In some cultures, silence means everything. Sometimes it is not what you say, but what you don't say. The characters in this story live many ways through silence and it's effective nature. Naomi is torn between her aunts personalities, yet remains silent. The family remains silent throughout the events of their captiveness. Sometimes things are better left unsaid, but then again, did things work out in the end for these people? Sometimes, silence means everything. .
"In the U.S. silence is generally looked upon as passive; in China and Japan it traditionally signals pensiveness, alertness, and sensitivity" (Cheung, 113). The people of this story are silenced throughout their whole lives, living out their cultural ways, even though living in another country. They are raised to respect through silence. Ever since Naomi was five, Obasan, their aunt, raised her and her brother Stephen. Before this occurred Naomi seemed to have a happy childhood. She looked up to her mother as all young children do. She respected her mother's authority and clung to her demeanors and ways of acting. She would play outside and go about her business unbothered, trusting everything her mother told, as all children trust a parent. .
"If I speak I will split open and spill out" (Kogawa, 63). From the words of Naomi, silence is even thrown into play during such devious acts as molestation. When the neighbor Mr. Gower was molesting five-year-old Naomi, she remained silent. "The conflict between silence and speech is complicated for Naomi by her memories of the pre-oedipal silence-(Goellnicht, 295). She was taught not to lash back at adults and to do what they say. At this moment, she learned dis-trust. The incidents with him happened more than once, yet she remained silent. This, for Naomi, drew her apart from her mother, leaving something between them that could not be discussed or mentioned. Before this event, they had sort of a silent communication, and now she misses that.