UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Enchi Fumiko : a study in the self-expression of women Sodekawa, Hiromi


This thesis examines four major works of Enchi Furaiko in terras of themes, style, and plot development. In these works, Enchi created three "types" of female characters: the vengeful woman, the lovable woman, and the elderly woman facing death and aging. She attempted to show how it was possible for these women, all repressed by a society, to release themselves from suppression to express their hidden, real selves. In exploring these issues, Enchi drew heavily on her knowledge of the Japanese classics, especially The Tale of Genji and late Edo fiction (including Kabuki), creating a literary world in which the classical and the modern, the past and the present were conflated. Unable to express their true selves within the constraints of a repressive social order, her characters seek self-expression and Eros through the intervention of mediumistic, spiritual, and supernatural forces. In Enchi's works, when the characters released spirits united with their Eros, they realized their essential femininity. An analysis of four of Enchi's major works clarifies these themes and Enchi's literary world. Chapter One examines The Waiting Years, the work which established Enchi's reputation as a powerful novelist. Though marred by a lack of realism in the supportive characters, The Waiting Years succeeds in portraying a "vengeful woman" who expresses her essential femininity through revenge. A well-controlled, repressive style, influenced by that of The Tale of Genji and late Edo fiction, reinforces the theme of revenge and repression. In contrast to this vengeful woman, Tale of the Mediums, which is analysed in Chapter Two, deals with the "lovable woman." This type of woman uses her spirit force to express her suppressed love. This chapter attempts to explain how Enchi employs complicated stylistic devices and a plot in which historical facts and fiction, present and past, and illusion and reality are conflated, in order to describe an ideal love. Tale of the Mediums, which can be called Enchi's work of Heian literature, creates a highly sophisticated and even a slightly artificial literary world. Chapter Three focuses on the novel, Wandering Souls, which is part of the larger trilogy also called Wandering Souls. In this work, the heroine is neither a vengeful nor a loving woman. Although she is involved with men, love, and sex, she is forced to face the realities of aging, death, fear and loneliness. These harsh realities force her to release her hidden self from the forces of social suppression and from the barrier of her public self. Her self-expression takes place through the fusion of reality and illusion, in a world associated with that portrayed in The Tale of Genji. The Mist in Karuizawa, Enchi's most mature work, is the subject of Chapter Four. All of Enchi's major concerns are brought into focus in this work. Using an imaginary classical work as the center of the novel, Enchi develops two additional narrative lines to create a sophisticated, layered plot. The heroine is an elderly woman facing aging, death, fear and loneliness, and her self-liberation takes place in an illusional world created through reference to the Japanese classics. In this work an ancient high priestess symbolizes the essential quality of femininity, the unity of spirit force and Eros, and through a supernatural relationship with this priestess, the novel's protagonist also realizes her essential femininity and life force. This thesis, through the four works that are examined, can be considered an attempt to shed light on the question how Enchi's women characters express their hidden, real selves; it also attempts to assess Enchi's place as a modern Japanese writer.

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