An analysis of Testimonials from Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “In A Bamboo Grove” as partial fulfillment of the requirements in English Literature and Society. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke: “In a Bamboo Grove” Study Guide (; Shinchō) * Original: Yabu no naka, , Shinchō. (Click here to read in the ori. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of In a Grove. “In a Grove ” (sometimes translated as “In a Bamboo Grove”) gained worldwide upon the circumstances—“In a Grove” echoes Akutagawa’s earlier story “Rashmon.” “In a.
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If you have never read the short, or have never seen the Akira Kurosawa film adaptation in RashomonI highly recommend you check it out. Akutagawa Ryunosuke was not a Christian. Unlike many of his Japanese contemporaries who had their flirtations and affairs with the foreign religion, Akutagawa remained, to his death, unbaptized and off the records ggove any particular church. However, that he was influenced by the message of Christianity—and particularly the Bible—is undisputed.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part…. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: Paul spoke of the fickleness of the human understanding of reality. We interpret much of our world from second-hand information, and even the primary information we obtain through experience is carefully filtered im our very own brain—filled with its own particular set of personal bamvoo and subjective perceptions. At the core of In a Bamboo Grove we find Akutagawa exploring a very similar message, projecting it in his own uniquely Japanese style.
If ever there was a story put to writing that made one increasingly skeptical and untrusting of others, In a Bamboo Grove would be a likely front-runner.
The plot revolves around the idea that while absolute truth may exist, the human understanding of truth, or objective reality, is much more elusive, obscure, and subjective. What flaws in these methods are made apparent in the narrative itself and by the way in which the narrative is presented by the author? To begin with, a preliminary analysis demonstrates that the structure of the text lends itself to a philosophical discussion about the nature of truth.
The story begins with no definitive opening and culminates to no conclusive ending—a subtle reference to the akktagawa themes of uncertainty and ambiguity pervasive throughout.
Instead, Akutagawa drops the reader right into the middle of a court room drama from the opening line, cleverly assigning them the role of a judge in a homicide case. And yet, nothing is as concrete as it appears.
Seven testimonies are presented in all, the first four from passerby witnesses and the last three from those directly involved at the scene of the crime. The court room atmosphere is no coincidence; rather, it serves as a symbol for one of the foremost places in society where evidence is scrutinized in an attempt to reach the objective truth of a given situation.
In a Grove by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
That truth will be a central focus is even evident from the opening line of the story: Ultimately, we find there are only hints, but no consensus, as to what has actually occurred in the bamboo grove.
And while some devices may overlap among the seven testimonies e. The story begins with the testimony of a humble woodcutter who found the body of the victim in a bamboo grove close to where he regularly commutes to chop wood.
I am the one who grve the body.
In a Grove – Wikipedia
As an unassuming woodcutter who arrived on the scene after the crime was committed, and who, presumably, notified the authorities about the body, there seems to be little reason to be skeptical of his actions. If he has no reason to lie, why should we not trust him? We are persuaded to believe simply because we assume an impartial observer has nothing to gain by being dishonest.
Furthermore, his confidence in his answers adds the illusion of credibility. Confidence is a characteristic that will continue to resurface in the majority of the testimonies. And yet, despite the confidence of the woodcutter and the others, their collective confidence bambooo not produce a definitive answer to the akutayawa obvious question: The second testimony comes from a traveling monk who passed by the victim and his wife on the road near the scene of the crime on the day of the incident.
Aside from confidence, there are two other characteristics that draw us to believe his case: His authority comes from his title and position, not from any particular expertise. Just knowing that this man is a priest may influence a number of assumptions e. While some of these assumptions may be accurate, an assumption built on a stereotype cannot be a certain representation of the truth. As demonstrated in the following passage, his recollections are grive specific for a man who was merely passing by with no particular reason to pay very much attention:.
I think it had a kind of dark-red outer layer with a blue-green lining. The man … he had a good-sized sword, and he was equipped with a bow and arrows. I can still see that black-lacquered quiver of his: An author writing a short story must be succinct x their choice of words, and so we may well assume that the level of detail included here is deliberate.
Details exist to fill the gaps in our understanding. When searching for the truth, we often must search through the details to enlighten our understanding. The fact xkutagawa the priest is able to speak in such detail about his brief run in with the victim seems to add credibility to his testimony. By the end of the story, however, Akutagawa seems to be asking the reader if more information—more detail—really brought the reader any closer to complete understanding of what actually happened in the bamboo grove.
