UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Akutagawa Ryunosuke : three themes Iles, Timothy J.F. 1992-12-31

You don't seem to have a PDF reader installed, try download the pdf

Item Metadata


831-ubc_1992_spring_iles_timothy_j_f.pdf [ 5.94MB ]
JSON: 831-1.0086636.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0086636-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0086636-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0086636-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0086636-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0086636-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0086636-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Akutagawa Ryunosuke:Three ThemesbyTimothy J.F. Iles, B.A.The University of British Columbia 1988A thesis submitted in partialfulfillment of the requirementsof the degree ofMaster of ArtsinThe Faculty of Graduate StudiesDepartment of Asian StudiesWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardThe University of British ColumbiaMarch, 1992© Timothy J.F. Iles, 1992In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.Department of  Asian StudiesThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate DE-6 (2/88)AbstractThe aim of this study is to examine the workings ofthree themes within the fiction of Akutagawa Ryunosuke(1892-1927), to explore how these themes interrelate to forma portrait of their author's alienation from the world andfrom himself. These are: nature's hostility to the artistand his efforts to combat that; woman and her associationwith nature, disease, and death; and the Double as a mockeryof the authored self by the authoring self. Each theme isdiscussed in a separate chapter; a concluding chapterexplores the way in which the three themes merge in onespecific short story, "Haguruma" (1927; tr. Cogwheel, 1965).Table of ContentsAbstract^ iiPreface iviiiIntroductionChapter One:Chapter Two:Chapter Three:Chapter Four:1Bibliography^23Nature^ 24Bibliography^55Women^ 56Bibliography^89The Double^ 90Bibliography 122"Hagurumau: a Conclusion 123Bibliography^156ivPrefaceMy text for Akutagawa's works is the Iwanami Publishersedition of Akutagawa's complete works, the Akutagawa Ryunosuke Zenshu, Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo, 1954. Hereafterreference to Akutagawa's work will be given as only thevolume and page number from this edition. All translationsfrom Akutagawa, Shiga Naoya, and Yoshida Seiichi are my own,as is their inelegance. All other translations are asnoted.I wish to express my gratitude to those I have met inthe course of my studies at the University of BritishColumbia, in particular to the faculty and staff members ofthe Department of Asian Studies. This present study has ina very real sense been written of ideas generously given tome by others.INTRODUCTIONHow one faces the end of one's life is often moreimportant in demonstrating one's character than how one haslived; this is true in virtually all cultural contexts.Death is the defining factor against which all people mustmeasure themselves, though this is usually done as a denial,or at least a perpetual deferment of the realization ofmortality. To grasp this mortality in one's hands, tograpple with sentience and the inevitable loss of one'sconscious self, becomes for most an impossibility: they turnto the palliative of religion, mysticism, or thoughts ofreincarnation to steal some measure of reassurance that no,indeed, they shall never truly die. Christian mythologypostulates an eternal life in a perfect place, a return, infact, to the place whence all things began. Asianphilosophy, specifically Buddhism, insists on theidentification of all things with each other; hence, one's'death' in one form is but a transformational stage intoanother. But what of those who, while witnessing thecyclicality of nature, nonetheless perceive the end of eachindividual existence, and in so doing realize that they toomust die; how do these people, innocent of the desperatelysophisticated claims of both religion and philosophy, facetheir ultimately undeniable fate? Camus writes thatthere is but one truly serious philosophical problem,and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is notworth living amounts to answering the fundamentalquestion... All the rest...comes afterwards. These aregames; one must first answer . (Camus, p.3).2This is indeed the problem faced by those without a borrowedethical code to force a meaning, a value onto life: what isits worth to them? For some, though life is a preciouscommodity, the pain of illness makes its termination moreprecious; for others an acute sense of anxiety will pushthem beyond their limits. Others will live on, enduring allmanner of hardships, for the simple pleasure of feedingtheir cats or listening to the tones of a cello. Thesepeople have all through their actions found an answer. Forus, those who have chosen to live, who have found asignificance to life, even if only a personal one (and ofcourse this is the best one), are no longer here of anyinterest, save as a background, a norm against which tocompare the others, those who, for whatever reason, havechosen to take their own lives. This itself is a curiousphrase, 'to take one's life'. It implies that those who donot commit suicide are somehow less responsible for theirexistence than those who do; and this is rather misleading.I believe, following Sartre, that all people are ultimatelyin control of their own lives. Even those who have chosento follow a ready-made set of morals must still choose toimplement them. Those who do not kill themselves havechosen not to; those who do have chosen to claim a finalproof of their own self responsibility: the choice of thetime of their death. For some in the West, suicide is a sin;it gives to man privileges reserved for a deity, theprivileges reserved for one who controls. Man's suicidebecomes hubris, claiming the status of a god. For those in3other parts of the world, however, suicide receives a moresympathetic eye. In Japan, suicide has long been apotentially redemptive, though still tragic, thing, wherebyone could regain, for example, respect lost through anembarrassment, or put an end to one's self-doubts. ManyJapanese intellectuals and writers have chosen suicide;Mishima Yukio (1925-1970) is perhaps best known in the Westof these for his spectacular, ritualized suicide in 1970.Even without the stigma of Christian damnation attached toit, suicide is not an easily-settled-on solution; how thendoes one reach this decision? Along which road must onetrudge to arrive at this determined end?Within the life of one Japanese writer, AkutagawaRyunosuke (1892-1927), death was a haunting presence;Akutagawa too committed suicide, at the age of thirty-five,leaving behind him some 150 short works of fiction whichcontain numerous clues as to their author's views of theworld which influenced his decision to end his life. In hiswriting a variety of themes recur; among these are a fear ofthe cyclicality and corruption within nature; a mistrust ofwoman and an association of her with disease; and a covertdivision of himself into the writer and the written, intotwo halves which his use of the Double demonstrates. InAkutagawa's work these three themes merge into a portrait ofone who, by virtue of his alienation from the world in whichhe lived, and fear of what the future held for him, stroveto create an existence for himself on the printed page. Healways knew, though, that this existence was fictional.This knowledge led to his depiction of the Double as a4pursuing, mocking entity able to live integrated withinsociety and nature, and eventually, I feel, led to hisabandonment of the 'fictional' life he had lived for thereality which was suicide.Akutagawa Ryunosuke was born on March 1, 1892, as theeldest son of a well-to-do family, named Niihara. Soonafter birth he was put out in adoption to the Akutagawafamily, his mother's maiden house. This adoption was becauseRyunosuke...was born during an ill-omened year.Therefore, following an old superstition, it wasdecided that the family should conduct the ceremony of'abandoning' their child...Ryunosuke's ill-starreddestiny, over which one may consider a dark shadow tohave already fallen before his birth, contained whatmust be a child's worst fortune. This was his mother'sfalling ill before his first year had passed...she wentinsane after Ryunosuke's ninth month (Yoshida,PP-7-8)-Herein we find the first causes of Akutagawa's alienationfrom the world. What Akutagawa retained of his originalhome was the knowledge that he was the son of a madwoman.The influence his mother's insanity had onRyunosuke's psychology was great. His self-consciousness of being the son of a madwoman and thefears of his having inherited her insanity, togetherwith the decline of his physical condition (in lateryears) gradually grew severe; that this is one causewhich drove him to suicide is fairly clear (Yoshida,p.8).Akutagawa's mother lived for ten years after her son'sbirth. During that time he had occasion to visit her.Looking back on those visits he wrote later thatI never felt a maternal intimacy for my mother. Mymother, while sitting alone...her hair done up,...would smoke tobacco in a long pipe. Her face wassmall, her body was small. Somehow that face was anabsolutely lifeless, ashen colour. When at some point Iread the Seisoki [a prose work from Tang China] andcame across the works 'earth', 'mouth', spirit', 'mud','stink', and 'taste', I thought of precisely mymother's face -- that emaciated profile (quoted inYoshida, pp.8-9).5One should note the associations here between the mother andearth or mud; such a connection between the mother and theearth will recur time and again.The period into which Akutagawa was born too issignificant in his life (Sartre writes of one's era:it is... a waste of time to ask what I shouldhave been if [I had been born in a different time]for I have chosen myself as one of the possiblemeanings of the epoch... I am not distinct fromthat same epoch; I could not be transported toanother epoch without contradiction (Sartre, p. 709) ).Akutagawa was born in 1892, twenty-four years after theMeiji Restoration which marked the beginning of arevolutionary period in Japanese history. In 1600 Japan hadclosed its borders to all foreign contact; this condition,known as 'sakoku' or 'the closed country', was maintainedfor over 250 years until in 1853 Commodore Perry of theUnited States Navy forced Japan's then military governmentto open the country to trade. Internal tensions led to acivil war in Japan (the first in over 200 years) which sawin 1868 the overthrow of this military government and thereturn of the emperor from titular to actual head of thestate. The Meiji emperor issued a number of decrees urgingthe modernization of Japan, notable of which was the CharterOath, a document which contained clauses abolishing classdistinctions and promoting the adoption of Western-styledpolitical institutions. The Oath stated that "base customsof former times shall be abandoned and all actions shallconform to the principles of international justice.(Furthermore,) knowledge shall be sought throughout theworld" (Schirochauer, p.120). In the years after 1868 Japanexperienced a period of cultural, technological, and social6change virtually unparalleled in world history. Everyaspect of daily life was touched by the tidal wave of new,foreign ideas which swept over the country. Where for 250years no foreigner had even been seen, now foreignresidences sprang up. Rail lines were built, modern Japaneseindustry was born, and new forms of literature appeared asWestern works became available in translation. Japanesewriters began experimenting with forms and subjectspreviously unknown to them, writing in a Japanese languagewhich itself had to undergo drastic revision to capture thebluntness of the Western works it now tried to express. Thescope of the changes to the Japanese social fabric is todayalmost impossible to grasp; it truly was revolutionary.Into this ferment of activity then Akutagawa was born,literally in the heart of an imported culture, for thesection of Tokyo in which his family lived "had by that timebecome a foreign nationals' residence. According toRyunosuke's sister's memoirs there were only three homes ofJapanese in the area, including that of Akutagawa's"(Yoshida, p.7). Wherever in Tokyo Akutagawa had lived,though, he would not have been immune to foreign influence.While at school Akutagawa excelled. "His school workwas excellent. In particular, because he was accustomed toreading Japanese and Chinese classics at home, his abilitiesin Chinese literature were distinguished" (Yoshida, p.22).Akutagawa was drawn to literature from an early age. Whilestill young he read Western works, at first in translation,later in original languages. He was also an avid reader ofnew Japanese writing, being familiar with the Japanese7Naturalist school, and the works of Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) and Mori Ohgai (1862-1922). Natsume Soseki, who helda chair in English Literature at the Tokyo ImperialUniversity, shortly before his death in 1916, read andpraised some of Akutagawa's earliest pieces, becomingsomething of a mentor for the young man who, with someassociates while still at school, had begun a small journal,the magazine "Shinshichou (Dawn of the New Thought). Fromhere Akutagawa's literary life truly begins.Over the next 11 years, Akutagawa's highly polishedshort stories appeared at a rapid rate. These works cover awide range of subjects and experiment with many differentsystems, from brief, two or three page sketches, tolengthier, historically-inspired reworkings of older tales,to social satire, to very original, often bizarre pieces.During Akutagawa's life the general trend in Japaneseliterature was towards an autobiographical, confessionalstyle known as the shi-shosetsu, the 'I-novel'. This was aform wherein an author would simply record the events of hisdaily life (though in actual fact these recordings wereoften considerably more spicy than the reality theypurported to describe) or his observations, and so present abelievable literary expression of truth. Often the I-novelhad no easily recognizable plot or goal, existing as merelya diary of the author's life. Akutagawa, though, rejectedthis form of writing in favour of a highly-crafted form,preferring to construct his pieces in accordance with theWestern criteria of progressive plot structure anddeveloping characters. However towards the end of his life8Akutagawa did take up an autobiographical form, as thedespair in which he lived increased his self-doubts as tothe merits of his literary opus.Akutagawa's literary influences are as varied as hisoutput. He was well-read in classical Chinese works, oftendrawing on these to provide himself with the material fromwhich to construct a new work. These rewritings thoughgenerally bear little resemblance to their usually muchshorter sources. Akutagawa too was very familiar withWestern writings. In a short essay entitled "Furansubungaku to boku" (1922; French Literature and Myself), forexample he lists the French authors who most touched hisyouth: Anatole France, Flaubert, de Maupassant, Gautier,Rousseau, Voltaire, and Baudelaire. Poe was no stranger tohim, nor were classical Greek philosophers and morecontemporary German writers. Akutagawa's graduating thesisfrom Tokyo Imperial University was written on the EnglishWilliam Morris, and he "of course was familiar with four orfive of Dostoevsky's books" (VIII:85).As, year by year, Akutagawa's opus grew, so too did hisfame. He was able to support himself as a writer; hemarried, had children with his wife, and was able to supportthem too. But then, towards the end of his life, while hewas in his early thirties, he began to entertain doubtsabout his life, about his fate. "Beginning to think isbeginning to be undermined" (Camus, p.4), and underminedAkutagawa was. He wrote in his suicide note "Aru kyuyu eokuru shuki" (1927; tr. A Note to a Certain Old Friend,1961), that "I have for these past two years thought of9little but dying" (XV:170). Camus notes thatIt is hard to fix the precise instant, the subtlestep when the mind opted for death... In a sense...killing yourself amounts to confessing. It isconfessing that life is too much... that it 'is notworth the trouble'.. .What, then, is that incalculablefeeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessaryfor life? (Camus, p.5).Akutagawa contends thatfor the most part those who commit suicide...probably do not know why they do so. It probablyconcerns motives as complex as those for anythingwe do. However in my case at least the reason ismerely a vague unease. It is some vague uneaseabout my future (ibid).Whence came this unease to a man at the peak of his fame,loved by his family, young, with an infinite potentialbefore him? I will argue here and in the pages to followthat Akutagawa, alienated from both his birth and adoptivefamily, split between the cultures of Japan and the West,hostilely suspicious of the natural world, sought to createfor himself a life through the medium of his writing, soughtto live by creating his life on paper, but eventually lostthe strength to continue this enterprise. He became awareof the fragility of ink on a page and of its inability tosupport the weight of existence.The one who realizes in anguish his condition asbeing thrown into a responsibility which extendsto his very abandonment has no longer either remorseor regret or excuse; he is no longer anything but afreedom which perfectly reveals itself and whose beingresides in this very revelation (Sartre, p.711).For Akutagawa however this revelation of freedom wasequally a revelation of his alienation from even himself.The autobiographical style to which he turned at this point,which we shall examine in a later chapter, demonstratesthis: he writes of himself from a removed point of view,10from a distance which separates what he is from what hewrites.Totally free, undistinguishable from the period forwhich I have chosen to be the meaning,.. .1 must bewithout remorse or regret as I am without excuse... Icarry the weight of the world by myself alone withoutanything or any person to lighten it... I am abandonedin the world, not in the sense that I remain abandonedand passive in a hostile universe like a board floatingin water, but rather in the sense that I find myselfsuddenly alone and without help, engaged in a world forwhich I bear the whole responsibility without beingable... to tear myself away from this responsibilityfor an instant... To make myself passive in the world,to refuse to act upon things and upon others is stillto choose myself, and suicide is one mode among othersof being-in-the world (Sartre, pp.709-10).This mode is both a final acceptance of freedom and anultimate abdication of responsibility. Akutagawa's vagueunease is his recognition of his responsibility in theworld; his suicide is his method of making thatresponsibility something bearable to him.I should like now to discuss the goals of this presentstudy. While hardly claiming to be a scrupulouslybiographical portrait, nor again an exhaustive examinationof its subject, this work sets out to describe threedistinct though interrelated themes in Akutagawa's work inorder to arrive at a composite sketch, as it were, of thisman who saw fit to end his life. The seeds for Akutagawa'ssuicide appear to have been sown early on; they arereflected in these three persistent themes. The first ofthese is his treatment of nature. For Akutagawa, unlike forthe majority of his contemporaries in Japan, nature did notappear as the locus for man's integration into somethinglarger than himself, the greater category of Life in whichhe would become one welcome, small, and relatively11unimportant part. Asian philosophies, from Buddhism inIndia, to Taoism in China, to Shintoism in Japan, allsituate man within a natural frame which itself takesprecedence over the essential worth of the individual;indeed this very word 'individual' has only a marginal placein these systems of thought. (Of course I am speakingsimplistically though generally truthfully here). Buddhismeven goes so far as to say that the individual does notexist: this is the principle of anatman, or the non-existence of the self, and its realization becomes thehighest form of enlightenment. Such a view naturallyprecludes one from fearing one's death, or maintaining anattachment to one's separate, particulated existence: one isonly a part of the world, of the greater arena of life, andas such when one's body is exhausted by illness or age onewill pass into a merger with the things around one, becomingsomething else, some other consciousness or energyinhabiting some other shape. As such, one, who never reallylived as one, will never really die, for though one'senergies will move into another perhaps more diffuse form,they will not be removed from Life. This type of eternallyrecirculating existence, whereby one becomes (potentially)all other things, is in general the world view predominantin Asia; Asian aesthetics reflect this as well. The worksof Shiga Naoya (1883-1971), who in the early part of theTwentieth Century was perhaps Japan's most popular andinfluential author, attempt to provide a vehicle for theirauthor to arrive at an integrating acceptance of thenaturally necessary stages of his life, through which he12would situate himself within the world's eternal, harmoniouscontinuity. This author in particular provides a contrastto Akutagawa, and hence I have undertaken a brief survey ofsome of the major points of difference between them.Shiga then representing a more 'orthodox' Asian view,what of Akutagawa? Indeed his opinion of nature is quitedifferent from a harmoniously 'containing' one, and bearscertain affinities to a Western view which perceives natureas the now-forbidden Eden, the perfect place barred to manfor his arrogant desire for individuating knowledge. AWestern view of nature describes a sublime object, alandscape out over which man gazes, but into which he maynot enter. There is between man and nature (and here I domean 'man' for this view is a typically male-centred one,which postulates nature as a female Other) the barrier ofotherness, a tension alternately antagonistically hostile orbelittlingly alienating. This otherness places man in theposition of one seeking dominance, subjectivity, over anincomprehensible object which, through the necessity thatman must die and lose his individuality, becomes opposed tohis life. The Western individual, removed from nature bythe cultural heritage which forms the mythic Adam as hisimage, has only his individual perspective whence to definehimself: hence he is indeed an individual, a solitary beingwho has no access to the (for example) seasonal cyclicalityhe observes around him. While each year life renews itself,he witnesses his own linear aging and so fears the finalityhe discovers in death (again of course I am speaking inbroad and simple generalities, but perhaps a picture of the13differences between the Asian and Western view will emerge).From this arises the understandable desire for immortality,which creates a concept of a heaven: if I must die, then Ishall frantically create for myself an 'afterlife' wherein apatriarchal incarnation of (my own) masculine authorityshall reign. Nature's alienation from me becomes the resultof a mythic conflict between my 'god-self' and my mortalself which will be made irrelevant when I subject myself asmyself to my own created, benevolent image of myself aseternity. Eden is regained forever after the death which isnot final but merely a passageway into myself made divinelyall-encompassing. Rather than nature containing me, thisview allows me to contain nature. "Man makes himself man inorder to be God" (Sartre, p.796), and so too makes himselfGod forever to be man, to be himself. Hence man gains areassurance that although he is removed from the cyclicalrenewal of this life, of this world, he himself shall attainto a better eternity. Man's only regret here may be anattachment to the forms of this world, prompted by thenagging doubts that he has not postulated something whichwill actually happen.Akutagawa views himself as alienated from the naturalworld, and yet in later life came to lack the determinationto maintain himself as an eternal, individual form: he wasquite aware that when he was to die, he would indeed ceaseto be. For him nature is that force which causes one todie: it is an entity which reserves eternal cyclicality foritself while necessitating an individual existence's linearaging and degeneration into death. This natural entity is14purely hostile and man's relation to it is purelyadversarial. As such for Akutagawa the individual is aprivileged being; like the Western individual he is separatefrom nature and so must create for himself his own self-defined image. Akutagawa does this for himself through hiswriting; some of his characters do it for themselves throughart. For Akutagawa the most complete individual is theartist, one who seeks through his work to correct the flawed(for fatal) face of nature, to create an Eden for himself.The artist in effect becomes a deity, but one well aware ofhis own mortality. Often the artist in Akutagawa's work hasbeen driven insane by this endeavour to capture or correctan image of nature, as in "numachi" (1919; tr. The Swamp,1939). In his suicide note "Aru kyuyu e okuru shuki"Akutagawa writes thatin reading Empedocles, I felt how very old is thedesire to make oneself a god. In this note, as far asI am aware, I do not try to make myself a god... But doyou recall twenty years ago, when we debated(Empedocles) together; at that time, I was one whowanted to make myself a god (XV: 174).He was one then who wanted to create for himself, as would agod, a world in which he could exist.Related to Akutagawa's desire to build a world forhimself on paper is his fondness for the theme of theDouble. In writing, Akutagawa became in effect two people:the author, the god which created the written world; andthat person placed within this written world. Akutagawa didnot take up a clearly autobiographical subject matter tilllate in his career, but nonetheless, in that the things andopinions about which he wrote were of interest to him, hehad been writing about himself all along. His awareness15though of what he was doing split him into two, into hiswriting and written self, a situation about which too hewrote through the device of the Double. This theme has asecond (doubled) motivating factor, and that is a culturalcomponent arising from Akutagawa's chronological placement.Akutagawa lived during a tumultuous period in Japanesehistory, a period marked by cultural revolution andcolonialism. Such a division between the old and the new,and such a phenomenal adoption of foreign concepts asoccurred in Japan could not help but create a 'doubled'psyche in the minds of those who experienced it. PaulCoates, a literary critic at McGill University in Montreal,has examined the impact of colonialism on the colonizingcultures which found themselves in a confrontationalsituation with difference. I attempt to apply certain ofhis theories to Akutagawa to gauge what effect the Japanesesocial conditions of his period may have had in hisattraction to the theme of the Double.The remaining theme I examine is Akutagawa's depictionof women and the Mother. His own mother, dying insane whilehe was young, had a destabilizing effect on him, which ofcourse finds expression in his work. Woman in general forAkutagawa is an unknowable Other, irrational, oftendiseased. Often his female characters are either physicallyor mentally ill, even close to death. This presence ofsickness within them, of corruption (typified by thetuberculosis which infects one character in "Niwa" (1922;tr. The Garden, 1952), for example) indicates an associationof woman with that other locus of decay in Akutagawa's16world, nature. Akutagawa aligns woman with nature in wayssimilar to those found in Western thinking, though with amore pronouncedly negative connotation. In fact so strongin this linking, so close is this association between womanand nature for Akutagawa, that one encounters considerabledifficulty discussing one without reference to the other.In both the Western and Japanese traditions there is ahistory of associating woman with nature; this even extendsto the hackneyed expression ' Mother Earth'. In Japan themythic source of the imperial family's power is Amaterasu, asolar deity depicted as female. Shinto in the past has seenwomen as somehow closer to the natural spirits, althoughwith the importation of the male-centred systems of Buddhismand Confucianism (two imported systems which, like thosewhich moved into very ancient Greece and Cyprus, forced outthe indigenous, matriarchal social orders) woman quicklylost her positive connections to the spiritual realm,becoming only that which was opposed to the rational andmale. Woman having traditional link with nature in both thecultures which attracted Akutagawa, so much the easier wasit for him to make the same association through hismatriphobia and the fear of the corrupting insanity heperceived in his own mother.Throughout this study one may notice an absence of adiscussion of Buddhism or detailed Japanese literary themes.This is not to deny that these had an influence onAkutagawa's intellectual outlook or work. Rather, mycontention is this: much of Akutagawa's own views andinfluences were of a Western bent, and as such, permit a17discussion of his work from a Western perspective. A casein point would be the comment he made about Empedocles, andhow Akutagawa himself, in his youth, desired to make himselfa god, tried to claim for himself an individuated authorityover his life as one who felt himself alienated within ahostile world. Such an attempt, such a world view, is notBuddhistic, it is Western and opposed to the integratingimpulse in Asian philosophy. Akutagawa's antagonism tonature and his view of death as final find little Asianprecedent. Rather they are expressions of his own beliefswhich found greater sympathetic acceptance in some of theWestern concepts he encountered. Akutagawa when he finallydoes take up autobiography demonstrates a sophisticatedappreciation of and familiarity with Western literatures andcultural icons, and too writes often about Christianity, notas one able to accept its offered eternal existence withinan unchanging self-like form, but as one who is intrigued bythe concept of Christ, the martyr, the one who is sacrificedfor an ideal inaccessible to the common people (in theletter "Aru Kyuyu e okuru shuki" Akutagawa even goes so faras to term Christ's death a suicide, an interesting notionon which unfortunately he does not elaborate). One may seeAkutagawa's Western, individuating program clearly in abrief description of his piece "Kumo no ito" (1918; tr. ASpider's Thread, 1930). This piece concerns a thief in Hellto whom the Buddha gives one chance to escape his damnationby climbing out from his purgatory along a single spiderthread. He fails through a lack of compassion, and theBuddha leaves him to his fate. Beongcheon Yu ascribes the18source of this tale, which Akutagawa has created out of aborrowed theme, to "a simple episodic parable -- athoroughly Christian one at that -- in Dostoevsky's TheBrothers Karamazov which Akutagawa had recently read"(Yu, p.25). This in itself proves nothing, but Akutagawa'sdepiction of the Buddha as very much an individual existencedwelling on in an eternal paradise, overseeing thesufferings in Hell of those condemned through their actions,indicates an affinity with Western linearity and perpetual,individual consciousness. This being the case, it becomespossible to read Akutagawa as a Western writer, as oneinfluenced by European tastes, philosophies, literatures,and goals. Indeed Akutagawa's very utilization of the shortstory form, a linearly progressing, self-contained,'individual' form, owes much to his exposure to Westernwriters. For this reason I have chosen the perhapscontroversial course of considering Akutagawa's work from adecidedly Western perspective, rather than confining myselfto the more obvious realm of his literary precursors withinthe Japanese canon.There is one further controversial practice in which Iengage which would find few to support its application. Thisis a close reading of some of the Chinese charactersAkutagawa has used in various of his works. The writtenJapanese language utilizes borrowed Chinese characters towrite, generally, nouns and the non-inflecting, or stem,portion of verbs. Chinese characters are of course complexpicto- or ideographs which combine various elements, knownas radicals, to create the meaning they express. It is not19the usual practice to break these characters down into theircomponent parts when reading them, much as in English onedoes not usually analyze the way a word's roots or sound arestill present within its meaning. Nonetheless, just as thismay be done in English, and is in fact done by certainlinguistically-based critical schools, so too is it possibleto read the elements within a Chinese character, especiallywhen it appears an author has himself chosen the charactersin question for their very richness of potential. It is notproblematic to suggest that, in naming a protagonist, forexample, an author will pay particular attention to choosinga name which conveys some comment on the character, orreflects some part of his personality. Akutagawa has donethis on certain occasions, as we shall see in "Futatsu notegami" (1917; Two Letters). Here the name indicates acertain trait which affects the working of story, but thekan.i (the Chinese graphic system used in Japanese) are readas a whole, are not broken down into their radicals.However, in other works, such as in "Niwa" (1922; tr. TheGarden, 1964) or "Haguruma" (1927; tr. Cogwheels, 1961),some very provocative interpretive possibilities lurk withinsome of the kan'i Akutagawa has selected. I would like toemphasize this word 'selected' -- a writer as familiar aswas Akutagawa with foreign literatures and languages becomesmore aware of possibilities within his own language than onewithout the benefit of a multi-cultural experience, andhence becomes more discriminating in his use of words.Akutagawa was an intellectual; he was one for whom words hadspecial significance, being, as they were, the method by20which he made his living (this phrase may be taken inseveral ways). There is evidence to suggest that Akutagawachose the names of his characters to comment on thosecharacters; hence I believe he also occasionally chosecertain incidents and situations simply to place within hisworks certain kan'i which make available to the readerlayers and levels of meaning both necessary to and supportedby other aspects of the text. To choose one example which Idiscuss in a later chapter, in the piece "Niwa" onecharacter "turns his back on man and nature" (V:241), weread; he is something of an artist, working to rebuild alandscaped garden. His nephew is named Ren'ichi, a namewhich may mean (roughly) "the Accusing One". This is fairlystraightforward; the events in the text support this name.However, remembering the action of the uncle we have justread, turning his back on the world, we encounter Ren'ichiin one segment crushing ants. 