Ego Quest from Impoverishment to Reconciliation in Velina Houston’s Japanese American Play Kokoro (True Heart): A Freudian Reading




ego impoverishment, Freud, Japanese American, Kokoro (True Heart), melancholia, Velina Hasu Houston


Japanese Americans’ struggle to achieve integration into the American mainstream culture has its powerful impact on their psychological well-being. Socially reserved and family oriented, the Japanese are challenged to cope with the mainstream American individualism and independence. Signs of melancholia, based on Sigmund Freud’s theories, are investigated in Kokoro (True Heart) (2004) written by the Japanese American playwright Velina Hasu Houston. The Japanese American protagonist, Yasako Yamashita, battles with cultural nonconformity and social remoteness which have provoked an aggressive superego incorporated in her mother’s ghost to govern and manipulate her world. The study aims to interrogate how the domineering superego succeeds in exhausting Yasako’s stranded ego driving her to commit parent-child suicide “oyako-shinju.” Although the suicide attempt has highlighted the problematic cultural gaps within the American society, nevertheless it has pinpointed the importance of resolving Japanese minority cultural differences. Velina Houston’s Kokoro (True Heart) does not only offer an astounding psychological insight into Japanese Americans’ battles with a melancholic ego fragmentation and deprivation indicated in symptoms of ambivalence, anxiety, compulsive repetition, sense of guilt and sense of inferiority, but it, also, advances solutions for ego reconciliation and self-conformity.

Author Biographies

Lamia Fahim, Helwan University

Helwan University 

Areeg Ibrahim, Helwan University 

(Professor and Chair of the Department of English)

Helwan University 


Samia Abou Alam

 (Associate Professor)

Helwan University



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Date of Publication


How to Cite

Fahim, L., Ibrahim, A., & Abou Alam, S. (2024). Ego Quest from Impoverishment to Reconciliation in Velina Houston’s Japanese American Play Kokoro (True Heart): A Freudian Reading. International Journal of Arabic-English Studies, 24(2), 103–122.



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