Study Questions for Hisaye Yamamoto’s “Seventeen Syllables”
· What are the causes of the lack of communication between Rosie and her mother, Tome? To what extent are these causes a matter of cultural difference caused by Rosie’s assimilation to American culture? Of “natural” distance between a mother and her teenage daughter?
· How does the Hayano family prepare us to understand Tome Hayashi’s bitterness and disillusionment? In other words, what role does the Hayano family--and particularly Mrs. Hayano--play in the story?
· How is Haiku important to our understanding of Tome’s identity crisis? Of Rosie’s?
· What circumstances caused Tome to leave Japan and marry Mr. Hayashi?
· Finally, the opening and closing passages of the story present quite similar conversations between Rosie and Tome. In each of these situations, how sincere is Rosie’s “Yes, yes”? Has their relationship changed in any way from the opening to the closing scenes? If so, what are the causes of these changes and what do they direct us to understand about Rosie’s internal conflict?