The two narratives of What the Seasons Brought the Almanac Maker by Saikaku and the Love Suicides by Chikamatsu present variegated looks at the complications of love and society and the need for harmony between the two. Both are prime examples of Japanese literature, full of stock characters, ritual descriptions, natural imagery and aesthetic commentary as well as discourse which combine elements of Confucian and Buddhist thought. One could say that the variegated nature of the stories comes from their realism and use of a wide variety of elements to convey a story. However, it is important to realize that the narrative techniques used are not simply descriptive, they also establish the narrator's favorable or unfavorable opinion of a character: narration and literary devices are used to reveal the internal motives and principles of the characters, and it is on the basis of these measures, whether the character has consideration for others or pursues only selfish desire and sin, that the narrator paints the character in a negative or positive light.
[...] This is difficult to accept because the narrator is telling and not showing, and in the real-time of the novel Osan goes on to serve her husband the Almanac Maker dutifully for three years before falling into the devilry the narrator so suddenly finds fault with her for. But, the narrator seems more concerned with the idea of beauty as a distraction which encourages thoughts of pleasure and the chasing of desire. While physical perfection may represent an ideal for the playboys, it is not desirable for the characters in the long run because they will not be able to keep their duties in mind if they are tempted by other thoughts. [...]
[...] While the theater allowed him to see the truth and that his pleasure was actually a masked cause of suffering, as soon as he becomes aware of his situation from a personal viewpoint again he returns to being a stock character incapable of noble reactions. Fear controls him, makes him look comical, and he immediately puts his own concerns above any feelings of obligation to others again. In the “Love Suicides,” which is itself a play designed to provoke sympathy from audiences, Tokubei makes a reference to theatre causing tears, which shows that he is willing to and capable of seeing his situation from a distance, from the viewpoint of others, and not just from a self-centered viewpoint. [...]
[...] His naturally befuddled state and other minor character flaws not only establish him in a negative, somewhat derisive light, but they end up leading him into the most “dangerous game of the game of love. Aside from Moemon, who wavers awkwardly between stock character status and status as the hero of a love story, many characters in both “Almanac Maker” and the “Love Suicides” are straightforward stereotypes of one kind or another. As a result they are used almost purely for comic effect, and their ignorance makes them easy foils for the noble heroes such as Tokubei. [...]
[...] This is the reason the narrator gives a favorable portrait of Tokubei and it appears that Tokubei knows this about himself and contextualizes it in the form of a reference to the theatre. Unfortunately for Tokubei his comment on theatre fulfills itself. Although he managed to raise the money he needed, he lends it out again before it is due, out of kind concern for his friend. But this friend turns out to be the villain Koheiji, who betrays him and executes an elaborate hoax to show that the money was never loaned. [...]
[...] In the end, what matters is not the fact that Tokubei has outstanding debts, but that his character was strong: he chose not to be distracted by the worldly temptation to escape and enjoy his love illicitly, and earns spiritual recognition. Moemon and Osan on the other hand plunge deeper into their affair, disgracing themselves and the Almanac maker and ignoring the request of the deity Monju for Osan to embrace Buddhism and save herself. When they are finally caught and executed, they receive little sympathy from the narrator or the audience, which remembers Osan mostly for the pretty blue slip she wore when she was sent to her death. [...]
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