Comparing the Themes of love in Akinari’s “Bewitched” and Saikaku’s “The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” Essay
Comparing the Themes of love in Akinari’s “Bewitched” and Saikaku’s “The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love”
Introduction: Summary of Stories
The story is about Toyoo, son of a rich fisherman, who marries a mysterious widow (Monago) of a respected local dignitary (Agata), after they met in a rain. After accepting to marry her Toyoo accepts an expensive sword as gift. It turns out, however, that the sword was stolen from a nearby temple and Toyoo was accused and arrested for the offense. During investigations into the matter it was realized that Toyoo had been bewitched by a snake in human shape. After this discovery he went to live with his sister, but Manago reappears only to persuade him that she is actually human. Thus their affair continued until the serpent was exposed by an old priest. Consequently, Monago was forced to flee. Toyoo returns to marry Tomiko whom he later discovered was also under the spell of Monagp. However with the help of another priest, the evil spirit was banished but Tomiko dies in the process.
The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love
The story is about Osen who marries a blue collar laborer who was in love with her. After their marriage Osen turns out to be an amazing wife, thus she satisfies her husbands ever need. Their marriage was later blessed with two kids and she has eyes for no one but her husband. However, thing turned around when she was wrongfully accused of having sex with Master Chozaemon. In the process of this accusation, Osen actually finds herself having sex with the same man she was accused of dating. Unfortunately for her she got caught in the process and because she couldn’t stand the circumstance, she was forced to take her own life.
Comparing the Themes
The theme of the two stories centers on love. The first story’s (Bewitched) theme seems focus on the usual confusion between love and lustful infatuation. Thus, the theme is that true love is not under the total influence of ones physical make up but rather his or her spiritual nature. This story tries to discredit physical appearance as a factor that influences ones interpretation of love. Thus, the serpent had a good knowledge of the fact that as long as it is under the disguises of young charming she can manipulate to Toyoo’s inner most being. The second story’s (The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love) theme is similar in the sense that the story also talks on the deceitful nature of lust and how it can lead to people to commit things they have never taught of. Osen, had been a faithful wife until she was accused of having an affair with another man. Thus.
“In winter, on windy days or when it snowed, she carefully covered his rice to keep it warmer when he took it out. In summer she kept a fan close to her pillow to cool him with. When he was out of the house she locked the gate and never looked at another man” (Saikaku).
She then commits the same act she was accused of. The two stories portray a common lesson which is for one to avoid jumping into conclusion. Thus, Toyoo became a victim of his quick conclusion when he agreed to marry a stranger. On the other hand, Osen became a victim of her husbands quick conclusion when she began fell into the same act she was accused of.
Answers to questions
1. What is the appropriate approach to love in Japanese society as suggested by these works?
The two works seem to suggest that a woman’s marital value is heavily based on her appearance as young woman. Thus, young widows have the opportunity of remarrying several times, as much as their youthful appearance can afford them.
2. What social factors must be taken into consideration when finding a spouse?
On social factor that seem to influence the finding of a spouse is the man’s ability to distinguish himself as a genuine man. That is, by diagnosing his sexual deficiencies and eventually achieving his masculinity. Thus, if Toyoo was able to clarify his sexual fantasies, perhaps he would have been able to avoid the bewitchment he underwent.
3 Where can wisdom about love be found?
Referring to the old priest’s advice to Toyoo:
“But you, yourself, owning to a lack of courage and spirit, fell victim to their temporary form. From now on if you act like a man and try to attain a more tranquil heart you will not need to depend on my power in order to get rid of such evil spirits. With all your might make your heart peaceful” (Akinari)
One can presume here that the common wisdom about love is found in the ability to defy every falsehood that hides the true spiritual nature of a being. This can be attained by being courageous as the priest advises as well having the spirit to get over certain obstacles that hunts ones innermost desires, which he or she is never willing to forfeit.
Richard Lane, Yoshida Hambei, Ihara Saikaku, William Theodore De Bary, Ihara Saikaku, Five Women Who Loved Love C.E. Tuttle Co., 1973.
Ueda Akinari, Tales of Moonlight and Rain, University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 1974.