'Ant' in Japanese is an,written with a kan'i the radicals of which are 'insect' and'ceremony' or 'ritual' (^). Of course, this is abeautifully representative symbol for ants and the socialarrangements into which they somehow form themselves: theyare truly 'insects with ceremony'. But in the context ofthis short story, wherein there is no need for Ren'ichi tobe crushing anything, let alone ants, despite the fact thatit is something a bored young boy may do (but then again sotoo is stone throwing), the possibility is definitely atempting one to conclude that Ren'ichi, who follows hisuncle's artistic impulse in later life and who too, in turn,turns his back on both society and nature, crushes ants to21reject, through this particular kan'i, the natural world(expressed in the 'insect' radical) and the human, socialworld (expressed in the radical for 'ceremony'). Now giventhe complexity in English required to explain this, is itjustifiable to postulate Akutagawa's purposeful utilizationof such possibilities buried within a word? And if it is,must one then read (must one 'unpack') every kan'i Akutagawauses? Well, yes and no: where in the text one findssupporting evidence or events to corroborate the senseobtained through the closer reading of the kan'i, it isindeed justified. These significances do not manifestthemselves out of thin air, as it were: language exists tobe used, and has depths accessible to those willing to sinkto them. Akutagawa did not invent these kan'i, of course;but he did have them before him as a menu of possibilitiesfrom which to select his desired effects. Akutagawastructured his writing in very sophisticated ways; thetextual devices and strategies he employs are complex.Whether or not there is literary precedent for his usage ofkan'i in the Japanese canon is of relatively littleimportance; there is precedent enough in his own opus. Whythen does one not encounter these 'loaded' kan'i in each ofAkutagawa's works? Why does one not have to dismantle everykan'i? In a sense one does, for it is the internalassociations of the radicals which give the kanji its(original) meaning (although this is more true of theChinese written language itself). However, in the morespecific sense of the practice I propose here, Akutagawa, itwould seem, simply did not select everywhere his kan'i for2 2the same strategic purposes. The care with which he hasconstructed his plots is found in all his works; the carewith which he has named his characters is in greaterevidence in some; and in others we discover a deliberateselection of kan.i which we may analyze. In the works Ihave examined here there are at least four separateinstances of kan.i conducive to this type of analysis; thereare undoubtedly more in other of Akutagawa's stories. Werethere only one or two instances, it would be possible todismiss these as coincidence or overreading on the part ofthe critic; but the greater the frequency and more definitethe link between kan'i and corroborative plot details, themore plausible becomes the case for Akutagawa's wilfulselection of a visually rich, linguistically suggestivekanji with which to thicken the texture of his writing.Such is the case I wish to argue here, before we examine theoccasions on which this usage occurs, in the works to whichwe now turn our attention.BIBLIOGRAPHY TO THE INTRODUCTIONCamus, Albert^The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays,tr. Justin O'Brien, New York: Vintage,1955.Sartre, Jean-Paul Being and Nothingness, tr. Hazel E.Barnes, New York: Washington SquarePress, 1956.Schirokauer, Conrad Modern China and Japan, New York:Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc, 1982Yoshida, Seiichi^Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Tokyo: Ofusha,1979.Yu, Beongcheon^Akutagawa: an Introduction, Detroit:Wayne State University Press, 197223CHAPTER INatureIt is something of an oversimplification to assert thatall writers ultimately write of nature, in placing theircharacters in situations based upon the real world. Such aclaim serves only to highlight what more often than notwriters take for granted with as great a frequency as non-writes, namely that self-same nature. Nonetheless as aliterary device to express elements of a character'spersonality or foreshadow (or even actively influence)events in the story, nature does indeed find a place in agreat many works. In the products of a few writers,however, nature assumes a particular significance, beingintimately associated with these writers' very essences,their very centre-most projects. Proust and Hesse, Shelleyand Marquez all conduct passionate love affairs with nature,consistently representing it as perfection, as beauty. Thisview of nature as Edenic is not at all limited to Europeanartists: Asian aesthetics support nature as an ideal andseek to place man into harmony with it. Chinese paintingswith their Taoist influences capture this theme best: on alarge, misty canvas depicting in subtle shades of ink andsubdued hues vast mountains and sublime valleys, enormousthough benevolent, man receives a niche firmly withinnature's embrace. For Akutagawa however, nature, whilestill seeming as in the European tradition very muchassociated with woman, Mother Nature, becomes an insatiable,corrupting hostility, not a sheltering bosom whence toappreciate the fragrant joys of life but rather a place25wherein "a pervasive sense of destitution and decay isunable to conceal itself" (V: 237). This place, this enemy,does not welcome him: it houses a force bent on killing him.Simone de Beauvoir, writing of the human condition ingeneral, makes an observation pertinent to Akutagawa'ssituation:Before him man encounters nature; he has some holdupon her, he endeavours to mould her to his desires[though in Akutagawa's case, capturing her image inhis writing]. But she cannot fill his needs. Eithershe appears simply as a purely impersonal opposition,she is an obstacle and remains a stranger [while withindifference charging her cohorts Time and Disease withthe task of aging and destroying all things]; or shesubmits passively [and deceptively] to [his] will andpermits assimilation, so that he takes possession ofher only through consuming her, -- that is, throughdestroying her (de Beauvoir, p.129),only ultimately to stand revealed as her victim in death.For Akutagawa, Nature, the Mother, is always a threat, anopposition against which he pits his characters: the trueindividual in his works is one who "turns his back onsociety and nature" (V:241) in such stories as "Numachi"(1921; The Swamp, 1939) and "Niwa" (1922; Tr: The Garden,1964), one who is willing to struggle against natural forcesin a vain effort to reveal nature for what it is, to stripaway its verdant mask and expose the rot behind it; thischaracter, the artist, claims the right to define the worldthrough the products of his own endeavour, which shall beworks of art either condemning or correcting nature's flaws.The artist's project is to resist nature, to break it to hiswill and consume it, as it were, in de Beauvoir's terms,before it consumes him. This individual always ultimatelyfails, of course, leaving behind works which themselvesdecay or are forgotten by the world in the obscurity of26miscomprehension: in no place is there a compromise, areconciliation which would allow a character's peacefulassimilation into nature's greater harmony for Akutagawa,who writes in "Haguruma" (1927; tr; The Cogwheel, 1965) thathe could not believe in Heaven, in Eden, though he couldeasily imagine Hell, cannot accept what, for those whobelieve it to be a finality, is a terrifying prospect: thateventually he must die, must give up himself.In Akutagawa's earliest pieces nature appears as ableak backdrop against which a struggle of human moralityplays itself out, a setting in which a character must defendhis individually ambitious drive to uphold a humane, ethicalcode against a corruptive force offered by nature as eithernecessary or profitable. Such is certainly the case in"Rashomon" (1915; tr. Rasho Gate, 1930), wherein theprotagonist is faced with a choice of starving to deathmorally or becoming a thief, preying on the social order asa parasite. The story concerns a servant who has just beendismissed from his position, and now finds himself homelessand hungry beside the Rashomon, an entrance way to oldKyoto, the "Capital City", the concentrated essence ofcivilization, which is itself experiencing an economicdepression. The protagonist has the difficult choice ofbecoming a thief or finding some scarce, lawful occupation.Deciding to spend at least one warm night out of theincessant rain, he climbs the stairs to the upper, enclosedlevel of the gate, to where the local people, lacking accessto a proper cemetery, have lately taken their dead. Therethe protagonist discovers an old woman busily stealing hair27from the female corpses to sell as wigs; he confronts her,but she, through rather dubious logic, deflects his outrage.In fact her reasoning, that one must do what one can to stayalive, convinces the servant that he too is justified inpursuing the profitable path of crime: his first act is torob the old woman, whom he leaves stripped of her clothes,then flees into the night. The servant, now thief, has givenin to the temptations of the old woman, who represents thecorrupting urgings of nature, to abandon his morality. Theapparent ease with which he makes his decision findsexplanation in the textual devices which introduce thischaracter, for his very person is marked from the outset bythe same corruption laying seige in this piece to Kyoto andthreatening the servant's life.Nature is intent on destroying Kyoto through "suchdisasters as earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and famine"(1:36): almost victorious in its attack it has given theRasho Gate, its coat of red lacquer "flaking away here andthere" (ibid), back to the crickets and crows that nowinhabit it. It is to this place, then, abandoned bycivilization as it is and home to only human corpses, thatthe protagonist has come to plan his future. He too isabandoned by society: dismissed from his position should hefail to find employment he will end "thrown away like a dog"(1:38), forfeiting his status as a person. Nature appears tohave at least partial sway over this man from the outset,for Akutagawa introduces him as an 'underling', written withthe characters for 'low', or 'beneath', and 'person'. Thisword "Genin", designates a servant, a class of people, but a28class nonetheless inferior to the nobility for whom theCapital City exists. Also his face is marked by a "largepimple over which he is fussing" (1:37) while contemplatinghis choices. His face, like Kyoto, like the Rashomon, issuffering the ravages of dirt and decrepitude: within hisskin nature has placed the germs of corruption which willspread throughout his moral fibre. This festering sore sitsupon his right cheek: it is this cheek which receives theglow from the torch the old woman uses to illuminate herstripping of the hair from the corpses, hair which itselfshall have a role in falseness or deceit, being used to makewigs, artifices.The old woman, we are told, is like a "monkey" (1:39);her legs are "skin and bone like a chicken's" (1:42), andher voice is alternately "like a crow's cackling" (ibid) or"like a toad's croaking" (ibid): without a doubt she is apersonification of nature's malice concentrated into afemale package able to justify her defilement of the women'scorpses through recourse to something like (human)rationalization: the corpse she is robbing of hair itself(she says) when alive had occasion to cheat people, byselling common snake flesh as eel, a prized delicacy. Theold hag argues that whatever one must do to stay alive isjustified; she insists that even the woman whose hair shehas stolen "would probably wink at what (she'd) done"(ibid). Her persuasive words have some influence over theunderling, for the seed of their acceptance, the seed of hisdecay into a state of predation and thievery, the very stateof natural survival into which the woman (as woman, for2 9Akutagawa) had herself long ago fallen, is already wellplanted in the pimple on his cheek which "of course [he wasbusy] fussing over while listening to" (1:43) the hag. Whenhe first confronts her, the underling rails at her;Akutagawa uses the verb nonoshiru, meaning "to abuse, tospeak ill of", translatable as "to bark at"; this verb iswritten with a character containing the "horse" radical, anatural image imbedded in something as human as speech, andhence conveys the same sense of turning a person into ananimal as does English "to bark at". The underling cannotescape his choice, which is of course to rob the woman, forhis decision is contained within his body, is predestined inthe very words which Akutagawa uses to describe him. theunderling accepts the woman's (nature's) logic, thatwhatever one must do to avoid starvation is justified, andsteals the woman's clothes, leaving her naked amidst a pileof corpses; that is to say, having stripped her of her humantrappings he leaves her amongst humans no longer human. Heleaves her in the state of nature (well expressed in theFrench, au naturel) in which one enters the world, and thecorpses around the woman exit it. The underling has turnedhis back on the civilization that would have "only thrownhim away like a dog" (1:38) and taken as his own theproffered corruption of nature's messenger, the monkey-likeold woman. The final line of this piece completes theunderling's removal from society, for "his whereabouts areunknown to all" (1:43): no person has any further contactwith this 'lower person' swallowed up by the darkness of aconsuming nature.30The characters which Akutagawa depicts as most involvedin a resistance to nature are, not surprisingly, thoseinvolved in a manipulation of mimetic images of the worldaround them. Like Akutagawa himself they are artists,though usually (as in "Numachi" or "Shuzanzu" (1920; tr. APainting of an Autumn Mountain, 1961), they are painters.These are the people whose chosen course in life it is tocapture the images of nature within their canvasses on whichthey may now exercise a control not possible in reality overthis otherwise dominant force. These characters areempowered by Akutagawa to present nature as they (that is,as Akutagawa) perceive it to be, stripped of its illusoryfacade of benevolence, or believe it should be, idealized,tamed, or even depicted as a (corrected) paradise divestedof its fangs, no longer threatening to human life. Whileworks such as "Rashomon" or even "Yabunonaka" (1921; tr. Ina Grove, 1952) present people at odds with a decay of humanmorality, or struggling with the human failings of greed orlust, with nature as but a back-drop for or subversive agentin this struggle, the pieces which describe an artist'sconflict against nature approach sublimity, for here thebattles are between men and the very roots of life. Theseartists are true individuals who dedicate themselvestotally, at the expense of their very lives, to theenforcement of their aesthetic ideals onto a representationof something which either cannot be (in the case of a naturepresented as perfected, as a harmonious, welcoming haven, animpossibility for Akutagawa), or is not recognized for whatit is (in the case of a nature depicted with no sugar-31coating, without the idyllic face visible to most of thepeople around, but never including Akutagawa, himself).Though these artists are spurned by the society around them,Akutagawa typically includes one character in each piece whois able to appreciate the quality of the artist's work andvision: this figure is Akutagawa himself, either explicitlyrevealed or concealed behind a constructed identity. Thefunction of this character is to be a sympathetic witness tothe artist's (Akutagawa's own disguised) efforts, a witnesswho will appreciate what society in the work cannotcomprehend: the value of the artist.In one very short piece entitled "Numachi" ("TheSwamp"), Akutagawa describes how "on a rainy afternoon"(III:100) at a group art exhibit the narrator discovers "asingle small oil painting.., hung as if forgotten in adreadfully poor frame, in a badly lit corner" (ibid) of thegallery. The work's painter was "not at all famous" (Ibid)and was not strictly speaking a member of the exhibitinggroup: he had been included in the show after his recentdeath as a concession to his family, for he had pestered thegallery repeatedly for inclusion. He had been insane, andeven while alive "was like one who was dead" (III:101). Hispainting consists of a depiction of a swamp "so preciselydrawn as to make one feel clearly the sensation of walkingalong the mud of the foreground; one could actually sensethe sucking sound as one's ankle became buried in the mud-flat" (III:100). The entire scene contains "not a singlebrush stroke of green. Wherever one were to look the reedsand poplars... were all coloured in a muddy yellow, an3 2oppressive yellow just like that of sticky, wet clay"(ibid). It is a tremendously impressive piece for thenarrator, who begins "to perceive within this tiny oil thefigure of a pitiable artist who tried desperately to captureall of nature... I could see nowhere else a paintingpowerful enough to rival this single work" (ibid). Thenarrator meets an acquaintance, an art critic, who descendsupon him only to denounce this work as merely a madman'sefforts, for, he says, "if not one insane, who could paintsuch an oddly-coloured piece?" (III:102). This art criticspeaks with an imminently sane voice; he is authorized bysociety through his position of art reporter for a certainnewspaper to valorize art, to decide what is or is notacceptable. Clearly, even though the narrator"triumphantly" (ibid) terms the painting a masterpiece, thecritic insists on its ridiculousness: its painter, afterall, was insane, was outside of society, and was not even amember of the group of artists. For the narrator however,the work's plants "were alive with a terrible passion as ifone were seeing all of nature itself" (ibid) and this natureis the sickly, consuming entity which only the insane areable to recognize behind its mask. Akutagawa (through thethin veil of the narrator) feels "a strange shudder through[his] whole body (when for the third time he peers) intothis gloomy oil painting" (ibid) which houses the power of anature captured and exposed, and he is able to empathizewith the unknown artist who was "tormented by a fearfulirritation and disease" (ibid), the curse of seeingsomething which only he could perceive. The narrator's33fellow-feeling comes, no doubt, from his own impliedexclusion from society, a situation one may surmise from hisperception of the horror within the painting and hiswillingness to defend that work's worth against the"apparently joyful" (ibid) condemnation voiced by thecritic, himself favoured by nature with a "good physique"(III:101), that is, favoured with a solidly healthy bodyfree of any illness or abnormality. The critic expressesclearly Akutagawa's opinion of an artist's possibledestruction in attempting to force nature to conform to hisaesthetic program, for the critic states that "he has heardthat because the artist could not paint the scene as heoriginally wanted to, he went mad" (III:102). The painterwas fighting virtually for his survival against a natureintent on preventing his depiction of it without its greenmask of life; for him, nature was this mud-clogged, life-sucking, yellow swamp. The fight to depict it as suchabsorbed his sanity as one's foot would be (inextricably andinexorably, one feels) absorbed by the mud of the swamp, andonly an exertion which taxed the sum total of his energiespermitted the completion of the oil in the oppressive, muddyyellow reminiscent of Macbeth's "sere and yellow leaf", thedecay of his violently ambitious lust for power itselfproductive of an all-consuming insanity of defiance; here,the yellow is indicative of the etiolated, isolatedcorruption of the artist's creative energies. This artistis dead, he died insane, and there is not even thesuggestion that his work will receive any sort of fame orrecognition. In his death (perhaps a suicide? or worse,34'death by natural causes'?) there is no sense of personalsatisfaction, no hint of redemption in having "sacrificedhis life" (ibid) to receive the "single compensation" (ibid)of a one-piece showing in a forgotten corner of a group artexhibit -- Akutagawa here offers a thoroughly pessimisticview of the act of resistance which art becomes, a view thepolar opposite of that of most of his contemporaries inJapanese literature as represented by Shiga Naoya (1883-1971), for whom the "quest to find lasting harmony betweenhuman instinct, environment, and personality was the centraltheme of (their) life and work" (Goossen, p.36). Shiga, in ashort piece indicative of his general opinion of nature'svalidity, "Kinosaki nite" (1917; At Kinosaki), presents thatforested, verdant resort town as a place in which one mayencounter a paradisal renewal, a communion with aregenerative force which exists within what is the entranceway to cyclicality: a restorative death.The basic plot of "Kinosaki nite" is simply told:suffering from complications arising from a slight injury,the narrator decides to spend a few quiet weeks at that townto recuperate. While there he pursues pastimes bestdescribed as 'restive': reading, walking, observing people,and writing down his impressions. He watches bees at workand notes how they deal with the death of one of theircolleagues; he watches a group of boys throw stones at awounded rat desperately trying to escape; and lateraccidentally kills a salamander, for which he feels regret.From all of this he learns some valuable lessons about thevalidity of life within nature and the necessary place death35holds in life; he leaves Kinosaki cured of his illness and awiser, humbler man.Shiga's piece provides a point of contrast toAkutagawa's work on a variety of themes, most pertinent herebeing the use of nature as inspirational material forartistic production, and death as a process ofreinvigoration or renewal, an integral part of life'scyclicality. Whereas Akutagawa never isolates nature froman antagonistic relation to the human world, never describesa scene for its own sake without contextualizing that scenewithin a larger picture of opposition between nature andman, for "aesthetic appreciation of scenery only becomespossible when the natural world has been conquered,domesticated, rendered safe" (Keith, p.13) through humandominance and intervention, Shiga's work places man securelywithin a natural frame which would be every bit as fullwithout his presence. If Akutagawa would be most happyleaving nature out of his work completely, and in a certainsense one may argue that he tried to do just that by writingof a nature encapsulated in a human drama or mediatedthrough human manipulation, the nature of an oil painting,for example or a garden, Shiga would be content with quitethe opposite, leaving man out (were that possible) andwriting of a pure, natural experience. In "Kinosaki niteHelements of human relation or contact are rather scarce:there is little dialogue, and in most passages the narratorappears as a passive observer merely (ostensibly though notactually) recording a series of events which persuade himthat "to be dead and to be alive are not opposites"3 6(Shiga, II:197). Here man, far from struggling againstnature to ensure his own existence, must learn from thatnature that his existence will not necessarily end with hisdeath, which itself becomes but one event in an endlessseries, and a not particularly important one at that. Thebees which Shiga observes so closely, the rat he calmlywatches, the newt he inadvertently kills, all form facets ofthe lesson which is Kinosaki, to where he had gone torecuperate from the accident which is his own symbolicentranceway into this natural world of rebirth throughdeath. Indeed the word "recuperate" in Japanese, yojo,contains within its written form the words, or concepts, of"adopting life", of taking on as one's own that which iscreated by something else and so giving to oneself theresponsibility of carefully supervising that life, not anexclusive right of possession: one may be reasonably assuredthat the phrase yojo with all its connotations occursnowhere in Akutagawa's opus.This view of death as but one of life's stages is ofcourse an expression of the Buddhist sensibility ofexistence. In that philosophy (which of course hascomplexities and branches far too numerous to discuss here;what follows will strike many as a simplification, but in sofar as my present goal is not a critique of Buddhism nor anexplanation of Akutagawa as a failed Buddhist, perhaps asimplification will prove sufficient) one's life is an ever-repeated cycle which one may end by realizing one's ownessential 'non-existence'. The concept of 'anatman', or the'non-self', is one of Buddhism's informing principles; one's37life is not distinct, not individuated from the greaterrealm of 'life' and hence one will not be excluded from lifewith one's death, for one never truly was 'one' in the firstplace. This is very much the conclusion Shiga's heroapproaches in "Kinosaki nite", and its harmoniousintegrating quality is responsible for the Asian concept ofman as but one small part of nature, that larger categoryof life which then becomes sacred in all its manifestations.In Shiga's work nature is a source for the material ofone's writing, a resource to be used faithfully; an author(provided he is, as is Shiga, a shishosetsuka, an "I-novelist" or autobiographical writer, one who,theoretically, simply records truthfully the events of hislife as the pure stuff of "fiction", and so shares with hisreaders the significance of a veritable, verifiable dailyexistence) should be open to the endless stories andpossibilities for literature eternally present around him,and so in "Kinosaki nite" the action of the work is providedby the various creatures and their predicaments encounteredby the author who spends his time "either reading orwriting, or absentmindedly watching the mountains or thecomings and goings from the chair outside [his] room, or ifnot that then in going for long strolls" (Shiga, 11:193).Shiga very carefully manipulates these materials to give theimpression of an idyllic mountain retreat wherein he is ableto acquire a "familiarity with death" (Shiga, 11:194), asense of death's place in life and life's in death, and apeace of mind "not had in recent years" (Shiga, 11:193).For him, art exists to record one's approach to and arrival38at an awareness, a profound grasp of truth, such truth