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Tattoo is a novel that has a captivating story that touches on life both in the rural and urban set ups. It touches on the aspects of life that exists in the two set ups. The book talks of the hardship that people in the rural areas face. The book was written by Chris McKinney. The main themes in the book are crime, masculinity, love, conflict and drama. This paper is a response to the novel Tattoo touches on the heights and lows that the novel has touched on in its plot.
The novel Tattoo is mainly set in Hawaii. The name tattoo on the novel has relevance on what goes on in the book. At the correctional center in Hawala, Ken Hideyoshi is a new inmate. The first part of the novel the tattoo introduces us to ken's upbringing, his childhood years and his start of life into crime. Ken one of the major characters in the book lost his mother at an early age and had a father who was a Vietnam War veteran. His grandfather introduced him to the Japanese culture. His grandfather introduced to him some of the important things that people from the Japanese culture hold importance to. Most notably is the fact that ken's grandfather introduced him to the family heirloom. A sward known as the katan that was brought from Japan by ken's great-grandfather. This shows us how the society at hat point in time held importance of family traditions in which ken's family is not an exception.
Ken is told of the history of the sword and as t why his family went into the United States of America that is vital in understanding the values, beliefs and attitudes of the hideyoshi family. It is through this that ken understands how important the culture is to his grandfather that he goes on to glorify the old country. His grandfather tells him how the son to shogun tokugawa leyasu told the haoles to live Japan something which to him was a great deed.
In the novel, racism is taught and displayed from one generation to the other. This is seen how it is passed from his grandfather to his father and eventually to him. After Ken has told his life story to Cal his cell mate when in prison, Cal comments that he has been a student of hate too. This shows that hatred and racism has remained with people for long. It is so even if people have intermingled and interrelated between themselves and amongst the races (McKinney, 2007).
Ken tells us about his brodder a boy known as koa. He is a local boy who lives in the windward side of the island. The two of them form a brotherly bond when they are young and they associate so well that they get into trouble ever together all the way to their graduation. They both hate and don't like haoles at all. This is what leads them to look trouble with the haoles and get into fight with them. Infect at some point ken states that he thinks koa was born a racist. It is within their culture to hate haoles.
During his younger years, ken's mother was the only one who offered him pure love and security that he needed as a child till she died. Her love towards ken was the only protection that kept him way from his father's viciousness. The tattoo talks of the importance of self identity that is looked at from an individual's own ethnic background perspective. One of the main characters in the book is Ken Hideyoshi who we encounter when he goes to seek for tattoo services from Cal. It is here that Ken introduces us to his life story. We get to learn the difficult life he led. In his early life, Ken did not have a soft life that most children have with their friends. His mother died when he was still young. He was forced, by conditions, to live with a distant father who happened to be a Vietnam War veteran. They lived in impoverished, poor and dilapidating conditions, in the hinterlands (McKinney, 2007).
Ken had someone else in whom he saw the sun in after his mother died while he was young. Ken met a lovely lady called Claudia. Claudia was his only trusted friend after his mother died and also after he lost with koa. Although Claudia was not the best role model for ken to have, she was the only one he was very close to at that particular point in time and confided to. Ken even stated once that when both naked in bed, they would share their past experiences and he would tell her of his mother, father, koa and his child hood years.
Claudia reopened ken's pats wounds of the pats grievances he pats through and taught him how to love once again. His love for people had been distorted but being with Claudia changed this and provided him with motivation to live and love again. He himself said at one point that Claudia gave him something to live for. Ken, a main character, is being tattooed on his back. It is then that he starts telling his life story to Cal who is tattooing him. The novel may be named 'Tattoo' since the inmates that the book talk about tattoo themselves. They do so with signatures which represent the major things that are related to them in their lives.
Furthermore, Ken's tattoo is SYN. It represents the years during his childhood and teenage, how he grew up, and violence. Cal, on the other hand, is a racist tattoo artist who depicts himself as a person operating on his own terms. His way of doing his tattoo art made the other inmates slit his throat making him mute. Although the exercise was tragic, the good side about it is the confidentiality that ensued between Cal and the other inmates. Perhaps this is the reason as to why Ken was very comfortable telling him his story because he knew that it would not get to other people very easily (Beeler, 2006).
Ken's love for women became one of the downfalls hat his life faced after he migrated from his country into town. He loved a daughter of a very powerful woman. They spent time mi bars and nightclubs introducing him to the negative time of town that seemed to wait him. The relationship which was complicated drove him to drinking, drugs and prostitution. The girl wanted him to change, but it became very difficult. Ken's life became particularly interesting and seemed so real that makes a reader get mental pictures and want to experience more by reading the book.
