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The Last Samurai Essay

905 words - 4 pages

     The idea of honor is different to many people. The dictionary defines honor as, That which rightfully attracts esteem, respect, or consideration; self-respect; dignity; courage; fidelity; especially, excellence of character; high moral worth; virtue; nobleness; specifically, in men, integrity; uprightness; trustworthiness; in women, purity; chastity. [1913 Webster]. However in the film The Last Samurai, the idea of honor seems to differ between the different people in each culture.
     The Americans equate honor with how many battles have been won. Not necessarily how the battles are won. We are introduced to the idea of American culture changing the Japanese way by first being shown the Japanese buying advanced weaponry from the Americans. Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise was revered with utmost respect for his victories in the civil war and against the Indians. However through out those battles many innocent people were killed. These facts however did not stop the American government from awarding him many medals of Honor, and thus leading to his recruitment by the Japanese emperor to train his armies. No medals however could stop the nightmares that Algren would have every night as he replayed the dishonorable things he had done in past battles.
     The Japanese people were attempting to begin adapting to a western style of life. The government tried to take the samurai way of life out of their people. Some who believed that technology and firepower outweighed honor joined the army to be trained in American style battle. Japan believed that in order to succeed in the modern world they themselves needed to modernize. The towns began to change, people began dressing differently. Out went the kimonos and in came the suits and top hats.
Another look at the swing in the idea of honor takes place the streets of Tokyo. Japanese soldiers confront a samurai for caring weapons in the street. When asked to remove his swords the samurai does not comply, the soldiers answer to this by forcefully placing the warrior on his knees and cutting off his "top knot". The cutting of a samurai's topknot is a dishonoring action, and yet the Japanese soldiers believe that by upholding the law that they themselves are the honorable ones.
     The samurai warriors value honor above all, even life itself. The samurai seem to tie honor to many different religious beliefs such as karma, destiny and faith, although they believe that perfection can only be found in death. The idea of samurai honor comes from the willingness to die for a cause. The samurai believe that the loss of a battle is more shameful than dieing in the heat of...

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