Written by students of FC1750.06
Welcome to the World Wide Web Home Page of Road to East
at Founders College, York University
Vol.1, no. 3, June-August, 1996
Profiles of victimhood by Kobo Abe, Joy Kogawa, Steven Mosher, Amy Tan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Wany Anyi, and Evelyn Lau
Kobo Abe's The Woman in the Dunes features a nameless woman in the dream-like world of a village trapped by massive quantities of flowing sand. The "sand woman," kept by the village as a slave, accepts the seemingly meaningless life into which she has been forced. Joy Kogawa, on the other hand, presents the views of a Japanese Canadian woman struggling to redress her family's internment during the Pacific War.
The chilling story in A Mother's Ordeal, by Steven Mosher, revolves around a Chinese woman who struggled against all odds to have more than one baby. Not only was she a victim of China's one-child policy, she was a perpetrator.
East Asian women have been portrayed as tender mothers, miserable concubines, and innocent princesses, to name but a few. Their counterparts demonstrate bravery, self-assurance and self-determination. Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and Kazuo Ishiguro's A Pale View of Hills portray both traditional and non-traditional archetypes.
Extra-marital love figures prominently in Wang Anyi's Love on a Barren Mountain and Evelyn Lau's other Women. While Wang's tale is set in China, where society is known to be repressive, Lau's story has North America as its backdrop. Love brings the best and worst in women, who become its victims or their rivals' victimizers. The sad endings of both novels, by two authors with East Asian cultural backgrounds, demonstrate that women must stay strong to survive their traumatic experiences associated with illicit affairs.
II. Japan's literary scene
This report will showcase various styles, themes, and messages delivered by the likes of Kenzaburo Oe, Akira Ooka, Masabiko Shimada, and Amy Yamada, whose works are featured in a recent issue of the journal Descant, edited by Ted Goossen, et. al. Established and emerging writers alike have shifted their focus from nature to stark socio-political realities. As a result, they have also modified their modes of expression to accommodate experiments with new subjects.
Kenzaburo Oe departs from Japan's conventional mode of expression to write for a modern audience. In his works, there are several recurring images that characterize what is distinctly Oe's art. The development of a cultural hero, the defeat of Japan and the cost of that defeat, and the birth of a retarded son are themes Oe uses repeatedly in his progressively complex stories, notes Michiko N. Wilson.
III. Japan at war
From the Onin War in 1467 to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1945, Japan was an aggressor in starting many, if not all the conflicts in which it had been involved. Only once in history was it a victim to a foreign power, and this happened after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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