Truth is to be considered as relative to an individual's understanding and perception towards the reality. Respect must be given to each individual's sense of understanding and what they believe is the truth. When talking about the truth, one person may see it as black, others may see it as white, these variations are dependent on how the person thinks, his culture, and his perspectives. The outsiders, the observing people are left with the question that which one is the truer perspective. Eventually, the observing people realize that the search for the truth is confusing, and even continuous searching is done, it will never be found. Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "In a Bamboo Grove" is a very important literature that depicts these kinds of perspectives. It is the perfect example of how gender, culture, and history may shape one's point of views in understanding and formulating the "truth". In this essay, some themes of the story will be tackled; then, the main topic of this paper, to be able to discuss the implications of the story towards the relationship of a man and a woman in that Japanese time and culture.
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Akutagawa's "In a Bamboo Grove" is a story about the points of view of seven people towards a crime. These people were interviewed and asked to give their sides of the story. Each person has his own side of the story which is perceived to be coming from their different classes, history, and culture. Personal views, as one may think, are building blocks of how each person understands and perceives the "truth". This created "truth" can be used as a means of protecting one's ego or preventing the possibility of being wrong and facing judgment. These "truths" can be used to judge a person's stance on the problem; it can be used as a basis of knowing where this person is coming from - culturally, socially, and mentally.
There are many issues that surround the story. Examination of these issues will bring thorough understanding of the topic. Akutagawa's focus is not for the reader to ask who or what, but his focus is for the reader to examine the motives and perspectives of each character in the statement of their "truths". Furthermore, all of the testimonies are filled with inconsistencies. The characters are not honestly reporting what really happened. Each testimony presented was filled of distortions that are consciously made to make each person's look be favourable according to the values their belonging culture possesses. This assessment is shown in all of the characters. The woodcutter claims that he was cutting his "daily quota of cedars" in an "out-of-the-way grove". Some readers may perceive this to be a conspiracy with Tajomaru. The Buddhist priest claimed to be not paying attention with the details of the looks of the woman, but he was able to describe the color of her clothing and the horse she was riding. This claim proved to be said because in their culture and as a priest, it is not a pleasant thing to be examining a woman; thus, preserving his dignity and purity as a priest. The wife admits to value his honor more that her own life.
Her greatest punishment was her being used by Tajomaru and the fact that she was not able to get through with her suicide plans. She was so ashamed that she did not bother to end her own life. She does not care if her husband was killed. This was reportedly in accordance to the Japanese Code of Honor. The thief was projected to be from other cultures. He talked about lawlessness, and his other crimes and murders. This is very understandable, coming from a criminal. He must show his criminal side and even cover the truth. The husband claimed to have committed suicide. This was understandable because coming from a samurai's perspective of honor. His wife was raped, such a disgrace, he preferred to distort the truth for him to be able to appear good in the eyes of the audience.
The case of the samurai is an interesting topic to discuss. The samurai experienced a lot of disgraceful situations. He was addressed as a "corpse", an "unfortunate man", which talks about his rank as a samurai. He lost the symbols of a samurai's power, the sword and the bow. Furthermore, the woodcutter described the situation as "the dried wound 'a gad-fly [is] stuck fast.'", talking about the wound of the samurai. This can be interpreted as the imagery of a rotten or domesticated animal which is surrounded by flying pests. Another point is that, the color of the clothing of the samurai and the criminal was intentionally blurred to be able to create a message that the samurai was just an average looking man. This is definitely, clearly an insult and disgrace for a warrior. Also, his testimony regarding the "greedy attitude" towards what the criminal provokes of him. He left his wife unprotected and was blinded by greed. This is definitely an act that ignored the Bushido code. For that, the samurai created a different story to redeem his dignity and reputation.
Another important point to discuss is the color that was put in the traditions of the religions, in this case, Buddhism through the Buddhist priest. In the story, the Buddhist priest was portrayed as a more observant of the things and people around him and the world. This is contrary to what he claims to be. Furthermore, the description of the woman to be a "Bodhisattva"; it is a term which describes the one who is enlightened and helps others to be enlightened as well. This shows that the term was not used properly. It implies that the woman's heavenly beauty inspired only a brutal act of rape.
Finally, the most important part of this discussion, the roles of man and woman; which is described in the story. It is seen as the same issue as the description of the ideal samurai and the actual samurai in the story. The same difficulty is seen in the description of the woman. In one description, she is a "Bodhisattva" but on the second description, she is a sword-wielding woman. This is definitely a disgrace to the woman being described as such. It poses a very important relation that the woman needed protection from her husband, but the husband was not able to provide that. The important point here is that a woman is dependent in a man.
The story has a very interesting plot and it is executed very well in the story to provoke critical thinking for the readers. The story is able to depict the difficulties and problems in the Japanese era at that time. Thus, the picture of the relationship of a man and a woman, its unequal essence was projected.
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