Social And Cultural Context Of Yukio Mishima's Swaddling Clothes And Evelyn Sharp's The Game That Wasn't Cricket

1211 words - 5 pages

Some people think that they should not have to read texts written in the past or in a different culture, because it isn’t relevant to them. As logical as this may sound, it is not altogether accurate: readers will recognise within the text ideas familiar to their own context. This is particularly true in the short stories “Swaddling Clothes” by Yukio Mishima and “The Game that wasn’t Cricket” by Evelyn Sharp. Written in Japan in the 1960s, “Swaddling Clothes” deals with the great western modernisation of the nation and the effects this had on its society. The loss of respect for morality that shows up in the story is one thing that readers from today’s western cultures recognise, together with the idea that although a culture may be altered, there are still many deeply imbedded societal expectations which are very difficult to destroy. One set of expectations, those of gender, has been challenged in Sharp’s “The Game that wasn’t Cricket”, which in its own context (England in the early 1900s) challenged the readers’ own beliefs. For contemporary Australian readers the story raises awareness of the true state of gender expectations within their society. Each reader’s cultural and social context influences their reading of these texts and they recognise elements of their own societies within them, enabling every reader to gain meaning from the texts.

As societies progress and change supposedly for the better, they often face difficulties in sustaining their morals and values under the pressure to conform. In the 1950s and earlier, before the rapid technological advances of the past few decades, morals and standards were very high and there was pressure to conform to these. However, in recent times as our society has been modernised, these morals seem to be disappearing. In “Swaddling Clothes”, as Japan is undergoing major social development, we see the loss of moral expectations in behaviour. This is done through the characterisation of Toshiko’s husband, who, as the main advocate for western modernisation, shamelessly exposes the story of the nurse who gave birth in disgusting conditions to his friends. Because of his lack of consideration for the nurse’s loss of moral values, evidently he does not think it very important to maintain these. As he is the main advocate for modernisation, the reader assumes that these two attitudes go hand in hand. The readers of today in western societies will no doubt see the link to their own context, as morals are defiantly ignored, respect for purity is ridiculed, and it is considered to be old-fashioned to care about personal dignity. It is clear then that society’s progression and development does not necessarily mean a positive change, for sustaining morals and values can be extremely difficult under these circumstances.

Although its culture may change, there are many deeply imbedded societal expectations that are very difficult to destroy, such as the roles for men and women. “Swaddling Clothes”, by...

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