beingthat death and life are necessary components of the samephenomenon. This record is an intensely personal thingwhich by its very nature rather precludes the inclusion ofinterpersonal relations or encounters; truth must beexperienced alone. (However one may argue that the very actof recording such an epiphanal acquisition compromises itsvalidity and places Shiga very much in the midst of thehuman rabble not yet any closer to an enlightened awarenessof nature's acceptance; that Shiga did in fact give upwriting when it no longer served his purposes would appearto redeem his integrity). Art, like death, for Shiga servesto revitalize the artist, and provides a calmness nototherwise obtainable; in recording the natural events aroundhim the artist takes upon himself something like aresponsibility for these events, for it is his hand whichwrites them down. These events then become the artist'slife, a life thereby deeply integrated into the naturalworld and sensitive to its conditions, rhythms, and gifts,and less inclined to think of itself in exclusivelyindividual terms. One such gift which nature gives to theartist is the offering of renewal through the process ofdeath amidst life, as in the case of the bee which diedsurrounded by its fellow bees, removed but not alienated,not isolated from them; through this process the individuallife becomes fully absorbed into the vitality whichcontinues even after the cessation of the individual, asShiga believes that he too shall somehow continue on,renewed, even in the absence which in one sense is his3 9death. Nature is therefore not an antagonistic, vindictiveforce of absolute destruction but rather the locus of aprocess through the necessary stages of which an individualwill become an eternal part of something boundless.Although an individual consciousness may come to an end, asa short story will run out of pages, life, literature, willcontinue.Not so for Akutagawa, in whose work death is aterrifyingly final occurrence against which one muststruggle with every conceivable effort. Art provides butone method of continuing this struggle; it allows one anopportunity to realize an element of control over nature, toexpress one's animosity towards a force of even greaterenmity and destructive power, and yet art too saps one'sstrength and hastens, if not actively participates in, one'sown decay. Nature does not itself form the stuff of art,does not provide the model an artist tries carefully andaccurately to represent; rather art provides the ideal formfor nature to follow were it not so hostile. Art providesthe artist with a medium through which to console himselfand convey his message of warning to an unsuspecting,unresponsive society, as in his story "Numachi". In hispiece, "Shuzanzu" (1920; tr. A Painting of an AutumnMountain, 1961), it is the former, correcting provisionoffered by art, that of creating a paradise more complete,more inviting than any natural place could possibly be,which is accepted. The story itself begins with one ofAkutagawa's most favoured devices, that of the frame orintroduction of an inner narrator, in this instance coming40in the form of a host, Unnanden, asking his guest,Osekikoku, if he has ever seen the Shuzanzu by Kotaichi,about which Unnanden shall tell his story, and which hehimself for some reason cannot say for certain that he hasseen. It seems that although this painting's creator wasquite well known, it itself was rather obscure (YoshidaSeiichi, in the second volume of his study entitledAkutagawa Ryunosuke, (Tokyo: Ofusha, 1971), mentions thecritical debate at the time of the publication of "Shuzanzu"concerning whether this was an actual painting or merely oneinvented by Akutagawa); one of the characters of the framedtale, Enkakuou, is told by his senior that this is" 'perhaps the finest example within Kotaichi's entireoeuvre' " (V:9). Enkakuou travels to a distant province toview the work at the home of a private collector; when hearrives at the man's estate however of so run down anappearance are its grounds that he doubts the object of hisjourney is actually there. The home,even though its grounds were quite large, had apervasive desolation and ruin. Ivy ensnared thefence, and in the garden the grasses grew wild.Amidst all of this the crows and ducks stared atthe visitor as if he were an unusual sight, indeed(V:6).A servant leads Enkakuou into the house to meet theproprietor; therein he is struck by "the cold smell of dust.In fact one could even say that a sense of desolation hungin the air above the floor tiles" (V:7). The man who livesamongst this isolated ruin, "although he has a sickly face,does not seem to be of a bad character. No, rather, he'sone in whose pale face and wrinkled hands an apparentlynoble dignity may be discerned" (ibid). Enkakuou, so eager41is he to view the masterpiece he has travelled long to see,presses his host for a showing with such urgency that heseems "superstitiously certain the work will disappear likedew before he can gaze at it" (ibid). When he does finallysee it, "at but a single glance an unexpected shout ofsurprise escapes him" (ibid) and he becomes lost inappreciation of the painting, "as if completely entranced"(V:7). It is an apparently stunning work, presenting alandscape the beauty of which "is virtually beyond the powerof words" (V:7) to describe; "within its waves of colour,[shades of green with touches of vermilion and chalk white,]an old elegance seems spontaneously to overflow" (ibid). Thework is so engrossing that Enkakuou can barely pull his eyesfrom it when his host asks him how he likes it; the old manthen surprises him by asking if it really is such amasterpiece, a question put because, as he explains it,when I look at that painting I feel as if I'm dreamingwith my eyes open. Indeed 'The Autumn Mountain' isbeautiful, but is it not a beauty which only I can see?To others is it not just an average work? I'm troubledby such thoughts, but I don't know their cause: is ittruly just my own confusion, or is it that this work istoo beautiful to exist in the world? It gives me such astrange sensation that even your admiration just nowgives me pause. (V:8).Enkakuou barely listens to the man after his first fewwords, being absorbed back into the painting, aware onlythat he is mumbling something suspicious; in the followingfew days he conceives a desire to own the work, willing topay or give up whatever it takes to acquire it, but to noavail. Unable to purchase the work he returns to his homeprovince where, after fifty years of memories, he urges thestory's inner narrator to view the painting now come to town42via a circuitous route amongst the property of a secondcollector. The narrator does see the work, and though hefinds it to be a first rate piece, he feels it somehow to be"definitely a different" (V:13) one than that seen byEnkakuou, who himself comes once more to view the object ofhis obsessions, only to confess after shaking his head andgiving a wink, that "everything is like a dream. From whatI've seen that fellow {fifty years ago) must have been awizard'" (V:15).The painting has somehow changed; it is no longer theenchanting thing it was when isolated from civilization in aremote province, surrounded by desolation. The interestingfacet of this story lies in its depiction of a natureperfected when presented within a work of art which has thepower to obsess the one or two somehow able to perceive itsbeauty. Indeed it seems as if the old man were justified inwondering whether or not others could see the painting'squalities, its beauty, which is itself something which maynot so much have changed over fifty years as decayed, beencorrupted by the force of nature imprisoned within it. Thepainting's owner was someone with a sickly countenance, hisnobility still visible behind his wrinkles and pallor, yethe inhabits a house the very air of which conveys a sense ofruin, surrounded as it is by a garden in which the grassesand vines grow to profusion. As the human situationdeclines that of the natural world gains strength, perhapsthe strength drawn forth from man as he ponders the beautyof a manipulated nature, a nature captured mimetically in aperfected, constructed surface, that of a painting. Perhaps43this painting holds its beauty only when surrounded bynature's riotous growths; when transported to an affluentcity, a place in which civilization's influence is greatestand nature's is at its nadir, it loses its dramatic contrastand impact, those qualities which strike the viewer aslacking in the nature of actuality. The painting's ownersuffered a decline in the prosperity of his property overthe years the work hung in his home; his vitality wasperhaps appropriated by the work through his constantwondering whether the beauty visible to him was only anillusion, a phantom he himself had created, and so tooEnkakuou spends much of the remainder of his life indesiring this two-dimensional, man-made paradise. One canonly speculate on the fate of the painter himself, whoseother works are apparently well-known to the story'scharacters: was he able to complete more after this onemasterpiece, or did he, too, like the anonymous creator ofthe painting "Numachi" die after its execution? And in factdid he paint the same work owned and viewed by thoseafterwards so troubled by it? Perhaps his painting oncecompleted began a steady decline in impact, starting out asa truly divine work, decaying to mere masterpiece status atthe story's end whereat, though still able to elicit praise,it no longer has the power to fascinate, being the victim ofthe corrupting forces of the nature it holds within it. Thework's inner narrator speculates on the painting, decidingthat Enkakuou had not seen a "phantasy" (V:15), and yet thatthe only certain existence of the painting, the site of itsonly true presence, is in the minds of those who believe44they've seen it: as the owner who felt that perhaps only hecould perceive the work's beauty, those who have seen it aretouched by something, an impossibly ideal image, which liveson in their mental constructions like an auto-hypnoticemblem. Nature perfected becomes a phantasy possible onlyin the mind of those sufficiently aesthetically aware tosustain its vision, which act of sustenance then absorbstheir energies and controls their lives. The painting itselftoo fades, but for those with the ability to conjure up itsimage, to respond to its auto-hypnotic suggestion, "even ifthere's no painting, there's nothing to doubt" (V:16). Thework will exist as a product of human endeavour, a productof man's desire to resist decay and strive for an image ofparadise which is nature made tame and benevolent throughthe fantastic vision of an artist, an individual dedicatedto the struggle against malevolent disharmony.This story, "Shuzanzu", offers the possibility of man'smemory and mind overcoming, through a representation ofperfection, nature's corruption; the image of the work ofart may in time actually degenerate but in the mental recordof those sympathetic to it, it shall retain its transcendantpurity. This is an optimistic expression of human potentialquite unusual in Akutagawa's work, though the desire topresent a corrected nature it reflects is typical. Needlessto say such a positive view was short lived; not long afterthe publication of "Shuzanzu" Akutagawa wrote "Niwa" (TheGarden), a work which concludes with a more representativelypessimistic view of human fallibility in the face of naturalhostility and corruption, for herein not only is nature45dangerous and degenerate, but even the human capacity formemory and mimetic, corrective expression is exposed asimperfect and very much subject to the destructive whims ofdisease, time, and decay. The characters in "Niwa" all actout various phases in the inevitably impossible battleagainst a nature bent, as in "Rashomon", on reclaiming ausurped space, an area carefully tended and sculpted into anartificially habitable tract which Akutagawa presents asslowly unravelling, returning to its wildly desolate roots,as it were, as being taken back by determined and subversiveforces. In "Niwa" man's efforts to capture an image of acorrected nature are revealed as futile in light of man'sown decay into death, of man's own mental imperfectionswhich condemn him to confusion, forgetfulness, and failure.The story of "Niwa" is thus: an old upper-class family,the Nakamura, has on its estate a large garden which issteadily going to ruin, its landscaping overgrown, gazebocollapsing, and waterfall dried up. The family itself is indecline, many of its members dead, those remaining living onin illness. One day after a ten-year absence the second sonreturns to the household, now headed by his younger brother,to nurse the syphilis he has acquired through a life ofdissipation. He hears his mother singing an old ballad andfrom some hidden depth gains inspiration to rebuild thegarden to the splendour in which his memory still maintainsit. His work, while initially progressing well under hiszealous enthusiasm, assisted by his young nephew, Ren'ichi,ultimately goes awry: his mind, affected by his disease,loses its capacity to guide his efforts coherently, and he46is forced to bed before completing his task. He dies, thefamily loses its estate, and the garden is torn down,becoming the site of a train station. Ren'ichi grows tobecome an oil painter, and occasionally thinks back on hisuncle, who seems to come visit him, urging him to keep onwith his work. So ends the story.No picturesque idyll, then, no vision of harmoniousrepose exists within Akutagawa's garden. In "Niwa" the"urgings of a savage power" (V:237) taunt the readersearching for the delicacy and controlled spontaneity of agarden, and reward his quest not with an Eden of human andnatural interaction, but with a hell of scurrying rats andchoked waterfalls.Like the Nakamura family which claims it this garden isin decline: having held out for ten years after theRestoration -- the reinstatement of the Emperor as the headof the Japanese government which took place in 1868 andheralded the beginning of a period of phenomenalWesternization and modernization, an event which may hereserve to symbolize the hope of a tantalizing ascendency ofman, of things socially ordered -- the garden can no longer"hide the sense of ruin and desolation" (ibid) lurkingbehind its surface, its carefully man-made facade, for thatis what a garden possesses, a facade of nature madehospitable, beautiful, welcoming to the human presence.This is the face which is now steadily disintegrating, andthe time of its most rapid destruction, the most obviousdisplay of its desolation, comes at the height of spring,the time of nature's rebirth and the regeneration of forces47beyond man's control, such forces being centred in the youngshoots at the treetops both within and without the garden.Within and without, to emphasize the solidarity of thetamed, habitable garden with the wild space it once was, thewilderness still extant just beyond its walls and just belowits surface. Akutagawa draws a parallel between the surfaceof this garden and that of the Nakamura family inhabitingit, as he parallels the decrepitude of the Rasho gate withthe underling's dirty face: both conceal rot anddestitution. In the garden wild growths of plants consume,first, a stone lantern, later, the artificial pond and theshrubberies of the landscaping; in the family, old Nakamurahimself has retired. His wife, we learn, is literallyrotting before her family's eyes: she must wrap her headeach night in thick cloth to prevent her being bitten by therats the malignant decay of her skin attracts. Nakamura'swife, in fact, represents a motif common in Akutagawa'swork, that of the wife or mother who has within her acorrupting disease; as such in this work she shows a kinshipwith the garden which has within it the corrupting forces ofnature, forces even able to dry up the garden's waterfall.These same forces, concentrated in a summer of extremedrought, are the very ones which burst the blood vessels inNakamura's head and so kill him. They are the ones whichinfect both Nakamura's eldest son and that son's wife withconsumption, a name perfectly suited to describing the innerrot of tuberculosis, the decay so alike that progressingyear by year in the garden. Indeed the Nakamura family is afamily more in name than actuality, two of its sons having48left its fold, one actually having been given in adoption toothers; this son, though, is not immune to the destructivepowers bent on exerting their control over the Nakamurafamily and garden: the second son (identified as 'Jinan' inthe text, a name which means simply 'second son') spends tenyears ruining his health in a life of moral decay beforereturning to live within the mortuary room of the estate'smain house, known as the 'mother house' in a Japanese idiom,wherein he rests his body plagued by the malignancy ofsyphilis. Here again we see aligned the images of death anddisease with the image of the mother: the mother househouses within it a family in ruin; the memorials to two deadmen, Nakamura and his son; the memorial to a consumptivewoman, the son's wife, also a mother; the mother with opensores on her skin; and a man soon to die of syphilis, adegenerative disease contracted through sexual relationswith prostitutes, 'professional' women who concentratewithin them the sexual essence of 'woman'. Jinan one dayhears his mother singing a kaeuta, a popular, heroic song(which she learned from her husband, who himself learned itfrom a prostitute) which tells of a famous samurai preparingfor battle; the samurai is killed but his name lives on forthe valour with which he fought and died. He has obtainedthrough his efforts some measure of immortality: this is thegoal Jinan shall take as his own through the reconstructionof the garden's facade, through his work to present an imageof nature as perfected, as welcoming of the human presence.However like the samurai felled by a musket ball Jinan shallbe defeated by a force stronger than the flimsy armour of49his body and work. The song shall come to mock him, for hiswork shall end in failure and his name shall be forgotten.During his slow, stubborn work rebuilding, which proceedsagainst the twin oppositions of an advanced natural disorderin the landscape's previously well-crafted surface and hisfamily's indifference to his labours, Jinan experiencesperiods of fatigue so deep he must lie down where he is.Whenever this happens, we are told, "around him in the heatshimmer that consumes the entire garden, the flowers andyoung shoots of the grasses smoulder and smoke" (V:241): inthis passage we see clearly what it is which possesses thisgarden, where it is that Jinan tries to change the face ofnature. Jinan is in hell, the hell of human endeavour whichpits itself against that which it cannot vanquish: thestrength of the natural world. Jinan's work progresses; intime Ren'ichi, whose name can mean 'the accusing one',begins to help him and comes to see the effect battlingnature has on his uncle, for Jinan grows confused, his workgrows sloppy. Ren'ichi watches his uncle, judges him:Akutagawa uses the verb niramitsukeru, which freelytranslated means to accuse. Ren'ichi accuses Jinan, chargeshim with confusion, condemning the decay of his uncle'smind. But a few lines earlier in the work we had seenRen'ichi sitting beside the newly-opened stream busilykilling any ants which came his way; the character withwhich the word for ant is written, ari, (^) combines thesymbol for insect with that for ceremony or ritual, andpresents ants as something of a paradox: a member of thenatural world which utilizes the human enterprise of ritual.50Ants therefore combine elements of nature and the humanrealm, and Ren'ichi's destruction of them here comes to showAkutagawa's ideal of the individual, one who will "turn hisback on both society and nature" (ibid) to create forhimself his own existence, like Jinan does here, and likeRen'ichi shall later, in following his uncle's artisticenterprise. It is this determination to create somethingfor himself which Ren'ichi accuses Jinan of losing; heblames him for losing his drive, his individualisticambition to overcome, alone, both natural resistance andsocial indifference to his chosen work. This drive hadunited Jinan with the painter of "Numachi" who also workedalone against the sickly yellow swamp he depicted and thesociety which excluded him from its fold; its loss placesJinan where he must ultimately end, within the lists ofmortals. Jinan's illness progresses to the point ofincapacitating him. On his deathbed he expressessatisfaction with the work he has done in the garden, eventhough "to compare it with the old garden (would be adisappointment, for in actuality) that elegant surfacecreated by a renowned landscape artist was virtually nowhereto be seen" (V:242-3). In Jinan's mind however, fogged bysickness, the concept of the garden thrives with all itsformer magnificence: hence the poignancy of Ren'ichi's angertowards his uncle. Ren'ichi is caught in the frustration ofseeing both the goal and the achievement; as the one bestable to appreciate Jinan's work he is the one mostsympathetic to the artist, most desirous of completeaccomplishment of his task, and so too most likely to51continue his efforts in his own life (in fact it is Ren'ichiwho discovers Jinan's corpse). Ren'ichi's paintings carryon Jinan's project of capturing an image of nature, ofcreating an easily manipulated form which man may dominate(Akutagawa presents one final link with woman and nature inthe coda to this piece, which describes Ren'ichi painting afemale model; while he and his uncle have the same goaltheir materials are the two allies opposed to Akutagawa),and so allow Jinan's memory to come to him with a claritywhich implies more than a sympathetic partnership: Jinan'spresence in Ren'ichi's mind indicates that Jinan's confusionand disease are both also present there, guaranteeing anultimate failure for this young artist who, far from famous,struggles on alone in his garret with the same determinationwhich motivated his uncle and drove the painter of "Numachi"to madness.In "Niwa" we encounter Akutagawa's view of nature assomething hostile which lurks behind the man-made, civilizedspace in which society lives. We see also that forAkutagawa that society too is hostile to the artist, to theindividual who is able to transcend the illusion ofappearance and effect a transformation of materials into abenevolent representation of a benign nature. This artist,working to impose his will, his vision, onto the stuff ofthe world, is very much akin to the Western individual,having indeed many similarities to the stereotypicallystruggling genius, this cliche who works alone to createbeauty, found in Western popular mythology. In certainrespects Akutagawa seems virtually indistinguishable from52alienated Western writers, notably Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), some of whose work, such as "Fou?" (1882; tr. Am IInsane? 1903) speaks directly to Akutagawa's innermost being(despite the affinity between these two writers, Akutagawaonce wrote that although he admired de Maupassant, hedisliked him, and even felt discomfort when he read some ofhis pieces (XIII:31)). Within the Japanese canon there isnone to match Akutagawa's suspicion of nature. Typically inclassical Japanese poetry, for example, nature appears as anentity intimately connected with human emotions. Throughthe influence of Buddhism the transience of the seasonscomes to express the transience of human life; seasonalcyclicality expresses the cycles of human reincarnation. Inlove poetry natural imagery helps to express the longings ofthe lovers for one another, or their disappointments, too;it is often the songs of birds which intervene in thelovers' revels to alert them to the approaching dawn. Inthe " Man'yoshu' " (c.750; tr. Collection of Ten ThousandLeaves,), "the oldest and greatest of the Japaneseanthologies of poetry" (Keene, p.33), we see nature assomething alluring, peaceful:Nothing but pain and shamein this world of men, but Icannot fly away, Wanting thewings of a bird(Yamanoue.Okura, in Keene, p.48).Within nature there are creatures sympathetic to man'splight, beings which share his sorrow at living in a worldof sorrow:53I find no solace in my heart;Like the bird flying behind the cloudsI weep aloud (Yamanoue.Okura, in Keene,p.49).In works from the "Kokinshu" (905; tr. Collection of Ancientand Modern Poems,), "the first of the anthologies ofJapanese poetry compiled by imperial order" (Keene, p.76),nature too provides the images necessary for poetry. As inthe "Man'yoshu" the works in the "Kokinshu" are stronglycoloured with Buddhist sentiment, and with a "gentlemelancholy" (Keene, p.76).Since I left her,Frigid as the setting moon,There is nothing I loatheAs much as the lightOf dawn on the clouds(Mibu no Tadamine, in Keene, p.78).If I considerMy body like the fieldsWithered by winter,Can I hope, though I am burnt,That spring will come again?(Ise, in Keene, p.79).So lonely am IMy body is a floating weedSevered at the roots.Were there water to entice me,I would follow it, I think(Ono no Komachi, ibid).This last piece in particular demonstrates a sensibilityquite different from that of Akutagawa. The image of therootless weed well conveys the narrator's feeling ofabandonment, of severance from the anchoring, nurturingsolidity of the world or human society. Contrarily,Akutagawa's artists, if they did not actually thrive in thisalienated condition, at least lived in it, and in itproduced there works. Indeed Akutagawa's artists actively54seek this isolation from the uncomprehending people aroundthem, looking to society for only appreciation of theirproducts, as the painter in "Numachi" sought inclusion inthe exhibition for the display of his oil painting. Forthis painter the sticky yellow mud of the swamp wassomething which engulfed one's foot, never to release it.For the poet Ono no Komachi, however this same absorptioninto a muddy or earthy ground becomes a rooting, a proof ofher belonging to life itself.Whereas in traditional Japanese imagery one'sassociation with nature becomes a reassuring union with aneternal energy, for Akutagawa such an energy becomes a forcedirected against one's individual life. As we have seen,Shiga Naoya is very much of the Japanese tradition. Hischaracters do indeed arrive at the integration implied inthe above-noted poems. For the Shiga-hero, as in Ise'spoem, spring will come to the burnt field, even though thenew shoots will be different from those of the previousyear. For the traditional Japanese world view, life is acategory of inexhaustible renewal, not of individualparticles. Akutagawa, however, is barred from this renewal;for him, one must struggle to maintain one's own identity inthe face of an absorbing cyclicality, one must resistreabsorption into Mother Earth, the female body which shallform the subject of our next chapter.BIBLIOGRAPHY TO CHAPTER ONE55de Beauvoir, SimoneGoosen, T.Keene, DonaldKeith, R.The Second Sex, tr. H.M.Parshley, New York: Knopf,1952."Shiga Naoya"Nature andIdentity in Canadian andJapanese Fiction, ed. K.Tsuruta, Toronto: U. ofToronto/York U.Joint Centre for Asian PacificStudies, 1988.Anthology of Japanese Literature, New York: GrovePress, 1955."Introductory Remarks" Natureand the Literary Imagination,ed. V. Sharman, North Bay:Nipissing U.Press, 1984.Shiga, Naoya^ "Kinosaki nite" Shiga Naoya Zenshu, Tokyo: Iwanami 1955.C 6CHAPTER IIWomanAkutagawa, without room for compromise, was a malewriter: his opus is purely concerned with a maleperspective, the era in which he lived privileged men, andJapanese society was, and is, a masculine one, a society inwhich to be male was a prerequisite to any sort of publicparticipation. Women in Asia have always been marginalized,overlooked; as Simone de Beauvoir phrases it, "the historyof women in the East... has been in effect that of a longand unchanging slavery" (de Beauvoir, p.75). This is not toexplain as irrelevant or inevitable the degree to whichmisogyny and an actual fear of women pervade Akutagawa'swork; indeed although it has been argued elsewhere that"male writers.., want not only to control the texts theycreate but also exercise a patriarchal authority over thefemale characters they imbed in those texts" (Person,pp. 3-4), Akutagawa's portrayal of women goes far beyond anattempt to gain some self-assuring dominance over aninscrutable Other who may at best embarrass, at worstthreaten his very existence. Rather, Akutagawa's femalecharacters exhibit a number of qualities which indicatetheir creator's very real fears of a nature/female allianceor conspiracy to ensnare him in a web of insanity and decay.Women are consistently represented as somehow in league withnature, earth-mothers turned savage dominatrices, partnersin the destruction of rational, male existence Akutagawa sawinherent in nature, and this representation, far from57providing Akutagawa with control over those two opponents,if anything reinforced the paranoia with which he lived,reinforced his fears of following his mother into theinsanity from which her only release was death. Notsurprisingly the figure of the Mother, too, receives animportant treatment in Akutagawa's works, appearing inguises often explicitly associated with malevolence anddisease; as the essence of woman ("... what is woman? 