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Empire Of The Sun Essay

4395 words - 18 pages

Japan had been at war with China since 1937 before declaring war on the United States and the United Kingdom. During the conflict, Jamie Graham, a British upper middle class schoolboy living in the Shanghai International Settlement, is separated from his parents. He spends some time living in his deserted house and eating remnants of food but eventually he ventures out into the city and finds it bustling with Japanese troops. Jamie is captured along with Basie, an American sailor, who nicknames him "Jim". They are taken to Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center in Shanghai, but are later moved to Soochow Creek Internment Camp. By 1945, a few months before the end of the Pacific War, Jim ...view middle of the document...

As a result of the attack the Japanese decide to evacuate the camp. During the confusion, Basie escapes, leaving Jim behind, although he had promised to take Jim with him. The camp's prisoners march through the wilderness where many die of fatigue, starvation, and disease. During the march Jim witnesses a flash from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki hundreds of miles away, and later hears news of Japan's surrender and the end of the war.

Jim sneaks away from the group at a football stadium near Nsntao, filled with items confiscated by the Japanese, and goes back to Soochow Creek, nearly dead from starvation. He encounters the Japanese teenager he knew earlier, who has since become a pilot and appears distraught at the surrender of his country. The youth remembers Jim and offers him a mango, cutting it for him with his katana. As Jim is about to eat it, Basie reappears with a group of armed Americans, who have arrived to loot the Red Cross containers. One of the Americans, thinking Jim is in danger, shoots and kills the Japanese youth. Jim, furious, beats the American who shot his friend. Basie drags him off and promises to take him back to Shanghai to find his parents, but Jim refuses the offer and stays behind. He is found by American soldiers and put in an orphanage in Shanghai with other children who had lost their parents. When his parents come looking for him, Jim is so scarred from his experiences that he does not recognize them at first.

In Shanghai's International Settlement, young Jamie Graham (Christian Bale) lives a pampered life with his parents John and Mary, despite the gathering threat of World War Two landing in the city. Jamie is obsessed with fighter planes, and cannot help but admire Japan's military might. In the chaos that erupts when the Japanese finally make their move and forcibly seize Shanghai, Jamie is separated from his parents. He initially survives on his own before meeting Basie (John Malkovich), an American ship steward detached from his crew and scrounging out a living.

Both Basie and Jamie are eventually captured and transported to a prison camp near a military air field. Jamie meets fellow prisoners Doctor Rawlins (Nigel Havers) and Mrs. Victor (Miranda Richardson), who slip into an uneasy role as surrogate parents. Jamie settles down to a decent life at the camp, earning the respect of American PoWs and admiring the Japanese pilots from afar, waiting for the war to end.

Day and night, the boy dreams of flying. He knows the names of all the airplanes and can spot them by their silhouettes. When they fly overhead in Shanghai in the last days before World War II breaks out, they may be an ominous omen for his parents, but for him they are wondrous machines, free of gravity, free to soar.

The boy's parents are wealthy British citizens who enjoy a life of great luxury in Shanghai, a life in which limousines hurry them through the crowded streets to business meetings and masquerade balls...

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