It is the life that Ken leads. It made him get into crime by joining gang groups that were existent in the neighborhood. The surrounding he was in, together with the friends he associated with, made it easy for him to join the gangs easily.
Ken used to hang out with native Hawaiian gangs and was slowly drawn into them until he became a member. He used to hang out in Hawaiian and Korean strip clubs and massage parlors. This he did while he was still young. Ken did not have a mother role model who could help him with disciplinary matters. Added to this was the spirit he had that the author compares it with samurai's which gave him the determination not to fear.
Racism is an aspect that cannot be ignored as seen in the novel The Tattoo. This is a factor that is extremely showcased in the novel. There is racism that can be seen from Ken's friends, in his own family and at the correctional facility where he gets himself as a result of his engagement in illegal gangs and crime There are many aspects that are attached to Ken's life that can be related to in many ways. In my life, I have seen and experienced instances of racism. I have also had a chance to live in an area in which racism is existent. It was not a pleasant experience. I have had the chance to be with and live in the middle of a people with a culture different from mine.
People tend to practice favoritism on everything that comes their way ranging from resource allocations to job opportunities. People want to share with others of their own race first even when you are a friend. As long as I was of a different race, I always came second mostly when there is something to be shared.
In reality, what Ken passed through happens in the same conditions and within surroundings that he lives. It is notable that the world's most dangerous gangs come up from areas that are comprised of people with poor living standards. They put great effort to meet the basic needs. It is not easy to get a child who has grown up in a wealthy family or background being involved in gang life. This is because children, brought up in surroundings that have not been hit up by poverty, always have chances to be involved in things that build them rather than befriending dangerous gangs. Similarly, most of the time, they are under the protection of their parents.
Ken was taken into the correctional facility as a result of taking part in crime as a member of the illegal gangs that existed in Hawaii. Despite Claudia's positive influence in his life, ken seems to have given up. To him it is as if destiny had prepared him for the worst. He can escape his destiny that has all been shaping since his childhood with the people who acted as his protection and love having perished.
It is in jail that ken reflects his wasted life that led to a destructive and fruitless future. He reflects that it is his father and koa who lured him into jail without his knowledge. When Claudia visits him in prison, ken seems to have surrendered into destiny at last when he tells Claudia that he is not starting over because he is too done to start all over again.
The Tattoo creates a realistic view of what happens in the prison outside normal societal set up. The prisoners in the correctional facility are the hardcore members of the gangs that commit violence in Hawaii. In the prison where they live, the situation is bound by ethnicity or rather race, but the groups and the bonds that is created between the inmates is based on certain aspects for instance ability to do certain tasks, security and individual's ability to obtain some things. In prison, the priority is to obtain self security and survival. Ken had to show his strength in order to be accepted in to the group min the correctional facility.
Ethic affiliation is not of much importance here. Cal, who is a Haole, is accepted into the group in the correctional facility because of his prowess in the tattoo art and his willingness to let his food be eaten by Nu'u. Although he was involved in an accident, his ability is vital to his survival in jail. In an environment where the resources are scarce, talents become pricy. Nu'u acts as a security for the group as a leader and a link to the other groups that exist within the prison. I got to hear of the same situation from a friend who was once jailed. His existence depended on his relationship with the group leader and his ability to tell stories that would make his prison mates laugh.
The novel addresses many contemporary societal aspects. The main issues are cultural assimilation, anger, racism, the influence of family and friends on an individual. All these intriguing aspects in the novel Tattoo invoke thoughts while at the same time captivates a reader to read even deeper in the book to know what happens. The book brings on characters in a story which is interesting. When Ken tells his story, the reader gets a clear insight into his life, feelings and thoughts about things that he faces. It ranges from his family, culture, racism and the assimilation that he has seen and gone through as young Japanese individual growing up in Hawaii.
Themes such as interactionist and symbolic interaction and social identity theory are seen throughout the novel. Ken himself is a manifestation of culture and ethnicity. He had a mother who was well educated and had quite a good command of English language. Ken himself says hat his mother possessed a stone white accent of English. His father grew up in Oahu and only spoke a pidgin language of Hawaii. This makes feel angry and intimidating. Although the fact that Ken's family is Japanese, they have been assimilated to the Hawaiian language and culture. This has been contributed by the fact that they lived in Hawaii and adopted the local custom and language (Crow, 2003).
The Tattoo is a truly captivating novel. The book touches on topics that face the contemporary society. It has been set up in a real world, with characters that appear so real because of what happens to them and how they respond to the surroundings. Nothing is fictional in the book. Chris McKinney indeed came up with a book that can be said to be a realistic portrayal of the world today.