'Totamulier in utero,'...'woman is a womb." de Beauvoir, p.xiii)the mother is the one whence comes the most hostileantagonism to Akutagawa's masculine perceptions, where isfound the source of all his fears. (It is interesting thatAkutagawa rarely writes of men as insane, and rarely toowrites of fathers. Perhaps this is because as a male himselfAkutagawa felt little, or at least less, otherness in men,yet the absence of the father in his work is an intriguinggap. As David Tavey writes in his study of Patrick White,Patrick White, Fiction, and the Unconscious, a workparticularly amusing when applied to aspects of Akutagawabecause of its Jungian, depth-psychological analysis ofWhite's fantasized, unconscious, incestuous relationshipwith his mother,the feeling of being isolated is a central fact ofadolescence. the ego is cast out of the pleasurablematrix and is forced to develop in the realm of theconsciousness. In the mythological cycle of thedeveloping ego the father is meant to become thedominant archetype at this point, guiding the son intothe world and facilitating his adaptation to life. In[by extension Akutagawa's] fiction, however, the fatheris absent, either quite literally or else spirituallyand psychologically...What this means is that the egodevelopment is retarded at adolescence, there is nointernal direction into adulthood and maturity, but aperpetual hankering after the psychic past... orperhaps a modelless search for a viable self-creation,58a fictionalized individuality which defines itselfinadequately to arrive at a durable personality(Tavey, p.9).This type of modelless self-creation is not an impossibleaspect of Akutagawa's life; indeed in light of his suicidethe failure of Akutagawa to arrive at a durable personalitybecomes something one may plausibly explain through recourseto such a psychological interpretation). Akutagawa'streatment of women in general and mothers in particular inhis work is an extension of his treatment of nature, and onemay interpret this as an attempt to avenge himself on, or atleat to present to himself a view of, his own mother andwhat he could conceivably perceive as her betrayal of him,her withholding of the maternal affection so necessary toone's healthy integration into a social order.Motherly love... is unconditional affirmation ofthe child's life and his needs. But one importantaddition to this description must be made here.Affirmation of the child's life has two aspects;one is the care and responsibility absolutelynecessary for the preservation of the child's lifeand his growth. the other aspect goes furtherthan mere preservation. It is the attitude whichinstills in the child a love for living, whichgives him the feeling: it is good to be alive, itis good to be on this Earth!... The effect on thechild can hardly be exaggerated. Mother's love forlife is as infectious as her anxiety is. Bothattitudes have a deep effect on the child's wholepersonality; one can distinguish indeed, amongchildren -- and adults -- those who got only'milk' and those who got 'milk and honey' (Fromm,pp.42-3).The association of woman with death is not surprisinggiven Akutagawa's own past and the social milieu in which helived, one which historically favoured the male through thedominant ideological perspectives it held: Buddhism andConfucianism both emphasized the importance of being malefor the achievement of enlightenment or sagehood, the ideal59accomplishments for which one strove in one's daily affairs.These two systems both reflected and influenced the agrarianbased cultures whence they originated, which valued the malefor his greater capacity for physical labour; woman was leftin a position of servitude (indeed Confucius wrote in theAnalects, "Women and servants are most difficult to dealwith. If you are familiar with them they cease to be humble.If you keep a distance from them they resent it" (Chan,p.47)). With the influx of European thought begun in theMeiji period and continuing with ever greater momentum intoAkutagawa's own time devaluation of the female receivedgreater credence. In the West, "women, historicallyconsigned to the spheres of non-productive or reproductivelabour, ... [have been] situated outside the society of maleproducer, in a state of nature" (Owens, p.63). Further,disease and the Woman have something in common -- theyare both socially devalued or undesirable, marginalizedelements which constantly threaten to infiltrate andcontaminate that which is more central, health ormasculinity. There is even a sense in which the femalebody could be said to harbour disease within physicalconfigurations that are enigmatic to the male (Doane,p.152).Until quite recently it was more the rule than the exceptionfor even well educated men to view woman as "the being whois feeble, dangerous, mysteriously troubleous, [evenincapable of restraint or rational thought. In the opinionof many], God had only created woman to temp man and testhim. Man should not approach her without those precautionsfor defense which he would take, and the fears he wouldcherish, near an ambush" (de Maupassant, p.51b). The sourceof this enmity is of course the role Christian mythologyassigns woman as the ruination of Eden, a role which both60reflects and influences the traditional association of womanwith nature. For Christianity then man can only accept thewoman who denies her carnality and expresses her contritionthrough submissiveness to man. Writes simone de Beauvoir,As servant, woman is entitled to the most splendiddeification. In her, Christianity hates the flesh; ifshe renounces the flesh she is god's creature... Shetake her place... among the souls assured the joys ofHeaven [but not of this life, wherein she mustcontinually bow and serve]... If she agrees to deny heranimality woman... will also be the most radiantincarnation of triumph [over the flesh, as the mostrepentant of the most vile sinners becomes the mostglorified in salvation].It was as Mother that woman was fearsome [foras Mother she is most representative of morality];it is in maternity that she must be transfigured andenslaved... She will be glorified only in accepting thesubordinate role assigned to her [as the virgin mother,the impossibly immaculate]... This is the suprememasculine victory, consummated in the cult of theVirgin -- it is the rehabilitation of woman through theaccomplishment of her defeat... As much the source ofdeath as life, in giving birth to men [woman had amystical power over pre-Christian men, but] underChristianity life and death depend only upon God,and man, once out of the maternal body, has escapedthat body forever. (de Beauvoir, p.159-60)This escape however did not give to man the distance whenceto appreciate objectively the humanity of woman; rather italienated him from woman and allowed him to feel contemptfor the vessel he once occupied, now able to discard it,assured of a greater receptacle for what now became theeternal essence of individual personality. Akutagawa did notmiss the significance of Mary as representative of theMother; in a piece entitled "Kokuiseiba' (1920; Mother ofthe Black-Robed Saint) he depicts Mary as a brutal,deceptive, and exacting symbol of feminine threat who tricksa grandmother into forfeiting not only her life but that ofher grandson as well.Even in those Western thinkers not persuaded by61christian rhetoric that woman must remain inferior to man asthe source of sin in the world, nonetheless there persiststhe urge to blame, or conversely revere with the respectthat comes from fear, the mother as the cause of mortality,for the mother is consistently seen as that which startslife's unalterable course to death. The mother suffers theconsequences of human sexuality in carrying the results ofthat sexuality; "sexuality implies death and vice versa"(Kristeva, p.103). If one is not busy condemning woman asthe destroyer of an Edenic paradise or as mother, the rootof death, it seems as if one's only other option has beenhistorically to be lost in dewy-eyed, sentimental reverenceof the Earth Mother nurturer who regulates man's place inthe universe by allowing into the human (male) realmremembrances of things unifying and secure:since woman has been subjected as mother, she willbe cherished and respected first as mother. Ofthe two ancient aspects of maternity, (those ofnurturer/creator and death/destroyer) man todaywishes to know only the smiling, attractive face.Limited in time and space, having but one body andone finite life, man is but a lone individual inthe midst of a Nature and a History that are bothforeign to him. Woman is similarly limited, andlike man she is endowed with mind and spirit, butshe belongs to Nature, the infinite current oflife flows through her; she appears, therefore, asthe mediatrix between the individual and thecosmos. When the mother has become a figure ofreassurance and holiness man naturally turns toher in love. Lost in nature he seeks to escape;but separated from her he wishes to go back.Established firmly in the family, in society,...the mother is the very incarnation of the good:nature, to which she belongs in part, becomesgood, no longer an enemy of the spirit; and if sheremains mysterious, hers is a smiling mystery (deBeauvoir, p.160).This somewhat benign view of woman is nonethelessalienating, serving to remove her from the male sphere62divorced from a nature with which woman maintains anintimate contact.Such then have been the historical, polar views ofwoman operating within Akutagawa's intellectual environment:one offering her as the source of sin and threat; the otherrevering her as a link with an otherwise indifferent nature,neither of which view allows for a free interaction betweentwo groups of equally human individuals. Akutagawa unitesaspects of these two opinions to present woman as a link tonature's corruption, leaving no room for a compassionateview of woman who very much belongs to nature and supportsall the malevolence implied in that possession. For him themother is indeed the source of disease and death; she is anarchetypal representation of all the dangerous unknownimplied in nature's hostility to the individual who must ageand die in solitude, alienated by all the mysteries of hisown birth. Perhaps Akutagawa's best expression of this viewcomes in the piece already introduced, "Niwa", wherein thesuper-abundance of dying, diseased mothers, all inhabitingthe main or "mother" house of the Nakamura family estate,itself slowly being reclaimed by the chaotic growths ofnature, ie., which is itself dying, presents the reader witha clearly matriphobic reality: Akutagawa even goes so far asto create the opportunity for the work's protagonist toreceive his inspiration to rebuild the ornamental garden ofthe house, to battle the destruction of his home and selfwhich nature is planning, and in so doing hasten his ownphysical and mental decline, through his mother's singing ofan old ballad taught to her by her husband who, we are told,63learned it from a prostitute, a symbol of woman's servitudeand sexuality. The mother becomes the force which lures herown son into decline while herself suffering from afestering decay of her skin, while herself actuallyembodying rot. The pessimism and mistrust Akutagawa feelsfor society pale beside the emotions he holds for the imageof the mother, for "compared with the love [and this wordmay be read as sarcastically as one would wish] that bindsmother to son, all other 'human relations' stand revealed asflagrant imitations" (Kristeva, p.108). When the childcannot love the mother, her unity with nature will naturallyreinforce any mistrust the child may feel for the world ingeneral; if the child were to find himself in a positionabandoned by his mother into a hostile environment hislongings would be for a return to a time he may have onlyimagined. Even if that time should somehow come to be, ifby chance the child were to rediscover his mother, how couldhis trust in her ever be that total, vital thing it shouldoriginally have been? I do not believe that Akutagawanecessarily longed for a return of his mother's affections,for those affections too to his memory were tainted by hisfears of her insanity and its germs locked somewhere withinhim; but this certainly does not preclude her having anenormous influence and presence in his psyche. Quite thecontrary: it is simply a question of quality. In Akutagawathe description of mother's relation to nature has anegative connotation: rather than the mother being anincarnation of the good and through her nature becoming anaccepting place of harmonious unity, she amounts to an64absolute threat. Nature in turn becomes an absolutelymalevolent entity. Akutagawa, while not (consciously)desiring his mother, conducts a lifelong dialogue with her,wages a continuous defensive battle against her influence.Being dead of course his mother is both immune to hisattacks and in actuality harmless to him; but as in the bestof paranoiacs the images of demons Akutagawa's mind conjuresup for itself are the more effective the more remote inrational time their sources are. Just as Norman Bates inHitchock's Psycho carried within him his own mother, evensupplying her with the use of his voice to urge hisobeisance to her (created, artificial) demands, so too,Akutagawa creates for himself a haunting presence he shallboth fear and support, an Other against whom he shall definehimself, who shall persistently influence him to the pointat which, while protesting his non-identity with that Other,he shall in fact take on her characteristics and attributes,assigned, created by him in the first place, and so bringabout the end against which he had struggled -- his owndeath culminating a decline into paranoia and mental decay.As a youth Akutagawa visited his mother during the years ofher infirmity; she passed away before he as an adult couldmake peace with himself over her fate.When the possibilities of communication are sweptaway, the last remaining rampart against death isthe subtle spectrum of auditory, tactile, andvisual memories that precede language and re-emerge in its absence [as the breeding ground ofthought, of art, as the fertile soil in whichliterature's necessity to an individual takesroot, as in fact a surrogate mother]. Nothing could bemore 'normal' than that a maternal image shouldestablish itself on the site of that tempered anguishknown as love. No one is spared. Except perhaps... thewriter who, by force of language, can still manage65nothing more than to demolish the fiction of mother-as-love's-mainstay and to identify with love as it reallyis: a fire of tongues, an escape from representation[into the arena of self-creation, of immaculate,untainted birth]. For the few who practice it, then, ismodern art not a realization of maternal love -- a veilover death, assuming death's very place and knowingthat it does? A sublime celebration ofincest...(Kristeva, p.111),a love affair between mother and child which has as itsclimax not a sexual experience, nor even a reconciliation,but an acceptance of death as the unpostponable return tothe womb, the inevitable embrace of the mother throughmadness, through suicide. Akutagawa's project in fictionmay be seen as a number of things; one of his goals wasperhaps the definition of himself, the creation of anexistence which could endure the onslaughts of his memoriesand apprehensions for his future mental state. As such thisdefinition necessitated his constant vigilance against hismother which ensured her constant presence in his (at leastunconscious) thoughts.A child's perceptions of parents are always influencedby psychic factors [being reinforced by the witnessedfacts of their lives] and when the son is unusuallyclose to the mother [in terms of the influential spaceshe occupies in his inner world, in terms of the amountof psychic weight with which she is endowed by him] thenegative aspect of the Mother archetype often appearswith frightening force. In psychological terms this isbecause the emerging ego is caught up in thematernal realm, and is unable to develop a separateexistence, so that 'mother' seems overwhelming, a forcewhich negates and destroys life.^(Tavey, p.4).This is the negative view of de Beauvoir's mother as themediatrix between the individual and the cosmos, thebenevolence which can integrate the child into a reassuringunity, provided he has first received her love, for "without66nourishment from the maternal image the world is benumbedand everything seems as a nightmare" (Tavey, p.9). Akutagawaas one embarked on a project of self-creation, ofindividuation, through this project disqualified himselffrom any chance of a peaceful merger with the memory of his(nurturing) mother, forparadoxically the child can experience a morepositive aspect of the [Mother] archetype [only] whenhe surrenders his individuality and sinks back intothe maternal source. Then the Mother appears as avast ocean of ecstasy and support, an inviting womb inwhich the son is contained and nurtured. She is stillthe disintegrating figure as before [for in bothaspects of the archetype the existence of the childas the individuated child is lost], but now the processof being overpowered assumes a seductive,pleasurable character (Tavey, p.40).The individual's point of view must choose between anacceptance of the loss of self into the mother as awelcoming oblivion or a stubborn insistence on individualitywhich condemns one to fighting tooth and nail against thesources of one's life. This latter is the one Akutagawachose for himself in choosing to resist (that is, inchoosing to worry about) the potential for madness heallowed himself to perceive as having been deposited in himby his mother, which he presented to himself in his fictionthrough the images of the mother and woman as diseased,unbalanced, and aligned with nature's hostility. Perhapsonly this view of Akutagawa's work gives full appreciationto the tragic role he created for himself, a role whichpresents the figure of a man trying, not as a snake toswallow himself, but rather to write the hand which writesitself, to create his own birth free of a mother's mediation(and this would also help explain Akutagawa's later interest67in Christ), an obvious impossibility, obvious even to him,yet nonetheless attempted with stoic determination toproceed to the utmost realization of his own responsibility:his suicide, itself carefully planned, introduced, framed bya suicide note, that is, by an act of writing, the same actwhich had created the life lived up to that point.As with many of his themes, Akutagawa's presentation ofwoman's naturally inspired hostility intensifies over time.Initially he offers her image to the reader (and to himself)as an alien being, virtually of a different species to man,a being understandable only from the viewpoint of nature.In a particularly short piece entitled "Nyotai" (1917;tr. A Woman's Body, 1952), Akutagawa describes a woman'sbody from the point of view of a louse. The protagonist ofthe piece, the woman's husband, "a Chinese man named Yo"(II:51), one mysterious evening finds himself transformedinto a louse and is able to discover in his wife's sleepingform whole landscapes of beauty which had hitherto beeninvisible to him. Akutagawa's use of a Chinese protagonisthere is particularly significant, for although this man mustfirst be changed into a louse in order to appreciate hiswife's beauty, nonetheless he does in fact arrive at apositive conclusion concerning that beauty in perceiving itas such: Akutagawa, in choosing a foreigner, someone from a'different place', and one that could have been seen asinferior in light of Japan's self-assumed role of Asiancolonial power at the time of Akutagawa's writing, protectshimself from an association with Yo's experiences, whileallowing himself to benefit from the presentation of woman68as comprehensible only to an equally natural entity, aninsect.One evening while trying to sleep in "an excessive,sultry heat, lying on his bed sunk deep into an absurdfantasy" (ibid), Yo espies a louse crawling along the edgeof the mattress towards Yo's sleeping wife. He wonders tohimself what a louse's life must be like, and concludes that"if he had been born a louse, how tedious he would havefound things" (ibid).While aimlessly pondering such matters Yo'sconsciousness gradually dimmed. Of course, it was nodream, but then, neither was it reality. Rather, Yobegan to sink, but without sinking, down to the bottomof an incredibly ecstatic feeling. When he finallyreturned to full consciousness with a startled openingof his eyes, he found that at some point he had enteredinto the louse's body, and was wriggling his way alongthe edge of the sweat-soaked bed. (ibid)Yo is surprised by not only the transformation, for therebefore his eyes lies an enormous form, a "tall mountain.Warmly embracing a full roundness, it seems to hang like astalactite from its top, which Yo's eye could not reach,down to the bed just before" (II: 52). This mountain, Yodiscovers, is one of his wife's breasts, glowing as if"containing a fire within it" (ibid). So overwhelming areYo's surprise and awe at the sight before him thatforgetting love and hate, forgetting even desire, hestares up at that.., enormous breast. Forgetting eventhe sweat-soaked bed he stands unable to move. Yo,having become a louse, for the first time is able trulyto perceive the physical beauty of his wife (ibid).Although superficially the story appears to describe theprocess by which one strange night a man becomes closer tohis wife through a realization of her beauty, appearancesare here more deceptive than usual. The work contains69subversive elements which serve to reinforce the alienationof the man from both the woman's body and the natural world.First of all, on this sultry night, the heat of whichis keeping Yo awake, his wife is able to sleep soundly,seemingly unaffected by the source of her husband'sdiscomfort. Although Yo is far from a well roundedcharacter (the reader has no idea of his age, occupation,personal tastes, or even physical features, for example), hedoes at least have a name, a feature which his wife lacks."naming... is the labelling of the character that completesits formation" (Bal, p.336), yet it is his name that is thevery first of Yo's possessions the reader encounters.Akutagawa presents Yo, through his name, as sufficientlydefined to support the weight of the few paragraphs of textwhich nonetheless owe as much to the wife's body (and to thelouse!) as to Yo, the only 'human' character the reader cancall by name. All other characters in this work are definedin relation to Yo, all receive their respective degrees ofimportance through the order in which his eyes encountertheir forms. Hence from Yo's perspective (which becomesthat of the reader) the louse, being first encountered andwatched with greater interest than the wife, is moreimportant than Yo's spouse. A further valorization of thelouse at the expense of the wife comes in the description ofthe louse's back as "reflecting the pale light of the candlelike a pinch of silver dust" (II:51), while the wife is thesleeping, naked inhabitant of a bed smelling of sweat. thelouse is able to rouse Yo from his absurd fantasies, and insome ways draws sympathetic thoughts from Yo, who pities the70creature's inability to cover "in one hour that which Yocould cover in two or three steps" (ibid), a sympathy whichindicates the split between Yo's wakeful, masculine abilityto move, and nature's relative immobility: this relativeparalysis as a further division between man and nature isalso present in Yo's wife who, asleep, of course remainsstill.Finding himself transformed into the louse, andstanding before his wife's body, Yo resorts to imagery ofthe natural world to describe that body which, in fact, heis initially unable even to recognize as such. He seesbefore him a mountain, a stalactite, "with a glossywhiteness and a gently sloping hollow just beyond, seemingto shine in the moonlight just after a fresh fall of snow"(11:52). This 'mountain' contains the contradictoryqualities of a snowy whiteness and a concealed, fire-likeglow, a warmth of life hidden beneath an image of deathlycold. When Yo recognizes the mountain for what it is, iteliminates in him the contradictory emotions of love andhate,even extinguishing his sexual desire, becoming not atangible, living human breast but "an enormous breast like amountain of ivory" (ibid), a mountain of once-livingmaterial transformed into an insurmountable obstacle. Thisobstacle, this mountainous breast, is so alienating thatbefore it Yo can no longer even move, "as if struck stiff"(ibid), like Medussa's victims turned to stone by thewoman/monster combining within her body attributes offemaleness and nature, breasts and serpents. The Medussainvolves an association of woman with nature and represents71this association as threatening to males, for they shallbecome immobile, passive when she stares at them: they shalllose their masculine ability to move, as Yo loses his whentransfixed before his wife. He has entered the slow-movingbody of a louse, part of the natural world, to witness thebeauty of his wife's body which for him is equally a part ofnature; hence, he must be struck stiff as stone.Yo's wife combines within her breast the qualities oflife-sustaining nourishment, the fire-like glow which warmsthe depths of her being, and a hard, snowy exterior whichrepulses even Yo's desire to approach it, makingunobtainable the life it contains within. This is thebeauty which Yo is now able to perceive within his wife'sflesh, this contradictory life-supporting and yetalienating, ivory-like physicality which does not arousedesire, urgings for a human, sexual union with it: thisbeauty remains the quality of an object which only another(non-human) object can appreciate, this being Yo in the bodyof the louse which itself does not appreciate the dichotomyof the breast but sees in it only a source of blood, offood. To the louse, free of a human ability tointellectualize a split between the snowy, ivory exterior,and the fire-like interior, this breast is accessible assomething into which it can enter, as an equally naturalsubstance with which it can merge both to sustain its ownlife and allow to fulfill its function, the transmission ofnutrients from one body to another. Akutagawa here createsa situation wherein that transmission and that merger aredenied to one being, a human male, for his alienation from72his wife as woman and nature's ally, and yet permitted toanother being, the parasitic louse, for its positioningwithin a natural order shared with the woman as an existenceopposed to that of the human, ie., male Yo. The surfaceappreciation of Yo for his wife's beauty serves to revealthe enormity of the gulf separating him from a truecommunion with her body, with herself: they are in factmembers of two completely different worlds, Yo belonging tothe conscious, rational world of human intellectualspeculation and motion, the wife belonging to the physical,objective, natural world unconscious of (male) mentalactivity, immobile, accessible to only other naturalcreatures such as the louse.In a piece only slightly longer than "Nyotai", "Onna"(1920; Woman), Akutagawa again represents a merger of naturewith the female, in this instance describing, under theheading "Woman", the predatory qualities of a female spider,her giving birth to a brood of young spiders, and herdeath. The story reveals the creature, not without acertain almost sympathetic tenderness, to be a viciousorganism existing simply to kill and reproduce, then die,her function fulfilled. The spider becomes representativefor Akutagawa of all woman, the mother, means to him,"almost evil itself" (IV: 85). A synopsis of the story isalmost as long as the work itself: a spider is bathing inthe sunlight of a midsummer's day, "pondering" (IV: 84)something beneath a red rose, when a bee approaches. Thespider stealthily, silently stalks the bee; after thepassing of a "brief moment of cruel silence" (ibid), the73spider pounces. The bee, "smeared with pollen" (ibid),beats its wings desperately, making the dusty pollen "dancein the light" (ibid). The struggle soon ends to reveal thespider "calmly, without even bestirring herself, beginningto suck out the bee's blood. The sunlight, ignorant ofshame,... cuts open the solitude of midday and illuminatesthe spider, triumphant in her butchery and plunder... Withits ash-coloured, satin belly, black pearl eyes, andugly...leprous legs -- the spider, like 'Evil' itself,crouches maliciously over the dead bee" (ibid). Theseevents, we read, recur several times, until "one day, as ifrecollecting something" (IV:85) the spider begins to spin anest into which she deposits numberless small eggs. Sheherself sits atop this woven packet, this spider the "colourof corrosive ash" (ibid), and "as if having forgotten bothsunlight and honeybees... remains sunk in her thoughts"(ibid). Several weeks pass and the young spiders "sleepinginside their eggs... wake up. It is the now aged motherspider... who first notices this... She cuts through thepocket separating mother from children", (ibid) allowing asteady stream to spill forth. The young spiders swarm overthe rose bush and disperse themselves, leaving behind "toher solitude" (IV:86) the spider who "at some point, whilefeeling the boundless joy of a mother who has achieved herpurpose, has died. That woman who had lived amidstmidsummer's nature, killing bees, who was like Evil itself"(ibid). The final passage contains a fond nostalgia, indeedalmost a tender note of parting for this spider, now calledmother and woman, abandoned by her young for whom she had74given her life. This piece presents a number of images ofthings female which, while not negating the pathos of thefinal lines, certainly sets it off as a complex emotionalresponse to the memory of a dead mother.The reader initially encounters a sexless spiderendowed with the ability to think about things, a humanattribute here encapsulated in something far from human,something which immediately becomes no longer acontemplative existence in repose but a calculating andruthless hunter whose prey is a honeybee, a non-reproducingworker bee covered with pollen, the sexual dust of theflower which shelters the spider. Akutagawa mentions theconnection between bee and pollen three times, once beforethe attack, again during the struggle, when the pollen,"made to dance in the light" (IV: 84), shows off theviolence of the fight, and finally when, the battle over,the spider prepares to draw off the vital fluids of thecorpse: this close association is consistent withAkutagawa's linking of death with sexuality, for this entirepiece is little more than an elaborate construction topresent and then destroy the image of the cruel mother. Thebee, a sexless creature despite its biological femaleness,must be highlighted as that which allows floral reproductionto take place by being literally immersed in sex, in thestuff of sexuality which is pollen, at the moment of itsdemise. After this sort of event is repeated a number oftimes the spider, which had hitherto also remained sexless,discovers (actually recalls) itself to be pregnant, to be areproductive, sexed entity, despite the complete absence of75another spider, let alone a male, from the brief narrative(this piece is conspicuous for its lack of male, paternalelements, begging a discussion of the role of Akutagawa'sown father in his life, which unfortunately falls outsidethe scope of the present study. Further, this pregnancy,bordering on an immaculate conception, offers a range ofpossibilities in a study of Akutagawa's interest inChristianity). Discovering her own sex the spider "forgetseven the sound of a bee's wings" (IV:85): the butchering offemale bees, highlighted as reproductive mechanisms despitetheir own lack of reproductive ability, which had providedher with nourishment is now put aside over the weeks inwhich she does nothing but await the hatching of her brood.This having occurred she dies: her own reproduction hereprovides the necessary prelude to death the story had beenawaiting for its conclusion. That this work is set withinthe stems and beneath the reproductive organs of a rose bushreinforces the informing theme of a link between (female)sexuality and death, here made both savagely violent andtouchingly forlorn: the mother, while killing in a vampirishfashion, a fashion which gains her the characterization ofbeing almost Evil itself, dies in solitude having obeyed thelaws of nature with which she had been intimately familiar,completely ignored by the little mouths she had let looseinto the world, her young "numberless" (ibid) the better