and the illness of their father. Naomi says that "the language of her (Obasan's) grief is silence.