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Kokoro And The Parallels Of Historical Events

1228 words - 5 pages

Throughout history artists have used art as a means to reflect the on goings of the society surrounding them. Many times, novels serve as primary sources in the future for students to reflect on past history. Students can successfully use novels as a source of understanding past events. Different sentiments and points of views within novels serve as the information one may use to reflect on these events. Natsume Soseki’s novel Kokoro successfully encapsulates much of what has been discussed in class, parallels with the events in Japan at the time the novel takes place, and serves as a social commentary to describe these events in Japan at the time of the Mejeii Restoration and beyond. Therefore, Kokoro successfully serves as a primary source students may use to enable them to understand institutions like conflicting views Whites by the Japanese, the role of women, and the population’s analysis of the Emperor.
Kokoro opens with the depiction of a White man by the narrator. The narrator discusses the Westerner as a non-threatening individual who was swimming with his Sensei. He described the Westerner as wearing Japanese clothing, acting in taking cues and acting as Sensei does, swimming among other Japanese people. The narrator does not describe himself as being frightened or threatened, yet he feels overcome with a feeling of thinking this particular Westerner was “quite extraordinary.” (Soseki 1957, p. 4). This is in stark contrast of many of the early depictions of Westerners. For example as Duus describes Japanese individuals as referring to Westerners as “red-haired barbarians.” This also was described in class discussions as we viewed paintings by Japanese individuals who demonized Westerners and made them look evil and threatening. One can come to an interesting conclusion from the above comparisons between Kokoro and the class readings/discussion. Soseki lived through the Mejeii Restoration and more than likely encountered many different Japanese views of Westerners. Here, it seems as if Soseki is playing devil’s advocate to popular belief and describing this particular Westerner as non-threatening and willing to take up Japanese customs and ways of living. Soseki may have been trying to reveal the dominant belief (as described above by Duus) may have not been the only sentiment of whites in Japanese society. In fact, Soseki may be trying to reveal there were Westerners who successfully accepted Japanese traditions and customs. The narrator’s awe of this Westerner seems to reveal and highlight this point by his surprise that Westerners like this existed who were willing to adopt Japanese culture in a non-threatening fashion.
The role of women is also depicted at length within Kokoro in a few ways. As Sensei describes in his letter the way him and his wife came to be married (her mother and father choosing her husband for her), this point is described by Duus. Duus describes the heads of the households as the...

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