touniversalize her role, to make her symbolic of allmotherhood. This nostalgia for a mother unknown to heryoung exists for the work's narrator alone, however; for thespider, her death is neither painful nor frightening, simply76natural, a part of the greater design of life. Woman, themother, is profoundly connected with nature in Akutagawa'swork and so able to accept even for herself life'sconclusion. Hence Yo's wife is able to sleep soundly inconditions which prevent her husband from doing the same:she 'fits in' to her environment, as it were, while Yo doesnot. The description of the spider's legs as leprousanticipates the later, closer associations of the motherwith malignant disease which permeate "Niwa", wherein thediseases are also of a putrescent quality, typified by thenow archaic though incomparably evocative word'consumption': Akutagawa reserves for his female charactersillnesses which imply a reabsorption of the body into agreater entity, and one may argue that the death of themother spider is a direct result of her young havingabsorbed her vital, reproductive energies, performing thefunction of a tuberculosis bacillus or other suckingparasite (much as the mother herself existed by sucking drythe bodies of bees, vectors of reproduction for the rosebush which sheltered and supported the spider). Theunderlying message is that mentioned by Kristeva, that deathand sexuality imply, in fact necessitate, one another. Themother becomes not merely a conduit into life but a revealerof the link between birth and death.One will seek in vain throughout the ten or so volumesof short fiction that make up Akutagawa's opus for adepiction of woman which is not hostile, not marked by anaggressive suspicion of all that she contains. There isvery little subtlety masking the negative opinion Akutagawa77holds of his female characters, and if in his own life hetreated his wife rather well, and easily formed extramaritalrelations with other women (Yoshida Seiichi devotes aportion of his two-volumed study Akutagawa Ryunosuke toidentifying some of the enigmatic female figures who inhabitAkutagawa's later autobiographical works), this detracts notat all from the misogynistic qualities of his prose. Onework which could mislead the reader into believing thatAkutagawa at least temporarily relented in his battleagainst woman as destroyer to offer an image of woman asmisunderstood victim may be "Kesa to Morito" (1918; tr. Kesaand Morito, 1956), a piece structured as two monologues bythe characters Kesa, a noble woman married to a man admiredby her seducer, Morito, the other soliloquist, who must,through his own suggestion though against his will, murderthat husband, monologues which present very different viewsof the act of Kesa's seduction by Morito and itsconsequences. One may subject this work to a variety ofcritical methods and so arrive at a variety of conclusions,none particularly privileged; one such method would be anapplication of the (slightly modified) terms 'sadist' and'masochist' to Morito and Kesa, respectively, a method whichwould then define this piece as a depiction of the revengean objectified subject would exact upon an objectifyingsubject. One must rework the terms sadist and masochisthere, stripping them of their (overtly) violent aspects andreducing them to categories describing a person who refusesto recognize another as worthy of subjectivity, in the caseof the sadist; and one who permits another to remove his or78her subjectivity for himself, in the case of the masochist.Including in the interpretation the role of the moon in thepiece, the work becomes yet again a linking by Akutagawa ofthe female with nature to trap and defeat the male: themoon, traditionally in Asian philosophy a female force,functions here as a consistent device to unite woman withnature's malice.Morito's soliloquy comes first; herein the readerencounters the principle characters and learns of the eventswhich have led to Morito's necessity to kill Kesa's husband,Wataru Saemon no jo. We read that Morito had known thisfellow by sight, and had "actually felt jealously for awhile when [he] learned that he was Kesa's husband"(II:116), for Morito "at least believed [him]self to be inlove with Kesa" (II: 117). However he admits that hisfeelings for her were not pure, and confesses to not knowingwhether he had sought out her person or her body, during hisself-imposed "celibacy" (ibid). In his words, "the love[he] harboured for Kesa was nothing more than asentimentality, a beautified desire" (ibid); although forthree years he "lived without being able to forget her, [hewonders] if he had known her body those three years ago hewould still remember her" (ibid). What drives Morito backto Kesa most strongly is the "nostalgic regret" (miren,ibid) he feels at not having seduced her before hermarriage, and so schemes to accomplish this belated conquestof her body, in which enterprise his success both surprisesand disappoints him:when Kesa and I sat together... I came to realize thatmy nostalgia for her had faded. Even more than because7 9I was no longer celibate, ...the real reason for thatwas that this woman's beauty had waned. In fact thisKesa was no longer the Kesa of three years ago. Herskin had lost its glow; around her eyes dark shadowshad appeared, and around her cheeks and chin her richflesh had faded... These changes were certainly afrightful blow to my desire (II:118).Why then did Morito pursue his seduction ("rather, it wouldbe more accurate to call it 'rape" (II:119)) of Kesa? he"first of all had been driven by an odd urge to attack her,to degrade her" (II:118), and so drove her to speak atlength about her marriage, deciding finally that this womanis too "proud of her husband" (ibid). However more than byhis desire to degrade Kesa, Morito was "driven by pure lust.It was not a nostalgic regret at not having known her body,it was a baser lust for lust's sake which did not requirethat the body be that of Kesa" (ibid). After having sexwith her he "even felt hatred for that woman" (ibid). Shewas "even more shameless than" (ibid) Morito appeared tohimself. "Her dishevelled hair, her sweat-soaked make-up --there was nothing that did not bespeak of the ugliness ofher body and soul" (ibid). For reasons unknown to himselfMorito whispers to Kesa, the woman he had so desperatelywanted, whose body he has come to despise, that they shouldkill her husband. Forcing himself to admit why he hadproposed the murder "of an unhated man for an unloved woman"(II:119), he realizes that he "could not restrain a desireto shame her...For this, there was nothing so suitable as toforce her to consent to the murder of the husband for whomshe had boasted of such love" (II:120). In making thissuggestion he has occasion once again to be surprised byKesa's reaction: she agrees "obediently" (sunaoni, ibid),80with a strange "glimmer resting in her eyes which [Moritohas] never seen anywhere since" (ibid). Morito feelsfurther disgust for Kesa:'What a bitch!' I thought (kanfu, ibid)-- the uglinessof her sweat, of her indecency, tormented me... If Ihad been able I would have broken my vow then andthere, I would have flung that slut to the very bottomof all shame. If I had done that perhaps my consciencecould have taken refuge behind my indignation, eventhough I myself had made sport of that woman. I had notime then for such reflections: as if she could predictmy thoughts that woman who had so quickly changed herexpression, when she fixed my eyes with her gaze -- Imust confess. My having fallen into thesecircumstances... is all due to my fear of Kesa'srevenge if I don't carry out my promise (II:121).Morito concludes his speech by once again bemoaning hisfate, which is further to add "filth to the filth of [his]heart" (ibid), and by reiterating the ambiguous emotions hefeels for Kesa, both hatred and love. Morito continues topace in his garden as the moon appears, and the work moveson to Kesa's monologue.Kesa begins by wondering if Morito will keep his wordto murder Wataru; she decides that despite his scorn andhatred for her, she can rely on his fear to make him come,for if he should not, she could "never again raise hershamed face, like a female puppet, to greet the sun"(11:122). She thinks of herself as "not at all differentfrom a corpse abandoned by the roadside" (ibid), she who"cannow no longer rely on" (11:123) herself. Once proud ofherself,"three years ago [she] was able to have confidence in[her] own beauty more than all else. Rather than to saythree years ago it may be closer to the truth to say itwas up till that day when, in [her] grandmother's house[she] met that man whom [she] had seen only oncebefore, [she] saw reflected in his eyes all [her]ugliness. He spoke softly, seducingly,... but howcould the heart of a woman once made to see her own81ugliness take comfort at such words. [she] was merelymortified, frightened, saddened... Compared to theawful feeling [she] had when taken as a child by herwetnurse to see a lunar eclipse, how much worse wasthis present feeling. All the various dreams [she]had, vanished. After that there was nothing but ... [aprofound] loneliness which surrounded [her] -- whilecloaked in this loneliness, [she] gave up to him [her]body as if dead... After being released from his arms,again a free body, [she] thought [her]self wretched(ibid).In this miserable condition, weeping from shame, shereflects that she "was not only saddened at having herfaithfulness ruined. Atop that, to be despised like aleprous dog, to be hated, tormented, was more painful thananything else" (ibid). Hearing Morito's whisperedsuggestion to kill Wataru she experienced astrangely vivid [ikikishita] feeling -- vivid? Ifmoonlight can be called bright, then this was a vividfeeling. Nonetheless this was quite different frommoonlight. Somehow [she] was consoled by his dreadfulwords... [she] continued with her lonely, moonlight-like vividness, to weep softly... [She] agreed to thepromise...[She] thought for the first time of herhusband. ..[Her] plan, which suddenly floated up in[her]mind, was probably a result of that instant when[she] recalled [her husband's smiling] face (11:124)Her plan is to substitute herself for her husband, since sheconsidered herself already dead, and so trick Morito intokilling her, in this way "atoning" (ibid) for what she hasdone. She "will not die for [her] husband's sake. [She]will die for [her] own sake, for the sake of the wounds to[her] heart and the shame which soiled [her] body" (11:125).As Kesa puts out her lamp to await Morito's arrival, "therecomes the sound of a shutter's opening, as a pale moonbeambegins to shine" (11:126).The ominous appearance of the moonlight at the close ofthe work underlines the role it plays as an indicator ofboth Kesa's and Morito's changing views of themselves and82carnality. The moon links Kesa with nature, and reassertsAkutagawa's association with death in ways consistent withthose present in such other pieces as "Niwa" and "Onna". Thefirst lines of Morito's section tell the reader thatalthough Morito had previously awaited the moon withimpatience he now finds its arrival frightening: immediatelyafter he speaks of the murder he must commit, and hissympathetic feelings for his victim. This is the onlyinstance in his monologue of an expression of sympathy foranyone other than himself; even Kesa, the woman he hasraped, receives nothing but scorn, existing not so much as aperson for morito but as a body, as flesh capable ofsatisfying his desire for flesh. She too changes from anentity whose presence Morito had anticipated with impatienceto an object of fear and threat, one who would take his lifeshould he fail her, identified through this transformationsimilar to that of the moon, with that object traditionallyregarded in Asian philosophy as the embodiment of femaleenergy. Kesa too has strong feelings for the moon: as achild she had seen a lunar eclipse with her wetnurse, her"uba", literally a "milk mother", and had experienced anawful feeling as the moon disappeared. This feelinghowever was surpassed in unpleasantness by the revelationof her own ugliness she receives from seeing herselfreflected in Morito's eyes, for the faith she had in her ownbeauty was swept away by his look which revealed her to beflesh which could be desired. "The Other looks at me and assuch he holds the secret of my being, he knows what I am"(Sartre, p.473), and what he knows is that Kesa, as a body,83for Akutagawa through Morito, is both ugly and dangerous.Kesa assumes the masochistic pole to Morito's sadisticexposition of her as an object of desire, she loses herself,her subjectivity through his look, becoming flesh, and soexperiences the sinking feeling of a loss of herself aswoman, the same feeling as she had known at the eclipse ofthe moon, the loss of all feminine force in nature, thisforce further connected through the presence of thewetnurse, the surrogate mother, with all things female andwith motherhood. The moon's reappearance at the end of thework and the hold it has on Morito signal the reinvigorationof the female in the form of death: as we have seen before,Akutagawa connects femininity with mortality, hereexpressing that through Morito's fear of Kesa's revenge andthe moon's light. The fear with which he awaits the lunardawn is the fear with which he anticipates Kesa's vengeance;it is this fear which drives him to kill Wataru and sobecome the victim of woman and nature, united in this pieceto destroy the male arrogance which had sought to establishits primacy in the world.Morito describes his feeling for Kesa as a beautifieddesire, a desire which becomes lust for lust's sake, lustfor any body. His desire had been diminished by hisrealization that Kesa over time had changed; her flesh grewless rich, her flesh in fact deteriorated, indicating thepassage of time and proving her mortality (so too one mayconsider a lunar eclipse as a marker of time's flow, moredramatic than the monthly cycle of waxing and waning for itsunexpectedness): Morito, having carried Kesa's image with84him, had no expectation that this object could have a lifeof its own, its own place in the world which would allow itto age, eventually even to die. For him Kesa was not alive-- she was the representative form of the Body, anincarnated desire which permitted Morito to know himself forthree years as alive, as desiring. Morito had known otherbodies, had given up his celibacy, but these bodies were notthe one he had awaited, they were not for him symbolic,existing as already possessed. It was Kesa who became forhim Desire, the Body, the thing whose conquest was necessaryfor his satisfaction and reassurance that he was above themortality of flesh.Morito's desire for Kesa indicates two things, itassumes two aspects which are linked though in some wayscontradictory. These things are the wish to experience hisown body as body, and to manipulate another's body as flesh.I tend to agree with Sartre thatin desire I make myself flesh in the presence of the Otherin order to appropriate the Other's flesh...Thus desire isthe desire to appropriate a body as this appropriationreveals to me my body as flesh... Desire is an attempt tostrip the body... and to make it exist as pure flesh; it isan attempt to incarnate the Other's body (Sartre, p.506),and so through this incarnation gain not only a grounding inthe world but a dominance over the body, over one's ownbody. Desire is linked to Sadism through this attempt togain an advantage over the concept of flesh, to reveal fleshas something one may manipulate at will: Sadism becomes adenial of the importance of flesh in one's own person;thus Sadism is a refusal to be incarnated.., and atthe same time an effort to get hold of the Other's[incarnation]. Sadism like desire attempts to stripthe Other... It seeks to reveal the flesh behind theaction. But whereas [the subject] in desire loses85itself in its own flesh... the sadist refuses his ownflesh at the same time that he [attempts] to reveal...the Other's flesh. The object [that is, the goal] ofSadism is immediate appropriation (Sartre, p.518),the type of appropriation Morito seeks in Kesa. Moritoexpresses a desire to attack Kesa, to shame her, beingdriven by this desire once he has seen in her flesh signs ofdecay and change, that is, once he recognizes the proofs ofher existence: the desire he had previously felt was not fora living person, for he himself states clearly that, havingpersuaded himself that he loved her, what it was that hewanted from her for three years was to know her body, toexperience her flesh, not the personality which makes theOther subject, a person fully alive and able to share one'slife. Kesa perceives this, recognizes Morito's objectifyingSadism, when she gives herself to him as a corpse, as fleshdevoid of all personality. Morito's desire, then, becomes nolonger a type of nostalgia at not having known Kesa in thepast, but rather is now "something baser" (II: 119), lust forlust's sake. Morito feels that "even a man who buys aprostitute would not be as shameful as" (ibid) he himselfwas then, for a man with a prostitute makes no pretence toeither himself or the woman: he wants sex, a body, pure andsimple. So did Morito, in fact, but he could not admit thistill he had achieved his goal of forcing Kesa to acceptherself as ugly, pure flesh. Kesa speaks of giving herself"as if dead" (11:123) to Morito: a corpse is more flesh thana living person for it is pure object, unable to resist theobjectification inflicted on it by living eyes, as Kesa wasunable to resist Morito's objectification of her, his rape,his 'use' of her body to satisfy the project of his86sadistically appropriating desire. In her initialacceptance of, that is, her initial inability to deny therole assigned to her by Morito as body, as representative offlesh, Kesa assumes the role of masochist to Morito'ssadist: her perception of herself as dead, her realizationthat her dreams have all vanished, her dreams being thepossibilities, the projects her life as a subjectivity heldfor her, show her to accept (at least temporarily) the lossof her self; hence her shame. "Shame... is the shame ofself; it is the recognition of the fact that lam indeed thatobject which the Other is looking at and judging" (Sartre,p.350). As an object Kesa experiences guilt, for inmasochism (here of course defined as the condition in whichone exists as an object not only for others but for oneselfas well, as does Kesa, perceiving herself to be alreadydead),I am guilty due to the very fact that I am an object,I am guilty toward myself since I consent to myabsolute alienation. I am guilty toward the Other,for I furnish him with the occasion of being guilty --that is, of radically missing my freedom as such.Masochism is an attempt not to fascinate the Other bymeans of my objectivity but to [allow] myself to befascinated by my objectivity-for-others; that is, to[allow] myself to be constituted as an object by theOther in such a way that I... apprehend mysubjectivity as a nothing in the presence of(Sartre, p.492)the Other, the one who assumes or is granted the privilegeof existing as the cause, the motivating force of thesituation: the subject. Kesa permits Morito to establishhimself as this defining force by accepting the look heturns on her (before returning it with her own look, the"strange glimmer" which so terrifies Morito, which entrapshim in objectivity), by accepting her flesh as ugly when87reflected in his eyes. The change which occurs in her, thegleam in her eyes, comes after sex and links Kesa with thefemale spider we've seen earlier: sex empowers Kesa andfills her with a closeness to death, a closeness which as inthe spider's case is to death in general, her own death aswell as that threatening Morito. Kesa, as a woman, willaccept her own death: she does not fear it and is proud toredeem herself by dying for her ashamed heart, her denied,now regained subjectivity (the Japanese notion of redeemingoneself through death is present here as well, complicatingthis issue somewhat, but in light of Akatagawa's opuswherein corroborating pieces such as "Onna" exist, theconnection with a type of natural fatalism takesprecedence). That both Kesa and Morito recognize thecomplementary roles they play for each other is shown bytheir tentative admissions that perhaps they love oneanother, despite the animosity between them; such a lovecould only exist in Akutagawa's fiction wherein the mixtureof danger and objectification present in the relationshipbecomes proof of the depth of emotion between them. Thesetwo were indeed made for each other; Akutagawa has herefashioned their characters specifically to demonstrate hisviews of woman's flesh, to link it with nature and death,and the designs these threatening entities have on man.Morito becomes the revealer of woman as body, as the sourceof desire and mortality, for it is through Kesa that Moritoshall become a murderer, an agent of death symbolized at thework's close by the moonlight, Yin, the purely female. Toreprise and paraphrase Doane, woman and nature do indeed8 8contain elements hostile to man, to his desire and to hisperson; these elements "constantly threaten to infiltrateand contaminate... masculinity" (Doane, p.152), through thecarnal lust which man, as also a member of nature, cannothelp but feel. Morito's celibacy, his attempt to resist thedesire of one body for another, came to an end: his desirefor Kesa, which began during his period of abstinence, didnot end with it, for Kesa, in Morito's mind was the Body,she was the idea of flesh which drove him to experiencecarnality. Kesa as flesh, the source of desire, comes to betime, life, mortality; "desire... is the ensnarement of abody in the world... That is why sensual pleasure is sooften linked with death" (Sartre, p.509), why sex and deathimply one another, why the sadist must refuse his ownincarnation even while experiencing the strongest need topossess another's body, and why Morito cannot accept Kesa asshe appears before him, feeling disappointment when hecompares her to his memory of her: she proves thevulnerability of all flesh as the mothers in "Niwa" containdisease, she condemns Morito to the death which she, aswoman, as one aligned with nature, is not only able toaccept, but actually seeks out. Kesa shall stand asAkutagawa's woman, as the one who, through sexual desire,awakens the male to himself as flesh, mortal, whileaccepting the death which nature has deemed necessary forher, as the female spider accepts her own death afterreproduction.BIBLIOGRAPHY TO CHAPTER TWOBal, Mieke^"Sexuality, Sin, and Sorrow"The Female Body in Western Cultureed. S.R. Suleiman,Cambridge Harvard U. Press, 1986de Beauvoir, Simone^The Second Sex, tr. H.M. Parshley,New York: Knopf, 1952Chan, W.T.^A Source Book in ChinesePhilosophy,Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 196389Doane, MaryFromm, ErichKristeva, Juliade Maupassant, GuyOwens, CraigSartre, Jean-Paul"The Clinical Eye"The Female Body in Western CultureThe Art of Loving,New York: Harper and Row, 1956"Stabat Mater"The Female Body in Western Culture"In the Moonlight"The Complete short Stories of Guyde Maupassant, New York:W.J. Black and Co., 1903"Discourse of Others: Feminism andPost-Modernism"The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. H. Foster,Port Townsend: Bay Press, 1983Being and Nothingness,tr. Hazel Barnes, New York:Washington Square Press, 1956.Tavey, D.J.^Patrick White, Fiction, and the Unconscious, Melbourne: Oxford U. Press, 1988CHAPTER III^ 9 OThe DoubleOne may often encounter the figure of the Double inworks of fantasy or the macabre, Poe being perhaps thepractitioner springing most readily to mind. And yet wereone to consider this trope in a more general way rather thanto expect an exact physical duplication of the characterconcerned, one would encounter instances of doubling in agreat many works. C.F. Keppler, in The Literature of theSecond Self, uses the term "second self" to define a curiouspsychical linking of characters which are complements to oneanother, connected by links of oppositeness "in nature[which tend] to result in a certain.., opposition inattitude" (Keppler, p.12). Such characters may be twins,that is duplicates of one individual, but they may also bejoined through more obscure means, as the black cat with theprotagonist in Poe's tale of the same name. Within thelexicon of Akutagawa's devices there are some particularlycherished entries under the heading of the Double; in hiswork this figure adopts two forms, one utilising as may beexpected a duplication of the main character's physicalappearance in a way to suggest some comment on thatcharacter; the other involving a split of that characterinto two distinct halves within the same body, separated bythe possession and subsequent loss of some particularattribute or quality which, like alcohol to the protagonistin "Shuchu" (1916; tr. The Wine Worm, 1930), gives someentrance into society to the character concerned. The Double91and the split self, though one may construe them to bedifferent devices having different effects, are reducible toa common metaphorical goal in Akutagawa's opus, a goal whichparallels that of the double in Western texts as being adisplay of one's "other self, his conscience" (Miyoshi,p.295), in certain instances, but which is also richer ininterpretive potential, allowing the character to perceive amodel for a more integrating social behaviour and throughthe rejection of this model to mourn its loss whileasserting his own independence and individuality, howeverisolating these may be. The Double in Akutagawa is alwaysa condemnation of both the protagonist's and Akutagawa's ownalienation from society, always the acknowledgement thatthere is something in him which is wrong and must beexpelled: "the double is born of what Sartre would term thebad faith with which one disowns half of one's life, whichthen carries on living in the guise of a self condemned asother" (Coates, p.36), a self which in turn mocks one'sinability to master the daily reality in which it moves withsuch contemptuous ease. The Double in Akutagawa is that halfof the split self in possession of the mask or drug whichcorrects the character's own inherent flaws, that half whichknows himself: "[he] is the intruder from thebackground...[who] is much more likely to have knowledge ofhis foreground counterpart than the latter of him, but theexact extent and source of his knowledge..." (Keppler p.3)remain an infuriating, maddening puzzle.Akutagawa's enterprise as a writer, as one who wrote(surreptitiously) about himself, had a great effect on both92his product and his own self view. This effect was to dividehim into two parts: the one who writes, and the one who iswritten. In writing of himself he became detached from thelife he was actually living, preferring the experientialmediation of the printed page whereon he was in control ofthe face he read. Much of this may be seen in his last fewpieces, published posthumously, wherein he does finallyindulge in "above board" autobiography: in these works, inparticular in "Haguruma" (1927; tr. The Cogwheel, 1965)writing plays a vital role in his quest for stability, forreassurance, though even this stability temporarily won,proved ultimately to be illusory, fictional. The flightAkutagawa exhibits in "Haguruma" away from the nervousstrain of his daily life, toward a fictional world, servedfinally only to divide him irreconcilably, into two halves,one of which coldly watched as the other descended intoparanoia and psychosis. This same effect of writing on acharacter, of dividing him into two distinct personae, willbe seen in "Futatsu no tegami" (1925; "Two Letters")discussed later in this chapter.Paul Coates, a literary critic at McGill University,has written a study entitled The Double and the Other,(Hong Kong: MacMillan Press, 1988) a work which dealsprimarily with the ideological influence of colonialism in19th century fin de siecle european literary product. Thispublication is useful when some of its postulates aregrafted onto Akutagawa's writing precisely because ofAkutagawa's positioning within what is very much a Japanesefin de siecle; Coates lists a number of criteria which will93facilitate, if not completely necessitate, an author'sattraction to the device of the Double. "Stories that dealexplicitly with the Double seem in the main to be written byauthors who are suspended between languages and cultures"(Coates p.2) he argues, and this is definitely the case forAkutagawa. Not only is he caught, as it were, betweenlanguages and cultures, but even within the Japanese socialstructure of his period there was tremendous upheaval: Japanwas Westernizing itself at a phenomenal rate, had beaten amajor European power in military conflict only ten yearsbefore Akutagawa began to publish, and was entering into aperiod of imperialism while in turn was experiencing itselfa cultural colonization. Beongcheon Yu has characterisedthis period as placing on the Japanese people "a doubleburden of modernization and Westernization" (Yu, pl), termswhich he claims to be "synonymous in this instance" (Yu,p.l. Even historical descriptions of this era, it wouldseem, are not immune to the allure of the double, of twoentities or concepts sharing an identity).The materialization of the double can be interpreted asa pathological attempt to replace the image of theother with that of the self: this process ofprojection is bound in the mechanisms ofcolonialism...The double enhances the ideology ofindividualism: it puts the self in the place of theother... Nevertheless, if the double mocks the selfwhose appearance it imitates, this indicates that theother retains a will of its own below the projectionswith which it has been overlaid [a will which canaccuse the first self of inadequacy, in effect hauntingthe self with its own existence] (Coates, p.2).The figure of the Double allows one to see in the othera solipsistic insistence on one's own preeminence; in effectit allows one to create a world in one's own image andpopulate it with people (theoretically) one need not fear:94copies of oneself. Coates provides a reason for this selfreplicating population of the world through the ideology ofpost-Romantic colonialism, and his comments are insightfulin explaining the role of one's social milieu in influencingone's character:ideology socialises the individual by bringing him...to internalise the dividedness of a class society inthe form of 'objective value-free judgement', therebyenabling the system to rule the subject by dividingit... Ideology thus seems to be a characteristic of themodern era, as it splits the written language from thespoken one ... or suffuses the mind with images fromanother world [the Western world Japan was emulating,or Asian one it was colonizing]. In splitting the selfit brings forth the Double. Imagination enforces theself-division... The process of self-translation intoanother place [such as is required in the adoption of aforeign mode of dress or literary culture]... [has the]immediate effect on the individual.., to split him forhis mental translation will never be a complete one:the individual enticed away from his native sphere mayfind the sought-after real unattainable... (Coates,p.5-6).This then accounts for the perception of the Double as areflection of one's own individuality, for one must remainaware of one's situation even as one, through bad faith,attempts to deny it, just as one must remain aware of theblankness of the page one has just filled. The Double is"the self that has been left behind, or overlooked, orunrealized, or otherwise excluded from the first self's selfconception: he is the self that must be come to terms with.And, therefore, despite all his... closeness to the firstself, he is always... the opposite of the first self"(Keppler, p.11).