Aside from the use of authority and detailed knowledge, the policeman uses two additional devices to get us to believe him: Last fall, people at Toribe Temple found a pair of worshippers murdered—a woman and a child…. Everybody said Tajomaru must have done it. It is important to note that in his testimony, the policeman never claims that Tajomaru was convicted of the murders.
Reputations may be misleading, and the majority, colored by their own biases and subjective perceptions, may still be in error.
The final testimony from one of the non-suspects comes from the mother of Masago—the wife whose husband was found dead in the bamboo grove. Yet there are two other influence tactics which color her testimony: These two influences are felt most strongly at the end of her brief testimony:. Oh please, Sir, do everything you can to find her, leave no stone unturned: I have lived a long time, but I have never wanted anything so badly in my life.
Oh how I hate that bandit—that, that Tajomaru! Not only my son-in-law, but my daughter … Here the old woman broke down and was unable to go on speaking. Not only are the words emotionally charged, but they are coming from a mother whose child has gone missing—presumably raped or killed. Questioning such a testimony just does not feel appropriate, given the sensitive circumstances.
Who is going to question the sincerity of a mother crying over the distress of their child? By framing the testimony through the words of an aged mother concerned for her child, Akutagawa touches on another practical heuristic we use as humans to trust others: And yet, both emotion and sincerity are subjectively expressed and interpreted.
Emotions can be conjured up, and sincerity can be feigned. Her emotionally-charged delivery may aktagawa persuade our bmaboo of Tajomaru, but we are still no closer to the truth than we were before hearing her testimony. Despite his ill-favored characterization, Tajomaru uses some clever devices to make his confession appear honest and forthright. For one, his testimony is severely self-incriminating. We take self-incriminating statements as fact because we assume that people will not intentionally seek out outcomes that could potentially destroy their reputations or lives.
In short, Tajomaru has plenty to gain from feigning innocence and little to akutagaaw from faking guilt. His self-incrimination entices us to trust that his confession is genuine. In addition, Tajomaru also uses self-sacrifice to make his case even more convincing. Through the entirety of his confession he boldly champions himself as a thief, rapist, and killer, making no attempt to make himself appear in a more positive light.
I always knew groe head would end up hanging in the tree outside the prison some day, so let me have the ultimate punishment. As humans, we assume that people value i. We assume that his confession is sincere because he is willing to die for these words. But the significant contradictions found in the final two testimonies have the effect of leaving the reader puzzled.
Akutagawa grovs to be implying that no degree of self-incrimination and self-sacrifice for a cause will ever be an absolute indication of the truth of the cause; rather, these factors are only barometers measuring the degree of commitment of the individual. Like her mother in the previous testimony, Masago relies heavily on emotion and tears in order to plead her case. And similar to Tajomaru, her confession is very self-incriminating, as she claims that she killed her husband—not Tajomaru.
Through her self-depreciationMasago attempts to arouse both pity and compassion from the reader as a means of proving her sincerity:. And then—and then what happened to me? I no longer have the strength to tell it. That I failed to kill myself is obvious ….
I am still here, by no means proud of my inability to die. Perhaps even Kanzeon, bodhisattva of compassion, has turned away from me for being so weak.
But now—now that I have killed my husband, now that I have been violated by a bandit—what am I to do? Tell me, what am I to … Sudden violent sobbing.
As humans, when our emotions of pity and compassion are stirred for the affliction of another, it is usually if not always the result of a subliminal belief that gdove affliction is both valid and real.
The final testimony is, at face value, the one account that should be the most reliable of them all: The man himself surely had his own perceptions about what he experienced, but to express those perceptions through the mind and mouth of a medium complicates the picture. Akutagawa brings up an interesting question here: Takehiro clearly paints himself as a victim in his testimony, but he is not blatantly one-sided.
I had never seen her look so beautiful as she did in that moment. And what do you think this beautiful wife of mine said to the bandit, in my presence—in the presence of her husband bound hand and foot? Iin spirit may be wandering now between one life and the next, but every time I recall akutsgawa answer, I burn with indignation. Certainly, like Masago before him, Takehiro attempts to arouse the pity and compassion of the reader with his words.
In a Grove
But the substance is different. Whereas Masago tried to entice these emotions by being self-depreciating, Takehiro tries to draw out these emotions by being fair in his portrayal of the scene. When describing the wife who betrayed him and wanted him dead, he takes the time to mention how beautiful she looked. We assume that someone who is fair—someone who attempts to share both sides of a story—is trustworthy because they make no attempt to color the truth.
But even given our best efforts to be objective by being balanced, can we ever reach complete objectivity? To say that the reader, after having read the story in its entirety, is utterly clueless as to the truth of what has happened would be a gross overstatement of the theme.