^In Akutagawa this opposite is theintegrated self, the self firmly rooted in the family, ableto exist in a social setting and held in the bosom ofnature. The need to depict the Double in fiction may indeedindicate a need to control circumstances, to create a sense95of capability lacking in one's life:in writing of the Double, the author can be said to bewriting of his own representative [and those writerswho not only do not write about, but somehow suppressthe Double]... seek to suppress their own knowledge ofthe degree to which every character is a distortedreflection., of the author himself (Coates, p.1-3).Akutagawa's resistance to the autobiographical form ofwriting which gained such popularity amongst hiscontemporaries, and yet his fondness for the Double beyondits association with the eerie or macabre of which he wasadmittedly enamoured, bespeak of this suppression which mustin fact be a conscious one: what could better explain hisreworkings of older stories, his borrowings of historicalsources, than a desire to avoid even the hint ofautobiography, a desire which nonetheless cannot supplant afundamental fascination, an obsession, with himself and hisultimate fate? "The Double is the emissary of Death" (p.7),writes Coates, and Akutagawa, too, notes that "to judge fromthis, one may consider that the appearance of one'sDoppelganger foretells death" (Akutagawa, II: 17). Akutagawawas plagued by fears of death, by fears of insanity (whichin itself may be thought of as an inhabitation of one's mindby a stranger, a Double) and fled to writing as to a solace,as he shows himself in"Haguruma". "Stamping one's own features upon the face of acharacter may be a fearful authorial manoeuvre intended tolimit the dangers" (Coates, p.1) of an existence defined bya fear of madness and lack of natural place, an existencewhich, through fear of exteriorality, relies on theimagination to construct a livable realm for one'sindividuality. "The structure of the imagination is96frustration" (Coates, p.6), for the imagination presentsphantasms, tantalizing possibilities which, thoughcontrollable through their creation, are unrealizable bytheir very nature: one cannot imagine completely what onemay actually achieve, nor achieve what one may imagine.These are truisms, but still vital to the creation ofliterary product: one's work is but marks on a page, theconcrete proof of the frustration of the imagination in thatit is decidedly not concrete and purely dependent upon theimagination for its existence, "but if frustration evokesaggression as a response, the only aggression here isdirected towards self-splitting" (Coates, p.6), as ismanifestly so in Akutagawa, with the necessary developmentof a division of the self into a destruction of the self: ifthe self creates its existence in the imaginative productionof phantasies on a page, by dividing itself into thecharacters it designates both consciously and unconsciouslyas its own doubles, then it cannot be, it cannot maintainits own fiction.Akutagawa killed himself on July 24, 1927, aftercompleting a transition to overtly autobiographical fictionin such works as "Haguruma" and "Aru aho no issho" (1927;tr. A Fool's Life, 1961), that is, after completing thecreation on paper of his fictional life, after writinghimself into a corner whence he could not escape back into amore tangible place (of course, his reliance on drugs toprovide even sleep, that is, his dependence on evenfictional sleep, cannot be overlooked in any speculation asto why he chose suicide as a solution). At his most97desperate, his most nihilistically depressed period justbefore his death, while describing the terrors of hisparanoid state, Akutagawa writes (again in "Haguruma") ofthrowing himself recklessly, passionately into his writing:his blackest days drove him most to create himself throughhis characters, now finally and explicitly autobiographical,even though his autobiography may be typified by "Aru Aho noIssho" (1927; tr. A Fool's Life, 1961), a collection ofbrief sketches told in the third person, from afrighteningly far remove. Akutagawa, even in Haguruma,maintains a presence of mind, a distance from his owndesperation indicative of an insurmountable resistance toautobiography, maintains a resistance to a true revelatorystyle of exposition (which indeed even autobiography is not:who is ever able to believe, to trust sufficiently toaccept, what one tells about oneself? Who is ever able towrite of oneself with sufficient penetration to arrive at anunmeditated view of oneself capable of passing through thefilter of language?). The split self, the character dividedinto a before and after version, and the Double, becomesymbols for the author who could, and the man who could not,live. The singular existence which, by virtue of itscultural ambiguity, was caught amongst the isolationist,modernising, colonising, and colonized Japan, and the West,and the familial obscurities of insanity and adoption, hadto create a sanctuary for itself within itself, and withinthis sanctuary had necessarily to face its own failures andinabilities in the form of a mocking Double endowed byitself with knowledge of "the secrets the first self can98never quite fathom" (Keppler, p.11).Within Akutagawa's opus the split-self/Double figureshows considerable stylistic evolution and refinement,progressing from a merely ironical trope or moralistic,slightly didactic element, to a haunting and condemningspectre of inadequacy and ridicule as Akutagawa's convictionof the triviality and stupidity of his life increased. Thesplit self occurs with a certain regularity in Akutagawa'searlier works, the scheme of which may be summarized asportraying a character generally accepted, if not respected,by society, who sets out to remove or change some part ofhis body or way of life which is responsible for,unbeknownst to him, his social acceptability. This patternoccurs in such pieces as "Shuchu" (1916; tr. The wine Worm,1930) and "Hyottoko" (1914; tr. A Clown's mask 1969). Thecharacter's attempt is initially successful, but hediscovers that the change has terribly incapacitated him toenjoy or participate in the type of social intercourse towhich he had, for good or ill, grown accustomed. The storywill end with the character regretting the change, eventhough it had permitted him a degree of self assertion andhope. Often the character will be completely destroyed bythe removal of this attribute, as if that quality had infact somehow planned this destruction. What is significantin these works is that the character's public identity, isgiven an attribute which comes to be revealed as a secondself, both exterior and opposed to his true feelings orself-perception, the removal of which results in a loss ofhis total identity. In the story "Hyottoko" (1914; tr. A99Clown's Mask, 1969) the main character, Heikichi, is one whoknows himself to have "not only a physical need, but also apsychological necessity to drink. Only when drinking wouldhis spirit expand, and he could feel free of reservationsbefore the world" (1:24). This story describes an incidenton a river during an annual cherry blossom viewing day:aboard a floating barge of revellers, a drunken man,Heikichi, wearing a mask and dancing, falls into the crowdwatching him. The people on shore and on the bridges abovethe river who had seen all this laugh at Heikichi, but theirlaughter soon stops when they realize that something serioushas happened, for Heikichi does not get up. He soon dies,and this narrator tells in retrospect the details ofHeikichi's life, concluding with a more detailed view ofHeikichi's final drunken dance.On two occasions Heikichi had suffered periods ofunconsciousness as a result of alcohol, and though he had"admirably" (ibid) tried for a time to follow hisphysician's requests to give up drinking, weak willpower,that is, the domination of his attribute, soon won out overhis half-hearted determination. Heikichi is once more in thegrip of his psychological need to drink, the psychologicalattribute which causes a definite split in Heikichi'spersonality. This split self takes on the dimensions ofanother self, one able to dominate the first and place himin a vulnerable position, even on a whim, to destroy him.Akutagawa tells us that although Heikichi, after a night ofhis typically heavy drinking, "would lie and say that'looking back this morning, it all seems like a dream', he100was perfectly aware of whether he had danced or slept. Hecould in no way conceive of the self left in his memory asbeing the same person he was today when he compared the two"(ibid). So completely does Heikichi become another personwhen drunk, that at the height of his split-self-controlledrevels he actually puts on a mask, the "hyottoko" of thetitle, a twisted, comic mask, and performs an accompanyingdance. Ominously, as to "which Heikichi was the real one,even this was unknown to him" (ibid). The drunken Heikichican manipulate the 'real' one for he is ever present in histhoughts, a presence which the sober Heikichi cannot himselfclaim in the mind of the second one. Akutagawa makesspecific reference to Janus, the twin-faced god, to explainHeikichi's far from divine situation, his existence as apuppet controlled by something within himself he cannotexorcise. Even when he is sober, Heikichi is not able to behimself, for "it may be that there are few people who lie tothe extent that the usual Heikichi does" (1:24). He cannotstop himself from telling lies about his life, from creatinga somewhat romantic past for himself. "Were one to removethese lies from the known part of his life, without a doubtnothing would remain" (1:25-6). Heikichi does not know whyhe must lie, but the reasons lie next to those for hisdrinking. As he is, he does not belong in the world, hecannot face up to it: "a person in the wrong place has afictional identity and lives a lie" (Coates, p.48). Hisexistence is characterized by either drunken gestures behinda carved mask, or the changeable lies of his sober self:there is no Heikichi in actuality, and only the barest101figment of a character, even, exists for the reader, forAkutagawa offers only the barest physical descriptionnecessary to give this figure a fictional life. YoshidaSeiichi makes the interesting comments that "one may saythat Akutagawa too like the protagonist of 'Hyottoko' livedhis whole life while telling lies from behind a mask. Themany works he left behind him... may well be that Hyottokomask" (Yoshida, p.55).When Heikichi falls in his drunken stupor aboard thedrifting barge of cherry blossom viewers, whileuncontrollably dancing his masked self-creation, he feelsthe finality of the mask's condemnation of himself and makesthe self-affirming exertion which his life up to this pointhas lacked. He tries to fight the mask's domination: "Takeoff the mask'", (1:26), he manages to gasp, soon to expire,for he wants to be free for once of this dominating other,the alien portion of himself able to act without shyness insociety. However, this attempt to assert his own will, toclaim individuality for himself, is doomed to the failureAkutagawa sees as inevitable for all who would insist ontheir own independence. Heikichi exhorts those around himto remove his mask, to reveal his true face, and althoughhis face "had already become not that of the usual Heikichi"(ibid), that is, had already changed into a face of one freefrom the mask and Heikichi's own lies, his attempt to changehimself into a free, self-created, whole person, has failedin death. It would seem that there is no existence of self-assertion possible in Akutagawa's work, for Heikichi haslost what little identity he had while alive, such identity102as had been given him by his life of subservience to a needto drink and his own self-fictionalization through lies.Trying to free himself from the mask removed himself fromwhat he was. "All that remained unchanged... was theHyottoko mask" (I: 27) the face of Heikichi's split self.Alcohol plays a significant role too in the division ofthe protagonist in "Shuchu", (1916; tr. The Wine Worm,1930), a tale of one who, unbeknownst to himself, has withinhis stomach a parasite which craves rice wine. This workconcerns Ryu, a perpetual drinker, who one day receives astranger as a guest; the stranger reveals to Ryu thispresence of a parasite in his stomach which causes him todrink, and offers to remove it. Ryu accepts the offer, theattempt is successful, and Ryu continues his life free fromthe desire to drink. His life however, is no longer a happyone. Akutagawa concludes this tale by speculating that Ryuand the parasite are actually two parts of one person; theremoval of the worm therefore changes, in fact ruins,Ryu's life.Ryu, Akutagawa writes, "had as his sole pastime thedrinking of sake, and from morning on there was hardlyopportunity for him to be away from his cups. Even atthat... he had a capacity far removed from that of ordinarymen" (1:72). One day while drinking with a friend Ryureceives a visitor, an unusually dressed stranger identifiedas a "banzo" in the text, literally a barbarian, or savagemonk. Interestingly, the character "ban" with which the word"barbarian" is written share part of its construction withthe "chu" of the parasite, Shuchu: the portion is that which103means "insect". As we have seen in other works, and as Ihave argued in the introduction, Akutagawa here too makesuse of the visual richness of Kanji to elucidate or commenton aspects of his characters. In this instance the usage isparticularly subtle, but nonetheless definite: the visitingstranger could have been anyone, he could have been Taoist,he could have been a scholar. Why did Akutagawa write of a"barbarian"? I believe he chose this situation precisely toaccentuate the connection between the visitor and theparasite, to link them through the clues contained withinthe Kanji which identify them. Akutagawa has embedded partof the parasite within this foreign messenger, the barbarianmonk, to emphasize his role as harbinger of the split self,the presence within Ryu which shall in effect be responsiblefor the existence Ryu has up to this point enjoyed. Themonk reveals to Ryu the presence of the parasite within him,and informs him that " 'precisely because I am able to cureyou, I have come to you' " (1:74), alerting the reader tothe approach of the split self: this man by means unknownto Ryu is aware of a secret existence within Ryu, aware of asecond Ryu about to be born of the first into the world; asKeppler writes, "the coming of a second self as second self(for he may be physically present for a long while beforeasserting his true nature) into the life of the first is aresult of some unknown force... transcending all known ones"(Keppler, p.12). The stranger convinces Ryu that he cancure him without the use of medicines, needles, or magicspells; his cure consists of tying Ryu securely to theground on a day marked by "heat that there hasn't been in104recent years" (I:70). It is in this position that the readerfirst encounters Ryu, surrounded by his drinking companion,the stranger, and an unglazed jug filled with wine, thearoma of which tickles Ryu's nose and makes his dry mouthache with thirst. Ryu begins a new life on this day, a lifewhich puts him back into his own body, apparently at his ownrequest. The sweat which stings Ryu's eyes provides asensation he has never before experienced, so taken over bythe parasite has he been.Ryu had accepted the stranger's offer to remove theparasite with a certain reluctance, a certain unsteadinessof nature; "with an unexpectedly doubtful voice" (1:74) Ryuasks about the procedure, but nonetheless after it isexplained to him he decides to accept, for "though he wasnot aware of it, his curiosity was rather moved at theprospect of a cure". Here again we see a manipulation ofthe first self by the second or dominant, alien personality:as Heikichi was compelled by his ever present drunken selfto drink, to gain his identity by accepting the face givento him, so is Ryu at the mercy of his parasite, first todrink, to exist in order to ensure the parasite's existence,and then at the urgings of the barbarian monk who shares anidentifying feature with that very parasite, to attempt toremove it from himself, to attempt a life free of itscontrol. Ryu accepts this manipulation for he is not awareof it; he submits himself to the cure perhaps with thoughtsof discovering how much of his life is really his, with thehope of asserting his own will: the one argument which mostconvinces him to try the cure is that, no matter how much he105drinks, he never feels the effects of alcohol. His effortsat self assertion, at freeing himself from a parasite tolive for himself, however, are less his own than were thoseof Heikichi, for the suggestion came from the monk who is,as we've seen, closely associated with the parasite. Ryu ismanipulated into a self-assertion which will cost him hislife, the cost paid by all of Akutagawa's characters whoclaim their own lives, by this internal parasite which is anactual part of himself. After his cure not only does Ryu'shealth deteriorate, leaving him with a "dull-complexioned,oily skin", (v1 p.78) but also his property loses value andis sold. Ryu is destroyed by removing the parasite fromhimself; his freedom from it leads to his ruin as Heikichi'sfreedom from his drunkenly masked self is possible only indeath. Akutagawa has constructed this tale as the simple re-telling of a story (not one though which actually exists)transmitted from China, that is a borrowing from a foreignculture, and concludes it with the positing of the questionswhy, after spitting out the parasite, did Ryu's healthdecline? Why did his property fail?... To thesequestions [Ryu's neighbours] were able to give variousanswers [three of which Akutagawa records, having] donenothing more than select the most representative fromamongst them" (I: 79)One such postulated answer explicitly deals with anidentification of the parasite with Ryu, that is, it statesthat "Ryu is precisely the parasite, and the parasiteprecisely Ryu... From the day on which Ryu became unable todrink, Ryu as Ryu was no longer Ryu" (ibid). This is inaccord with the precedent set by Heikichi who could notanswer to himself who he was, the drunken self behind themask or the sober self who created himself anew with each106new lie, who in the end was neither one nor the other but abroken stranger able to assert his own self-will only indeath. The real Ryu is not the host to a parasiticalexistence but rather the example of a failed, fooled self-will, a victim of a pessimistic joke perpetrated by hisself-alienating, internal second, or split, self.In "Shuchu" Akutagawa discovers a progression in thefigure of the split-self, the possibility of that selfprojecting itself into another form, that of the parasite,or its emissary the barbarian monk who knows the firstself's inner reality more fully than he himself does, and sois able to manipulate that first self into a position whencehis destruction becomes an apparently self-willed desire forindependence. Such a progression leads Akutagawa to theDouble. A year or so after the publication of "Shuchu"Akutagawa penned"Futatsu no tegami" (1925; Two Letters), twoletters describing in the first person an individual'sencounters with his own double and the effect they have hadon his life. In this piece the division Akutagawa inflictedupon himself, into the author and the authored, is itselfreflected, even doubled, in the writing of the protagonist,who composes the letters to create an alibi for himself inthe disappearance of his wife. In this character, SasakiShinichiro, we see Akutagawa placing qualities he himselfhad: an intimacy with foreign language and customs, askilful fluidity in his own language, and a desire to createon paper a mask which improves on his own face. Akutagawa,touching a subject, the confrontation of oneself withseparate,accusing parts of oneself, so close to his own107enterprise, discovering himself in his literary creations,seeks to hide explicit acknowledgement of his project, forif Coates is correct, in assuming the Double to spring frombad faith, then this bad faith by definition requires adenial of its presence in one's motives. ThereforeAkutagawa will rather weakly deny his authorship of thispiece: "These two letters" Akutagawa writes, "by a certainchance came into my hands" (II:15).The first letter begins with numerous strategies forproving its veracity, and its 'author' pleads that itsaddressee, the local chief of police, "believe that withinmy mental state there is nothing abnormal" (ibid). Akutagawain the story to follow creates, and denies theresponsibility for creating, an arena wherein a characterwill create, and deny the creation, of a theatre for self-constructing exposition:before writing this I hesitated greatly; were one toask why, I would say that was because in addition towriting this I find it necessary to disclose a familysecret to you. Of course without a doubt this will bea considerable damage to my reputation, and yetcircumstances are such that, were I not to write, witheach moment my existence would grow more acutelypainful. Here at last, I have decided to take decisivemeasures. (ibid).The writer has taken pains to demonstrate that his situationis one he would rather keep private; faced with such anapparently unavoidable confession, as it were, the readerfinds his sympathy persuasively solicited. He will acceptthe writer's chosen solution to the problem facing him, suchsolution being found in writing, in creating a verbaledifice which will stand for, which will in fact be, hislife. "When he writes, it is in order to read himself"108(Sartre, p.427): just as Akutagawa (whose disclaimer weaklydenies this by denying credit for the composition of thework) creates a symbol for his own life in the writing ofthese two letters. Let there be no mistake about the reasonsfor Akutagawa's usage of the Double, and his necessarydiscovery of that trope in light of his project in fiction,his self creation through words:the Double, whether as epipsyche, self-portrait, ormonster, is the vehicle of self-creation. Indeed,consciousness of self implies doubleness, theconsciousness aware of itself... Life experience, thedevelopment of self consciousness, is... mere matterfor the life of art. At the point where art is foundto be an illusion, a lie at last, the life which is itssource, and which in turn models its further life onart, is unavoidably a lie... Either way the autonomy ofart relative to life is beyond compromise (Miyoshi,p.291).Akutagawa may be doubling himself in his characters; so beit, his characters will double themselves within their ownliterary endeavours. Sasaki Shinichiro, the author of theletters, after a lengthy and quite scholarly display of casehistories, which can amount to nothing other than apersuasive preamble, an introductory, psychological study ofthe Double taken as a natural phenomenon, reveals that hehas seen the Doubles of himself and his wife. The firstappearance occurs at the theatre; "on that particular nightmy wife and I had gone to... a benefit variety show"(II:19). However the trip to the theatre itself was notsomething the husband and wife had planned -- there is someworking of an unseen force, like fate, behind this outing,for, "to speak frankly, the tickets for that show had beenquite generously given to us by some friends of ours, acouple who through some inconvenience were unable to attend"109(ibid). Sasaki goes on to write that "about the show itselfthere is no particular need to make detailed mention"(ibid). This peculiarly dismissive passage will bear closerscrutiny; firstly, the phrase "to speak frankly" (Uchiaketaohanashi wo sureba, ibid) strikes one as superfluous, forafter so many reiterations of the author's desire to bebelieved, for his sanity to be accepted as an unassailablefact, one would expect that he had been speaking frankly allalong. Only a few sentences earlier, in describing his wife,the author had mentioned, prefaced by "what I should hereespecially like to point out to your attention, Sir"(II:18), the disclosure that his wife had for some timesuffered from hysterics which, though generally on the mend,had lately shown a tendency to recur. This is a fact aboutwhich one would find much more need to speak frankly thanthe trivial circumstances of one's theatrical evening; and,having drawn attention to this event through such an openphrase, why should the author detract from that attention bydismissing a description of the show as unnecessary? One mayaccuse this author of clumsiness in his choice of terms, butone would be mistaken: Akutagawa's character is callingattention to a fiction, to his own creation of a fictionallife which parallels Akutagawa's self creation throughpublished fiction. Sasaki's life is that variety showattended, by merest chance, by that character about whom thestory is being told. The name of this particular characterso concerned with being believed, so intent on proving hissanity beyond the shadow of a fictional doubt, is SasakiShinichiro, which, when translated rather inelegantly, reads110Sasaki, True (or Believable) First Son; he certainlycouldn't be the second son, for when dealing with the Doubleone must first have a character to be doubled. Within thisfamily name the repetition of the syllable "sa" affords anominous warning of things to come: his name contains anassertion of originality and a replication, a suggestion offalseness. Who then is writing this letter; which of theselves is describing a night at the theatre prefaced as afrank confession and dismissed as unworthy of detaileddescription? Is it truly the wife who has suffered fromattacks of hysteria? Now, after labelling a description ofthe contents of the show unnecessary, Sasaki in factprovides one, wherein he insists thatBecause I, who truly have no interest at all in musicor dancing, was there for something like my wife'ssake, the program had for the most part only increasedmy boredom. Accordingly, even if I were to intend adescription of the performance, I completely lack thematerials to do so. All I remember is that there was astory... to be read before the intermission. Myjudgement at the time was that my premonitions, myfearful expectations of something unusual, would not beswept away even by listening to this recital (II:21),for it is not this explicit fiction which is his primaryconcern. Leaving his wife briefly for a visit to thelavatory, Sasaki on his return has his attention riveted toa man, his Double, leaning casually next to his wife, who isapparently unaware of this second presence. When Sasakidraws near the Double vanishes; his wife's only comment is," you were gone long, weren't you" (ibid).Sasaki tells his wife nothing; he manages to put theincident out of his mind because, he reports, he wasrelieved when over time nothing serious happened. With thecoming of the new year he was prepared to dismiss the memory111as but a hallucination, when once more he sees his Doublewalking towards him on the street with a double of his wife.The third appearance, about five weeks after the second,takes place in Sasaki's home study: the Double and secondwife are busy reading Sasaki's diary when he enters andfinds them, busy prying into the one area of his life wherehe may actually have honestly recorded his thoughts.Following this discovery Sasaki passes out; his wife reviveshim and he confesses to her the events of the previous fewmonths. The letter ends with a plea to the chief of policeto put an end to the apparently widespread attacks on thereputations of Sasaki and his wife. The second letterinforms the same person of the wife's disappearance andSasaki's intention to pursue research into the supernatural,in an attempt to learn why he has been plagued by suchcatastrophic visitations. A number of factors in Sasaki'snarrative in the first letter, however, make that answerclear, and indicate a distinct attempt on Sasaki's part toinfluence, in effect to create, his own story.Throughout the letter Sasaki repeatedly draws attentionto his own sanity; if after the first occurrence of theDouble he was inclined to explain it as a hallucination,after the second sightingbefore I could believe in the objectiveexistence of my second self of course Idoubted my mental state. Yet there wasnot the slightest confusion in my mind. Icould sleep easily; I could even study... Nomatter what, I had to believe in this existenceoutside of existence. (11:24).The reader may well question that Sasaki could sleep easily,after seeing a distinct, apparently real image identical to112himself even down to the shoes he was wearing, behaving in away decidedly unusual. This sort of sleep is perhaps more ofthe type eagerly sought by one so overwrought by a mentalstrain virtually beyond his ability to bear that he mustdeny not only that taxing psychic burden but in effect theentire world and seek refuge in the gentlest of oblivions,sleep. The shock of the third sighting causes him to loseconsciousness; it calls forth from his mouth "a shout whichI myself did not comprehend" (11:25). One may well ask whatit is that most disconcerts him about this third visitation:its very occurrence, or the invasion of his thoughts, thediscovery of the secrets which he has perhaps confessed inhis diary, read with such "cynicism" (11:25) by the pursuingdoubles of himself and his wife. His reaction to his wifewho revives him from his faint is most interesting: havingexplained the situation to her, including the precedentswith which he had commenced his letter, giving in to herrequests to confide in her what troubles him, a concern heattributes to her worry over hearing rumours that "the worldentertains doubts as to my wife's virtue" (11:26), heproceeds to blame the creation of the doubles on herhysterical nature, again citing a precedent, and concludingthat it would probably be possible to find two or threecases like that of his wife. Although he claims to trusthis wife, and urges her to trust him, although, indeed heexpends great energies following his report of the firstvisitation to proving the profound love there is betweenthem, nevertheless he writes that "such a strange phenomenonwould be easily originated in a woman of a hysterical nature113such as my wife" (II: 27). He consoles his wife with thesewords, he writes; this is how he trusts her character.Sasaki's letter is well constructed: following histirade about the depth of feeling existing between himselfand his wife, he apologies for allowing his pen to getcarried away from the main topic by a rush of emotion (v.2p.21); describing the third sighting he allows himself todisplay a flash of humour in his style, quickly replaced bya sincere expression of horror and dismay: coming into hisstudy, on the bookshelvesof course there was nothing changed. However, who onearth could they be, I wonder, the man seated by mydesk, and the woman at his side, standing half-turnedtowards me? Sir, for an instant I saw my second selfand second wife. Though I try to forget my fearfulimpressions of that moment, I cannot (11:25).His descriptions are well calculated to convey a dramaticeffect, to paint in rather bold colours the eeriness of hisstudy when occupied by phantoms. Sasaki's second letteraccuses the police chief of negligence, which has broughtabout the "final misfortune" (II:30) for himself and hiswife, who, he writes, "the previous day suddenlydisappeared; as yet I do not know what has happened to her.I fear the worst. Unable to bear the pressures of the worldhas she not committed suicide?" (ibid). Such a melodramaticshifting of blame to an innocent third party indicates adesperate attempt to bolster Sasaki's own self-perception,to deny his own culpability in this and the previoustroubled period. "The world has killed an innocent person.In this hateful enterprise, you, too, Sir, have become anaccomplice" (ibid), accuses Sasaki who has not lost sight ofthe necessity to write his own alibi, which is in fact what114his first letter becomes, a testimonial to a series ofevents for which Sasaki need claim no responsibility. Thesecond letter embarks on an exploration of the unknown areasstill left within the human psyche, the places wherein evenin dreams there are whole crowds of people infected withcontagious, mysterious disease" (ibid) which Sasaki now vowsto investigate, for "there is hardly anyone other than my-self who knows how quickly one can be infected, by even asingle kiss" (ibid. Note too here the association again ofwoman with infection). So contorted is Sasaki's effort tovindicate himself and accuse every aspect of society ofblame for his wife's disappearance that Akutagawa, inhanding along these letters, grows fed up with thischaracter's scrambling to protect himself, and "has decidedhere to omit the rather lengthy, virtually meaninglessphilosophical stuff written after this" (ibid). Sasaki, inwriting to the chief of police, in appealing to the author-itative figurehead of those charged with maintaining law andorder, with maintaining the civilized, rationally socialportion of man's existence, is appealing to this authorityto validate the effort he is making, through writing, tomaintain his own sense of guiltlessness for the problems heand his wife may have been experiencing in theirrelationship. His protests of his own rationality are tooinsistent, his assertions of his wife's love for him are tooidyllic, his letters are too structured, and his shock athaving his diary read is too cataclysmic to suggest anythingother than a lurking sense of guilt. Throughout the firstletter Sasaki emphasizes features of others: rumours of hiswife's115infidelities, her hysteria, the viciousness of society; thestory he writes is one very sympathetic to his ownpredicament, and he even goes so far as to declare that,even if his wife were responsible for the creation of thedoubles, "yet throughout it all she must have borne aconcern for my affairs in mind" (11:28). The Double in thiswork is clearly a manifestation of something Sasaki wouldlike to keep hidden, an embodiment of some accusatory forcewhich, presumably, will not let off haunting Sasaki even nowthat his wife has disappeared. It is even possible thatthis force is accusing Sasaki of a buried desire to murderhis wife, a desire he may finally have satisfied, motivatedby a deep-rooted resentment towards something in her whichoppresses him. The rumours of her infidelity, Sasakiwrites, "even before that time had reached my ears" (11:26),and his text bears witness to the fact that he can be sweptaway by passion, as has happened when he described, inemphatic terms, the love he feels for his wife: this, eventhough his letter is carefully contrived to present apicture of himself as the victim of a supernatural event.Can one conclude then that the rumours about his wifeare justified and that in fact something in Sasaki, somepossibly anti-social aloofness, drove her to seekfulfillment with another man? Indeed this is a possibility:there is a certain hostility towards the world evident inSasaki's tone, and his employment as an instructor of logicand the English language indicates a contact, an intimacywith things foreign: perhaps this will equate to apreference for things foreign and dissatisfaction with116things domestic. If so, the trace of exotic sophisticationlent him by his Western experiences, while initiallyappealing to his wife, could conceivably have grown sour toher after the close confinement of marriage, and left herwith the feeling that she had made a mistake. It isinteresting that Sasaki sees not only a double of himselfbut of his wife as well: this second couple is united inprying into his secrets (for they are seen most closelytogether when reading Sasaki's diary). They are a coupleable to exist more fully as a couple than the real husbandand wife, who cannot even enjoy of their own accord a nightat the theatre -- it must be thrust upon them by wellmeaning friends (who are friends of the wife) perhaps ableto perceive the boredom into which she has been plunged.The wife's ultimate fate must remain a mystery; Sasaki's isapparent: he shall launch himself into a homeless pursuit ofthe supernatural, a barely coherent search for his ownDouble, that is, a mad quest for the possessor of hissecrets, the truths written down in his diary but neveracknowledged, never fully admitted. Sasaki shall runhimself into the ground chasing an accusing phantom whichpursues him: himself, the true first son who is anything butbelievable.In "Kage" (1920; tr. "The Shadow" 1988), Akutagawaagain takes up the theme of the Double. This work isparticularly complex and shows a direct development of themotives which may have driven Sasaki to murder his wife.This story concerns Chin Sai, an import-exporter living inJapan, one of foreign birth who speaks Japanese with an117"unusual authority" (IV: 207), a man who has hired adetective to spy on his wife who suffers from nervoustroubles, imagining herself to be watched (a condition nodoubt exasperated by the actual presence of the detectiveassigned to follow her). Chin has been receiving unsignedletters advising him to divorce his wife, Fusako, because ofher reported infidelities to him; at the same time Chin hasbeen having an affair with a cafe waitress, an occupationonce engaged in by his wife, who in the past had received anumber of expensive rings from various men, all involved inthe business of trade. The accusatory letters all come fromChin's own secretary, a man named Imanishi (written,intriguingly, with characters meaning "Now West." This is acommon enough name, but Akutagawa's use of it is telling inlight of Coates' researches into the type of cultural splitwhich can motivate one to write of the Double) who harbourssome desire himself for Fusako, and whose face, when writingto Chin, takes on "the mask of hatred itself" (IV:221).Chin, returning home after a meeting with a detective whoreports nothing untoward in Fusako's day, follows a manalong the path to his own back gate; inside his house, Chinstands outside his wife's locked door until the silencewithin forces him to break in: there he discovers " a ChinSal completely identical" (ibid) to himself, lying atop thestrangled corpse of his wife, his fingers still clutchingher throat. The first Chin collapses in tears and the storyends to reveal the narrator "seated in a box at a certaintheatre together with a woman" (IV:222). This unidentifiednarrator describes the film he's just seen, "Kage" ("The118Shadow"), to the woman, who informs him that that was notthe film just shown; nonetheless she admits to having seenit too, sometime. The story finally ends with the woman'ssuggestion that they both " 'pay no attention to 'TheShadow' and things like that' " (IV:223).Despite the very different structures of the two works"Futatsu no tegami" and "Kage" their similarities andaffinities are plain. In both the central character is onewho has good reason to question his own behaviour yet putsgreater faith in the reported faithlessness of his wife thanperhaps he should, and both of these characters have someair of the foreign about them either by birth or educationthey do not fit completely into the world around them. Thisincompatibility with the world is not necessarily negative;indeed the unusual authority with which Chin utilisesJapanese, echoing the highly polished style of Sasaki'sletter, indicates a powerful character capable of somedegree of self-confidence, some measure of self-assertionsimilar to that called for by the earlier characters'confrontations with their vices or features as in "Hyottoko"or "Shuchu" which in effect split them from themselves.Sasaki too displays a remarkable fortitude, a definiteindividualism in vowing to fight the entire world'sunfavourable judgement to clear his name and that of hiswife: unfortunately for Sasaki a decidedly psychotic andrather paradoxical fear of self-discovery has motivated thisindividualistic battle which is actually a battle againsthimself. Chin Sai's double murders his wife, perhapsbecause of the letters, perhaps because of his own119dissatisfaction with her steadily worsening nervouscondition, for which he himself may well be responsible;there is evidence that Sasaki too may have held similardesires for freedom and revenge, desires condemned asshamefully reprehensible by his double who, with a duplicateof his wife, mocks his marital relationship and blames himfor its possible failure. And yet the first Chin displaysanger and regret over what has happened; his is the moresympathetic character, though one may argue that in waitingso long to enter his wife's room he ensured the scene he wasto discover. Nonetheless in both cases it is the secondself who acts on what may be the true intentions of thefirst, who is privy to those intentions with a greaterknowledge than the first, and so is able to show contemptand condemnation for the first self. This builds on themodel Akutagawa introduced in his earlier works, that of thesplit self who is motivated by a growing uncertainty of thesource and nature of his own identity to rebel against anattribute which he sees as providing the surface of hisexistence in favour of a more 'self-created' life whichturns out to be a defeat of himself. Sasaki and Chin bothdiscover within their doubles aspects of themselves whichdestroy them, which destroy the lives they had up till thenled, even if that life had been born of a bad faith or self-deception. If Heikichi in "Hyottoko" is destroyed by thedrunken mask he wears when not creating his past throughlies and romantic exaggerations, and Ryu is destroyed by theparasite and its emissary, the barbarian monk, both of whombecome identified with Ryu through his fate, if these120characters are destroyed by their desire to createthemselves 'honestly', as it were, to assert their ownsingular existences through a denial of their predatory,parasitical split selves, so too is Sasaki destroyed, theveracity of his alibi destroyed by his own act of self-creation through the writing of his first letter. Chin'smarital life is ended by his Double, his story is ended bythe narrator who created it as a hallucinatory review ofthoughts perhaps closer to his heart than he would care toadmit, a dream sequence which may in fact be an indicationof desires he himself harbours, but which in any casecomments on Akutagawa's own self. He too is a witness tohis characters' confrontations with the Doubles they havecreated for themselves, as Akutagawa has created them forhimself.All of these characters engage in acts of self-creation, of self-assertion motivated by elements ofthemselves which take on the proportions of separate,mocking, accusing entities. Akutagawa's characters, pursuedby themselves, become pathetic figures desperately in searchof ways to lead their lives in accordance with the standardsthey have unknowingly set. That is to say, the Doubles theysee or halves split off from themselves challenge them toface honestly what it is they try to suppress, be thesesecret fears of fitting into an unaccepting society ortrusting with their affections women who remain complexindividuals with their own pasts and needs. That thesecharacters attempt to create themselves through fictions(either verbal lies or concretely constructed letters or121films dreamed into external reality) reflects Akutagawa'sown project of defining himself in a fiction world, ofturning to writing, the manipulation of images and self-reflections, to create a durable facade behind which hecould be free to exist. Such is the quality of Akutagawa'sindividualism, however, so mixed as it is with a pessimismand cynicism truly tenacious, that for him, no expression ofself-assertion is possible outside of a context of insanityor doom: none of his characters survives his own or hisdouble's attempts to found this liveable, singularexistence, none remains with sanity or health intact, justas Akutagawa himself degenerated into increasing paranoiaand despair, finally destroying himself, having writtenhimself out of existence. His last works attain toautobiography, and yet these are almost more biographical,written from a definite distance, through the mediation ofan unshakeable resolve to demonstrate the ultimate proof ofone's self- assertion, the choice of the time and method ofone's own death. Self-creation for Akutagawa, possible onlyin fiction in the end amounted to only a fiction: forhimself, as well as for his characters, individual triumphwas possible only in death.122BIBLIOGRAPHY TO CHAPTER THREECoates, Paul^The Double and the Other: Identityas Ideology in Post-Romantic Fiction, MacMillan PressHong Kong: 1988Keppler, C.F.^The Literature of the Second Self,New York: MacMillan 1969Miyoshi, Masao^The Divided Self, New York, LondonNew York U Press, U of London Press1969Sartre, J.P.Yu, Beongcheon.Yoshida, SeiichiSaint Genet, tr. B. Frechntman,London: W. Heineman Ltd., 1963Akutagawa: An Introduction,Detrott: Wayne State U Press, 1972Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Tokyo:Ofusha, 1979CHAPTER IV"HAGURUMA": A CONCLUSIONAs Akutagawa's self-doubts and depression grew, hiswriting, the vehicle by which he attempted to stabilize hisexistence, grew less effective as a means of fending off hisparanoia, and became less rigidly constructed into linearworks progressing smoothly from beginning to end. While"Rashomon" or "Onna", for example, presents a centralcharacter in a definite situation who moves through aprocess by which his or her life changes, arriving at adefinite concluding point or decision, later works such as"Aru Aho no Isho" maintain a far sloppier formal quality,doing away with or making do with a far less exacting plotstructure or even a precise telos. His writing too changedin subject material: like an addict needing ever increasingdoses of his drug to achieve the same effect, Akutagawaneeded an increasingly explicit autobiographical process topresent himself to himself as alive; hence the venture intoautobiography which finally, at the end of his life, heundertook. Works such as "Aru Aho no Isho" (1927; A Fool'sLife, 1961), and "Haguruma" (1927; tr. "Cogwheels" 1965),even "Kappa" (1926; tr. "Kappa" 1964), contain clearly drawnportraits of a man writing a life for himself. This presentstudy has perhaps excessively though necessarily conflatedliterary analysis with biographical inquiry; in these later124works however, such a merger becomes difficult to avoid, atbest. Akutagawa's autobiographical texts maintain adistance between the authoring self and the authored whichreinforces the impression given by the term 'autobiography'when translated out of the Latin in which it hides, that ofa man creating himself on paper. His most desperate moodswhen placed on the page are mediated through an act oftranscription which renders them observable to the veryperson living them. As Akutagawa writes in "Haguruma", "I'veneither parents nor wife nor children, only the life whichflows from my pen" (VIII: 81): and this life becomes not somuch accessible as describable, as present to hisimagination through his reading of it. This very pen whichcarves out from the blankness of a page Akutagawa's lifeitself seems to have an independent life, occasionallyracing across the lines, occasionally resisting his everyeffort to move it; when it does move, it writes, as in "AruAho no Isho", of a 'he' who floats through a series offragmentary scenes which jump between past and present.Akutagawa's fondness of the Double, of a figure the same yetcompletely different from himself, is related to this self-dividing process of writing: the writer and the reader whooccupy the same body though in different regions exist asstrangers to one another despite the shared frame which bothunites and separates them, as the subject and object of agaze are defined in opposite relation to each other though125both exist as part of the same entity, and though bothperceive themselves as sovereign subject.The intensification of the antagonism between Akutagawaand nature continued until his death, as did Akutagawa'sdistrust of woman's alliance with nature's hostility againsthim. The themes we've discussed in the preceding pages cometogether in a final display of fear and despairinglydefensive self-creation in "Haguruma", which Akutagawa didnot live to see in print. This piece, somewhat longer thanmost of Akutagawa's work, presents us with descriptions ofthe doubts which haunted Akutagawa's last period, thoughthey had been present all his life. Its story, such as itis, is easy to summarize in general, more complex toexplicate in detail: A character who resembles Akutagawa,though identified as only "A", leaves his mother-in-law'shome in a summer resort town to travel to Tokyo, there toattend the wedding ceremony of a certain acquaintance.While in Tokyo he feels himself pursued by ill omens and anapparition in a rain-coat. His brother-in-law kills himselfby jumping in front of a train while wearing such a coat,and the presence of death begins to oppress Akutagawa. Hisnervous condition worsens until, at his wits' end, hedecides to return home. There he spends a few peaceful daysbefore the spectres of his trip to Tokyo catch up with him;the work concludes with his rather pathetic pleas forsomeone to come strangle him in his sleep. Now that we have126the skeleton of the piece, let's look more closely at themuscles and the tendons, as it were, before evaluating thequality of the skin to discover how nature, woman, and theDouble merge into a portrait of a man doomed by his ownexistence.The work opens with Akutagawa "racing along in a carfrom a summer resort to a certain train station along theTokaido rail line.., to attend the wedding announcementceremony of a certain acquaintance... The road along whichthe car ran was lined with pine trees" (VIIII: 59) whichreceived the light of a winter's setting sun. In the carwith Akutagawa is one other passenger who tells him of aghost who appears at a certain house in broad daylight,though mostly on rainy days, dressed in a rain-coat.Arriving at the station just barely too late for the trainand so obliged to await the next one, Akutagawa notices aman in a rain coat who was "idly gazing outside" (ibid).Akutagawa moves to the station cafe where "on the dustywalls.., placards advertised oyako donburi, cutlets, andomelettes" (Viii: 60), dishes which emphasize theconsumption of flesh: oyako donburi for example is a bowl ofrice topped with, basically, a chicken omelette; the worditself means 'parent and child' donburi, uniting both indeath. These dishes give Akutagawa a feeling of thecountryside along the rail-line, a countryside in which"electric trains run between fields of wheat and cabbage"127(ibid), in which nature supports the proof of man'stransience, the trains which speed people along towards theend of their journey. This station reminds one of that onebuilt atop the Nakamura estate in "Niwa": both are symbolsof time's passage, literally of life's motion, placed overtop a nature which will outlast every life and everyconstruction. Finally boarding the train he awaited,Akutagawa takes his seat amongst a group of schoolgirls onan outing. The girls chat between themselves, makingAkutagawa feel as if somehow they are older than theyactually are; but when one does behave in an exaggeratedly'mature' manner, he feels her to be the most girlish of thelot. Akutagawa, "feeling as if they're suffering fromempyema, can't help but smile" (Viii: 60). The girls,Akutagawa feels, are diseased: the illness, chikunosho,empyema, which a reliable dictionary describes as "anaccumulation of pus, usually in the pleural cavity", isevery bit as indicative of an internal uncleanliness as thetuberculosis or leprosy Akutagawa employs in earlier works.The fresh, young bodies of these girls are still femalebodies, still for Akutagawa harbourers of consumptive,congestive illness.His train having arrived at a transfer point, Akutagawatramps along the cold platform and meets an acquaintancesporting an impressive ring purchased from someone whosebusiness in Harbin -- a city in northern China which was the128site of imperialist, colonialising entrepreneurialactivity -- has failed. The two chat when another man in araincoat sits near them. Akutagawa is about to tell hisfriend the tale of the ghost when his friend points out awoman across the way: he knows her slightly, and relates atrivial anecdote about her. Akutagawa has his attentiondrawn to the "mouse-coloured shawl" (Viii: 62) she iswearing; she seems "shabby" (misuborashii, ibid), "somethingaround her eyes making one feel she's a bit crazy" (ibid).From out of her packages a "sponge resembling a leopard"(ibid) protrudes.Akutagawa arrives in Tokyo; the man in the raincoatfrom the train had at some point disappeared from sight. Enroute to his hotel room Akutagawa suddenly recalls the pineforest he had travelled through earlier, and becomes awareof a growing hallucination which had been recurrentlybothering him for quite some time: a series of ceaselesslyrevolving cogwheels (the 'haguruma' of the title; this wordis literally a 'toothed wheel' and implies a number ofthings: the teeth indicate a consuming quality, somethingpredatory, which is united with a spinning wheel, associatedwith the Buddhist Wheel of the Law, the symbolicrepresentation of the cycle of birth and death though whichthe unenlightened must eternally go. The wheel too, closelyrelated to the Buddhistic meaning, signifies the cycle ofnature which Akutagawa perceives as hostile to him; hence129the teeth) which after peaking in intensity fade, leavingbehind them a dull headache. Depositing his possessions inhis hotel, Akutagawa makes his way to the wedding banquetwhich has already begun before he arrives. His place isbeside that of an old scholar of Chinese classics who wears"sideburns just like a lion's" (Viii: 63); after speakingfor a while with this man about mythological creatures suchas the kirin and the phoenix, Akutagawa feels a destructivedesire and denies the authority of certain long-cherished,canonical texts. This of course infuriates the classicist,who breaks off their conversation with " almost a tiger'sroar" (ibid). Akutagawa turns his attention to the slice ofmeat on his plate, carving it with his knife and fork, whenhe notices a worm " calmly wriggling" (VIII: 64) from it.Akutagawa sips his champagne, watches the worm, and eatsnothing.Returning to his hotel room the hat and the overcoatthat he had hung on the wall make Akutagawa feel as if he'slooking at himself -- he "hurriedly" (ibid) hangs theminside a closet, out of sight. He stares at himself in themirror, "the worm floating up clearly in [his] thoughts"(ibid). Leaving , actually fleeing his hotel room, he goesto the lobby, there to sit for not even five minutes, for"even now there was a rain coat hanging limply from the backof a sofa beside" (ibid) him. He flees the lobby to walkalong the hotel porch, there overhearing some one speak the130English words 'all right', which begin to haunt him and sendhim of course back to his room. Once there, "trying toavoid looking in the mirror" (VIII: 65), he sits himself athis desk which is covered with green Moroccan leather "closeto lizard skin" (ibid), and tries to work on a short story;"however the pen filled with ink simply does not move"(ibid), resisting his effort till seemingly of itself itwrites over and over the English phrase 'all right, allright'. The phone beside his bed rings, bringing hisniece's call informing him of his brother-in-law's death:he had jumped in front of a train while wearing a raincoat,"not in keeping with the season" (VIII: 66). "Now knowingwhat was meant by 'all right' " (ibid), Akutagawa hears thesound of wings from somewhere down the hall, and wonders ifsomeone isn't feeding a bird.When Akutagawa wakes the next morning one of hisslippers is missing; the hotel boy finds it in the bathroom,suggesting that perhaps a rat moved it. Akutagawa, drinking"coffee without milk" (ibid), works on a short story,"staring out at the snow in the garden... The snow beneaththe daphne and its buds were soiled... from soot and grime.It was a scene which somehow gave (him) a pitiable feeling"(itamashisa, ibid). Idly thinking about his family and hisbrother-in-law he tries to write but "no matter what the penwould not move easily along even a single line: (Viii:67).Putting aside his work he reads Tolstoy's Polikouchka, and131feels as if his life is reflected in its hero as a"caricature" (ibid). He is particularly "upset at feelingthe cold smile of fate" (ibid) within the work's tragedies,finally flinging the book with all his strength to onecorner of the room. "So doing, a large rat runs out fromnear the window into the bathroom. At a bound [Akutagawa]follows, but looking everywhere, [sees] no sign of it"(VIII: 68).He again leaves his room to walk along the porch,feeling "as usual as depressed as if [he] were in prison"(ibid). He looks in on the cooks who "eye [him] coldly"(ibid). Feeling himself in Hell, he cannot help having aprayer escape his lips. Walking to his sister's house hesees that the branches and leaves of the trees lining thestreet are blackened and dead; this gives him "more thandispleasure, a feeling closer to fear" (ibid). Recalling the"souls turned into trees in Dante's Inferno, [ he decides]to walk along a street lined with buildings facing thetramline" (ibid). At his sister's he speaks with her of herhusband's death; she in turn asks him how he himself is andhe rattles off the list of sleeping drugs he must takesimply to rest. After only thirty minutes he leaves,intending to go to a certain restaurant. It is closed; hecan see behind its locked glass door apples and bananaspiled on its tables. Two other people pass him on his wayaway from the restaurant; "one seems to say just at that132moment, ' He's edgy, isn't he' " (VIII: 70). Akutagawadecides to check himself into a "mental hospital close toAoyama Cemetery" (ibid) where his mentor, Natsume Soseki,lies buried. Passing up several yellow taxis (which hefeels are unlucky) he climbs into a green cab, asking to betaken to the hospital; it is located on a small, twistingstreet which for some reason he cannot find this time,though he has never had that trouble before. The cab comesout onto a broad street near the cemetery and Akutagawarecalls that ten years before at Soseki's funeral, althoughthen too he hadn't been happy, at least he had been"settled" (heiwa, Viii: 72). He returns to his hotel, thereto find a man in a raincoat talking to a porter from thetaxi company: turning on his heel Akutagawa walks back alongthe street growing more and more despondent. He enters abookshop and idly picks up a book on Greek mythology, boundin yellow, "apparently written for children" (ibid). Hereads one line which seems to "strike [him] down"(uchinomeshita, ibid): "even Zeus, the greatest god, cannotequal the God of Vengeance" (ibid). He flees the bookstorewhile feeling himself pursued by the God of Vengeance.That evening in another bookstore he reads Strindberg'sMythologies and looks through an anthology of worksproduced by patients at an insane asylum; this publicationcontains a depiction of cogwheels identical to thehallucination which plagues him. Night falls leaving him133alone in the shop; like "a gambler" (ibid) he opens bookafter book, "all of which in either sentence or drawingconceal... needles" (ibid) to stab him. While flippingthrough the pages he recalls the pen name he once used (theexplicitly other identity he adopted for himself): he hadtaken it from a story of one who, before learning thedistinctive walk of his new province, forgot the equallydistinctive walk of his old home, and so had no choice butto move about in a crawl. "To all who can see [him,Akutagawa] must surely appear to be that fellow today"(VIII: 73), thinks Akutagawa to himself. On a poster abovehis head he sees a depiction of St. George killing thedragon, a particularly disturbing image to Akutagawa for hisown name, Ryunosuke, means 'dragon helper'. Akutagawa leavesthe bookstore, fleeing along the street. Looking up at theinfinite stars he tries "to imagine how small the Earth is -- and how much smaller still" (VIII: 74) is he himself.Once again in his hotel lobby he meets a friend whom heinvites to his room for a chat; all goes well till Akutagawanotices in a mirror a bit of yellow sticking-plaster behindthe man's ear, and realizes that he's been sent to learn hissecrets. After the man leaves Akutagawa reads Shiga Naoya'snovel An 'ya Koro (1921-1936; tr. "A dark Night's Passing",1976), feeling how stupid he is in comparison with thiswork's hero, who, as in Shiga's "Kinosaki nite", is able tointegrate himself into a larger, natural harmony. His134cogwheel hallucination comes once more; taking a large doseof sleeping medicine, he falls into a fitful dream. He iswalking away from his wife whom he leaves standing beside aswimming pool, telling her to look after the children. Hisdestination is a large pine forest, and he apparently has nointention of returning, for when his wife asks him to take atowel, he replies that he has no need for it. He feels astrong regret at leaving, but continues to walk; somehow,though, his location has changed. He is now on the platformof a train station, and before him he finds an old schoolfriend standing with an aged woman, whom he seems toremember from somewhere. He feels a "pleasurableexcitement" (vukaina kofun, VIII: 78) when he speaks to her.The friend and the old woman wave to him as he climbs,alone, onto the train which had silently glided into thestation. As he walks down the corridor a naked woman,"almost a mummy" (mirani chikai, VIII: 78), turns to facehim from inside a sleeping compartment -- he feels "she iswithout a doubt the God of Vengeance, the daughter of aninsane person" (ibid). Akutagawa awakens to the sounds ofwings beating and rats scurrying; he goes to the lobby toawait dawn, "like an old man suffering from a chronicillness who now awaits death" (ibid).Later in the day he takes up his pen to write; the pen"at a rate unusual for even [him] runs across the page.However after two or three minutes, as if some unseen force135were blocking it, it stops... An expansive delusiontakeshold of (him), and lost in a wild joy [he feels he has]neither parents nor family, only the life which flows from[his] pen" (VIII: 81). This wild feeling does not last longhowever for the telephone begins to ring; when he answersit, it spits out at himambiguous sounds... Surely it is saying the word'mole". "Mole' is the English for moguramochi [ whichcan be written with a kanji combining the symbol for'rat' with that for 'woman'] ... After a few minutes[Akutagawa decides] that the word was 'la mort', theFrench word for death: of course it unsettles [him]...However within [his] discomfort (he feels) somethingfunny. [He smiles]. How did it come about, this funnyfeeling. For a while [he stands] in front of themirror, thinking about [his] second self, whom,although [he has] never seen it, the wife of anacquaintance has. She once even apologised to [him]for not saying hello at a function to which [he hadnever gone]... Perhaps death would come to [his] secondself rather than to [him, Akutagawa thinks. Then hetakes] up the pen once more to begin writing a newshort story. (VIII: 82).Yet again leaving his room to walk, Akutagawa meets onelast friend, and old man who is particularly religious; hetries to convince Akutagawa to believe in the Christian God,but Akutagawa, sceptical, says that he can more easilybelieve in the Devil. Akutagawa wants to confide his fearsin the man, wants to ask him such questions as "Why am Ibeing punished? Why did my father's business fail? Why didmy mother go insane?" (VIII: 83), feeling that this man issomehow privy to the secrets of his life, but fearing thathe will report all this to Akutagawa's family, who will thensend him like his "mother to an insane asylum" (VIII: 84),136he remains silent. Taking leave of the old man he walks thestreets "like a thief" (VIII: 85). Driven back to his hotelby hearing two journalists whisper, seemingly about himself,in French, that the Devil is dead in Hell, Akutagawa decidesto return home. Again he races along in a taxi down thepine-tree lined road to the resort, this time being drivenby a man wearing a raincoat. He feels that the row of pinetrees is standing in a funeral procession.Despite a few days' quiet made possible by sleepingdrugs, all does not stay well at home. Akutagawa commentsto his mother-in-law that it is quiet here at her house, butshe tells him that nonetheless it too is part of the world.He passes an eccentric foreigner named Strindberg whoreminds him of the book on mythology he had read; theforeigner's black and white tie reminds him of the Black andWhite whisky he had drunk in Tokyo to remove the headachehis hallucination had left. An aeroplane flies overhead,reminding him of the Airship brand of cigarettes he hadsmoked at the hotel, even though he disliked the package forits depiction of man-made wings. His younger brother-in-lawtells him of an 'aeroplane sickness' which affects pilots, acondition in which they become accustomed to breathing thethin, high-altitude air, and can no longer breath at groundlevel. These various occurrences terrify Akutagawa: walkingin the forest to get away he finds a dead mole, andencounters a crow which screams at him four times (in137Japanese four and death are homophonous). Back at home helies down, only to see the shadow of large, black wingsdescend over him when he closes his eyes. He is startled byhis wife calling to him to ask how he is: she has had apremonition that he has died. This, he says, is "the mostfrightening experience of [his] life. [He has] no morestrength to keep on writing. Is there no one to comestrangle [him] in [his] sleep?" (VIII: 94), he pleads, andthe piece ends.In structure this is very much a dystopic quest romanceleading, as one would expect from that rather negativegenre, to a destruction of the protagonist. The varioustypes of questing fictions are distinguished by their toneand conclusions; their elements for the most part aresimilar. "The essential element.., is adventure, which meansthat romance is naturally a sequential and processionalform" (Frye, p.186). In a positive or utopic (rather,eutopic) quest, the hero is one marked for some specialpurpose or goal; he is set apart from more average people bya particular quality of purity or goodness. The hero "comesfrom an upper world, and his enemy is analogous to thedemonic powers of a lower world... The enemy is associatedwith winter, darkness, confusion, sterility, moribund life"(Frye, p.187), while the hero represents, in a word, thegood. He will be assisted in his quest by various helperswho are magical beings, often in disguise. While demons,138either deceptively appearing as those helping creatures orexplicitly revealed as detrimental, will oppose him.The quest may be for spiritual enlightenment, orTruth... but in any case it is likely to involve questfor the quester himself... The quester moves throughunfamiliar landscape toward a guessed-at but stillastounding token; the introspective venturer finds newawareness at every turn of thought and may at lastreach the hidden treasure of self-knowledge, anintegrated personality (Stout, p.16).Even in a questing story the goal of which is something asmundane as love or the return of a stolen wife, as in JamesBranch Cabell's Jurgen (1919, which represents an excellentvehicle for the study of this genre, for it sets out to be aparody of the form), the structural pattern closely followsa paradigmatic shape: the quester departs from his normallife at Point A, having seen a sign, received a message, orresponded to some inexplicable though life-long urge. Thesign or message may have come from a divinity eitherdisguised or explicitly revealed; in any event, the questermust travel far across perilous terrain, overcomingobstacles which are really tests. He encounters variouscreatures which either aid or oppose him, being in leaguewith the polar forces supervising his progress. Finally hearrives at a place which contains the most difficult test ofall, behind which lies the goal of his journey. He issuccessful, and hence returns to his normal life again atPoint A (which may be the same place in time as well asgeographic location) either recognized as a great hero byothers or (in the case of the more mundane tales) simply in139possession of the prize which lay at the end of his search;in either case he returns wiser, humbler, at last a completeperson. In a negative or dystopic quest such as, forexample, Orwell's 1984 (1948), an anti-hero (though notnecessarily the sort of negative personality type implied bythat term; quite often he is simply an averagely unheroic,though still marked individual merely in the wrong place atthe wrong time) will be set off from those around him bysome sentimentality, for example, some nostalgia for a timehe may never even have known, nor even coherently imagined,or be set apart by a desire for fortune, perhaps; hisjourney too will carry him across mysterious terrain ordark, secret dimensions of his ordinary life, and he shallencounter deceptive beings associated with a supreme andnegative being, or a 'Big Brother' figure, who has watchedthis protagonist for quite a while with malicious intent,and who shall trick the main quester into trapping himself.The quester's goal shall not be reached; or rather, his truegoal or fate, his failure and destruction, shall beinflicted upon him, and the point to which he returns atjourney's end will be the point whence his journey trulybegan: the nothingness which is his death.In "Hagurumau then, we have a character, Akutagawa,marked by the God of Vengeance and set off from the world byhis social alienation and fear of nature, who travels from aresort town surrounded by greenery whereat live his mother-140in-law and wife, into the city to attend a symbolic union ofman and woman. This union is the start of life, theritualised, socially sanctioned merger of two people who maynow legitimately bring forth new lives, that is, new liveswhich must one day end, little 'deaths-to-be': theostensible goal of Akutagawa's journey here, the apparentreason for his going to Tokyo, is to attend thisacknowledgement of sentience. Along his path Akutagawameets various watchers, the first of which are the pinetrees which line the road like sentinels in nature's employ,jailers ensuring his arrival at the one place to which he is'authorized' to go. These pine trees are of course greenyear round, and so in this piece, even though it is set inwinter and all around the trees there is the temporary deathnature reserves for its wards, they appear freshly alive:they therefore come to imply the life nature itself has, theimmortality it grants itself which permits it to rule overall else (it was to this eternal quality which Shiga wasable to attach himself at the close of "Kinosaki nite").The word for 'pine' in Japanese is a homophone for the verb'to wait' much as, in English, 'pine' is similar to the verb'to pine'. This association has long been exploited byJapanese poets to express the longing of lovers for eachother, but here takes on a much darker aspect, that ofnature 'pining' for Akutagawa's death (hence the pinesstanding in funereal ceremony at the work's close). Other141watchers include the various friends Akutagawa meets, whosesincerity or motives he doubts, such as the fellow with thesticking-plaster behind his ear sent, Akutagawa is certain,to espy his secrets. The blackened trees along Tokyo'sstreets, the rat in his hotel room, even the apples andbananas behind the closed restaurant's glass door, are allrepresentatives of the greater force operating behind thescenes, the force of nature which supervises Akutagawa'severy step. The recurring raincoat is the most obviouswatcher or guide here, appearing at each stage of thejourney; indeed it is the raincoated figure, explicitlyconnected, even over-connected through the brother-in-law'ssuicide, with death, who physically transports Akutagawaback to his mother-in-law's house whereat the true goal ofhis quest awaits him. This true goal is his defeat, hisrealization that he has no more strength to keep on withthis life. The many animal figures and animal featureshidden within people, such as the lion-like sideburns on theChinese scholar, and the mouse-coloured shawl worn by themad woman aboard the train, too, function as the creatureswithin a quest romance, all, like the old friend whobelieves in God, potential spies for Akutagawa's wife andfamily, all agents for the God of Vengeance so relentlesslypursuing his victim. The quest structure becomes completewhen, after experiencing his (mis)adventures in Tokyo,Akutagawa returns to his starting142point in possession of the knowledge his supervising god hadhoped to instil in him: that he must die.Nature here takes on a role as hostile as in other ofAkutagawa's works; it is insistent on the fate it demands ofhim, even assuming an all-powerful countenance, that of theGod of Vengeance intent on punishing him. However whereasin earlier works such as uNiwa" there was the possibility ofstanding up to this condemning force through the resistanceof artistic, corrective production, here all hope of escapehas been lost: the occasions on which Akutagawa tries towrite result in either frustration, for his pen refuses toobey him, or an equally frustrating feeling of possession byan unseen force. When the pen moves as if on its own, or asif moved by another, Akutagawa himself is not writing, isnot engaging in the same sort of defiant process as was theprotagonist's in "Niwa" or was that of the anonymous, insanepainter of uNumachi". Their work was a testament to theirrejection of nature's program: for Akutagawa in "Haguruma",such a rejection through work becomes barred to him by hispen's stubbornness, and nature, as characterized by thesooty snow outside his window, or the blackened trees alongTokyo's streets, becomes the unappeasable victor in thebattle Akutagawa had until then believed himself capable ofwaging. He feels himself stupid in comparison to Shiga'shero in An'ya koro, a hero who arrives at the sameintegrating conclusion as was found in"Kinosaki nite", an143acceptance of a natural place within an eternal, absorbing,non-individuating existence embracing both life and death;this feeling of stupidity indicates the extent to whichAkutagawa's faith in his own project had eroded, for hehasn't even the strength to reject a representation, anovel.Closely related to this inability to resist nature isAkutagawa's now open treatment of the Double through his useof an autobiographical mode, for the unseen hand which movesor blocks his pens is that very second self he claims neverto have seen, though its presence is frightening to him.The overcoat and hat he cannot face are him in duplicate;the face in the mirror he avoids seeing is not his face butthat of his Double. When Akutagawa's nerves are at theirmost frazzled and he is busily trying to write a bit ofcontrol back into his life his self-creation through thisact of writing takes on its most desperate form, and hisawareness of himself as a divided existence becomes mostacute. The "life which flows" from his pen, free of eitherparents or children, is a life created by one aware ofdividing himself into the writer and the written; henceAkutagawa experiences the unseen force which moves or stillshis (written) pen, for this existence captured on paper issubject to the passing whims of the 'real' Akutagawa, thatvery unseen force itself. The Akutagawa we read here is notthe real Akutagawa but rather a created second self who144himself writes about seeing a duplicate. Like the doubledcharacters of his works Akutagawa himself had become adoubled character complaining when he, unseen by himselfmoved his own pen. Like Sasaki Shinichiro whose greatestshock came from finding his double reading his diary,Akutagawa was terrified lest he catch himself reading theself he had created on paper. When Akutagawa, at the closeof "Haguruma", discovers the true end of his quest, themessage that he must die, he writes that he can write nomore: he can no longer write himself into life. The deathhe now expects is not one at his own hand, for he no longerknows that hand, he can no longer write it. Rather, hisdeath will come when someone strangles him in his sleep (itactually came from an overdose of sleeping medicine): heshall die while perhaps dreaming his birth, as he lived bywriting his life.One should not overlook the role played by foreignculture in "Haguruma": from Tolstoy to Anatole France,Akutagawa presents European authors as greatly influentialin his own self-perceptions. He describes himself as"stupid" in comparison to Shiga's hero, and feels a desireto deny the text of which he speaks with the old, lion-whiskered scholar. Further, he sees himself as caricaturedby Tolstoy, and feels an affinity for Monsieur Bovary: thisplacing of himself outside of Japan and within a foreignliterature, in fact within a fictional foreign world,145reinforces the alienation with which he lived, and makes himtruly comparable to the fellow from the legend who forgothis own walk before learning that of strangers. No longerbelonging to the old, Akutagawa could find no acceptance inthe new; this new culture, while attracting him to itspromise of individuality, and although affording him theliterary forms through which he was able to find atemporarily effective mode of self-creation, ultimatelyfailed Akutagawa for his demands on it were too great: ittoo is part of the world which it cannot transcend, it toocontains alienating symbols, such as the dragon-slaying St.George, which serve to resist Akutagawa's desires formerger.The death Akutagawa expects is anticipated too by hiswife. When she comes to him at the end of the work with thepremonition that he has gone, she puts into words what everywoman in all of Akutagawa's opus has represented to him: themessage of his doom, his mortality. The women in "Hagurumaufunction as something like rough allegorical representativesof the women one encounters in one's life. First, themother, in this case the mother-in-law, presides over theplace whence Akutagawa's quest begins. She is something ofa zero point, existing before the life of the quester, andto which he will return at the end. He leaves her house inthe forest, the place of the mother firmly located withinnature, and goes to the city, the location of human society.146Akutagawa in this work as in his own life enters the humancommunity, the city, without (one may almost say 'innocentof') a mother's guidance. Expelled (or temporarily released)from nature's embrace he must make his way alone into asocial order filled with beings he feels are spying on him.As Akutagawa's journey progresses the women he encountersgrow older. Aboard the train he sees the schoolgirls, merechildren who strike him as harbouring within their youngbodies a comparatively benign disease but nonetheless, ahint of infection which somehow reassures him, for he cansee through the vigour of their young bodies, the deceptivefreshness of their pre-nubile flesh, to the sexuality anddanger hidden therein. He next meets his friend at thetransfer point and they, now themselves like schoolboystrying to be sophisticated, gossip about a young woman. Sheis perhaps symbolic of the woman for whom one develops achildhood crush, from whom one receives an intimation ofsexuality: there is a certain deprecation in their talk ofher, for she is "what do you call it... 'modern' "(VIII: 62): by this is implied the phrase 'modern girl'popular in Japan in the early part of this century todescribe a young woman who dresses and behaves in a foreign,western fashion. The 'modern girls' (and their malecounterparts, 'modern boys', known in Japanese pronunciationof the English words as simply 'mo-ga' and 'mo-bo') weregenerally condemned for being of looser morals than were147more traditional young women. Akutagawa is sensitive to thiswoman's appearance, noting details in it which threaten him(the mouse-like shawl, the leopard-like sponge): he is awareof her femaleness, and it too contains disease (the leopardbehind the mouse). Her illness is more subtle than that ofthe school girls, however, appearing as "something betweenher eyes which makes one think she's crazy" (VIII: p.62):this is more dangerous than a child's disease for there isnothing amusing in it. She is as savage as the leopardhiding in her parcel, as the predatory creature Akutagawasees concealed in all women. Her madness is directlyopposed to rationality, it is a direct threat to Akutagawa'sown sanity. Immediately after Akutagawa encounters thiswoman he suffers from the appearance of the cogwheelhallucination; although the woman is not the direct cause ofthat vision, she is a factor, through her madness, whichbrings it into this work: her insanity provokes a responsein Akutagawa, a reaction which is his sighting of thehaunting, cyclical motion of nature.Next Akutagawa arrives at the wedding dinner; here ofcourse the bride, though not even described by Akutagawa, isof tantamount importance. At this ceremony, the ritualjoining of two people who may now legitimately bring forthnew life, Akutagawa discovers the maggot in his dinner whichemphasizes the 'deadness' of his food, the inevitable end ofthat new life here symbolically begun. Death asserts its148primacy at this ceremony which is a wedding for all present:Akutagawa does not mention his own wife before the dinner;only afterwards does he do so, and even this is done throughgradual means. Marriage slowly comes closer to his own life,coming first (in the revelatory process of the work) to hissister whose husband commits suicide (perhaps for no otherreason than that he is married), then by stages approachingAkutagawa. He idly recalls his wife while trying to write,while waiting for his pen to move and form words other thanthe 'all right' it insists on putting down. Finally hecomes face to face with his wife, but even this is an eventmediated through his imagination, for he dreams of her whilelying in drug-induced sleep. In fact in this dreamAkutagawa, not without a strong sense of regret, freeshimself from her, abandoning her with their children. Thisregret is interesting: it may have several sources, rangingfrom a regret he feels for his wife, to a realization thatin leaving her to enter the forest he is accepting his owndeath, to a regret that this is taking place merely within adream and is not an actual freedom for him. In his dreamAkutagawa also meets an old woman standing with a friend;the memory, un-placeable though definite, that he has ofher, and the excitement he feels when speaking with her,indicate her to be a mother figure for him. She has aged,though, from the mother he could remember in his life, whilethe friend (perhaps a displaced damage of himself) is still149young: Akutagawa here may be commenting on himself, on hisdevelopment possibly arrested at the stage whereat his ownmother died. Her aging would then indicate that forAkutagawa his mother has never truly died, living on as apresence (unrecognized though agitatingly familiar) withinhis mind. This old woman with her young companion wavewhite handkerchiefs at Akutagawa as he rides away on thetrain: she remains in the past as the journey of his life(such facile symbolism!) takes him away from her, frozen inone eternal, inner place, locked within Akutagawa's mind.Next in his dream, and in his procession of aging women,comes the mummified, naked woman, the God of Vengeance whomust be the daughter of one insane: she is a dead woman,incarnation of that force which has pursued and punished himall his life. This figure is the ultimate expression ofAkutagawa's Woman, a living, mummified presence who travelswith him aboard this train which takes him from and to heknows not where. All that is left to him now is to returnto the zero point whence he set out, whereat his wife andmother-in-law await his arrival, and his death.When, brought there by the raincoated ghost, he doesreturn to the resort town, and does finally walk through thewoods near the house leaving his wife behind, Akutagawameets natures's final messengers, the dead mole and thedeath-crying crow. Of these, the mole is the symbol richerin interpretive layers; as I mentioned earlier, the word for150'mole' in Japanese, Moguramochi, may be written withcharacters combining the element for 'rat' with that for'woman'. This is reminiscent of the mad woman aboard thetrain who wears a mouse-coloured shawl; actually, though itsounds best in English as 'mouse-coloured', the Japanesetext has nezumi-iro, which may mean either mouse- or rat-coloured. The mole here is dead; hence the association isone of a strong link between death and the two elements, ratand woman. The character then spells out, as it were, amessage accessible to Akutagawa in his nervously agitatedstate. Naturally Akutagawa did not invent this character,it had existed for thousands of years before he employed ithere. Nonetheless he did carefully select the creatureabout which he writes of finding it dead in his path; heselected this mole, I feel, precisely because it uniteswithin itself 'rat' and 'woman', unites them within a visualicon Akutagawa is able to present to himself as lying dead,as in fact being death. 'Rat', the taunting, naturaltrickster, and 'woman', the vengeful god, aging vessel fordisease, become united in la mort in a way inconceivable inany language other than Japanese but which, in thatlanguage, is disturbing enough to reverbate in the mind ofone dangerously unstable. Regardless of how much mediatingcraft Akutagawa displays in the construction of thisnightmarish quest, there is little doubt that by this pointin his life he was on the edge of rationality. For one in151such a state the play the words 'mole', 'la mort'(homophonous in Japanese as 'mohru1), and 'moguramochi'(when written with the above-described kanji) was notexcessive, was not absurd: it had profound significance forAkutagawa, and this significance was inescapable. He was todie. Akutagawa was many things; first of which he was anartistic genius who utilized the 'text-ures' of words, whosaw in words possibilities remote to, or even inaccessibleto, average speakers of a language. He was also of fragilemental stability: as such the rules by which he chose tocombine words and images were not those of average use. Wehave seen how he exploited the suggestive richness of kanjiprofitably to express facets of a character; in "Rashomon"the underling is aptly described by the term which names him(fortunately one which translates almost exactly intoEnglish). In "Futatsu no tegami" the name of theprotagonist, Sasaki Shinichiro, is a well-made indicator ofthe predicament in which the reader finds him. So too in"Haguruma" the illustrative kanji for moguramochi finds atelling place in the text and adds layers of meaning which,though not otherwise unobtainable, are certainly present tothe interpretive process.Akutagawa's 'last' woman is his wife, mother to theirchildren, bringer of death's premonition. We have seen inearlier works how sex or motherhood empowers a woman, bringsher closer to death (often too to her own death, something152which she is able to accept); here the wife, safe within hermother's home, which is itself nestled in a greenly naturalplace, has the power to announce that Akutagawa is dead, hasalready reached the goal of his quest. This announcementstrikes terror into him, he has no strength to resist it:having returned to the zero, starting point, he knows he hasleft to him no refuge from his avenging god, the ageless,undying mummy, as eternal as the pine trees, as the naturewhich now surrounds him and covers him with its beating,shadow wings. Akutagawa is engulfed in nature, is here atthe point whence he can write no more. He must plead to theblank audience which is his page (which is himself) forsomeone to come strangle him in his sleep -- to come destroythe written entity which presents itself as writing. Theperson to strangle and the person to be strangled are thesame: both are this self-authoring figure who can no longerwrite, can no longer divide himself into the subject andobject of his fictional gaze. Just as the narrator of "Kage"("The Shadow") awakens at the end of the story to reveal hisconfusion at having watched a non-existent film with anunknown woman who nonetheless knows the movie and thenarrator, so too Akutagawa awakens here to reveal hisinability to continue experiencing the sensations he createsfrom himself by writing them. The "unspeakable suffering itis to live amidst these feelings" (VIII: 95) is preciselythat: unspeakable, something which Akutagawa cannot put into153words, hence with which he cannot continue to live. He hadlived his life by putting it into words, by finding his lifein those black marks on the page which end here, in one ofthe last things he was to compose, with the significantlyforeign symbol, borrowed from a culture which seemed,deceptively, to offer a chance for renewal, for successfulindividuality; the symbol which summarizes not onlyAkutagawa's existence but all existences, all quests, andafter which nothing of certainty may follow, save for a fullstop: "?"In the above we have seen how Akutagawa's alienationfrom his family and social context operated to remove himmore and more from life, from himself. The works heconstructed from the various components of his existencereflect the views of this man condemned by his self-responsibility to an excess of freedom. The freedom tocreate himself on paper became in actuality for Akutagawaonly the freedom to end his life, the freedom to writehimself out of life itself and into a fictional realitywhich he could not sustain. The vague unease Akutagawa feltfor his future may have been, in effect, a form of writer'sblock taken to its most extreme expression, an end to allwriting. Akutagawa, faced as he believed himself to be,with a natural world which hostilely insisted upon hisdeath, alienated from woman, from the mother, the verysource of fear in his life for the insanity he saw as154inherent in her, tried to create himself on paper free fromthese twinned opponents to his individual existence, but inso doing created only a self which came to mock him. Thiscreated, doubled Akutagawa haunted its author; as we haveseen in HFutatsu no tegamiH and inHHaguruma", the doubledself accuses the first of harbouring flaws, imperfectionswhich invalidate that first self, and so too the characterswhich Akutagawa created, the self he wrote, pointed out tohim his own inadequacies. Growing more and more aware of hisfailure to create a durable though fictional self,Akutagawa came to hate and fear this self too: he fled fromhis doubled self, as we have seen in "Haguruman evenavoiding his own hat and coat for the resemblance they boreto him. Akutagawa's only freedom from this written,haunting self, his own creation , was to stop writing, butto stop writing meant an end to the life he lived, the onlylife accessible to him as his chosen existence. Such wasAkutagawa's paradox, the predicament into which he had ledhimself: to live meant to write, which meant to deny hisexistence, to mock himself; to cease mocking himself meantno longer to write, which meant no longer to live. Indeedno one knows, as Camus writes, the exact moment when onechooses to end one's life, when one reaches the decision tocommit one's final act: but one many pinpoint the precisemoment when that act is accomplished. Akutagawa lingeredover his decision to die, he savoured it, even reserving the155time necessary to create that decision too on paper in thesuicide notes he composed with as much deliberation anderudition as he composed the other pages of his life.Akutagawa, as any writer must be, was born of words; unlikemost writers, he died of words as well.156BIBLIOGRAPHY TO CHAPTER IVFrye, Northrop^Anatomy of Criticism, Atheneumwith permission from Princeton,U.P., (1957), New York, 1967.Stout, Janis P.^The Journey Narrative in AmericanLiterature, Greenwood Press,Westpoint, 1983.


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items