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Higuchi Ichiyos stories deal with personal conflicts related to a lack of socio-economic empowerment.

Show how this personal weakness develops in her Thirteenth Night and/or Separate Ways.

I will argue that Higuchi Ichiyos Thirteenth Night and Separate Ways highlights how a combination of male dominance, and a harsh economic climate, are key factors resulting in women especially having very little power in a Meiji Japan setting. In these two stories, strict gender roles have a negative effect on the protagonists lives. Firstly, it is necessary to establish the importance of the setting in which these stories take place. Japan during the Meiji restoration provides a background which sets up hardships for both protagonists of the stories under discussion. But what are these challenges? How are they created and to what extent? 1868 is the year marking the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, a period of drastic change for Japan. There were many political, economic, cultural and social reforms brought about by a combination of pressure from the West and domestic unrest. Female subordination was not only fostered by society but also encouraged by the state. The policies of the Japanese state toward women in these two decades, while sometimes cloaked in traditional rhetoric, summoned women to contribute positively to the state [] Various ministries articulated goals for women that included, but were not limited to, the twin ideals of Good Wife, Wise Mother (ryosai kenbo), popularized by the Education ministry (Hastings and Nolte 152). Good Wife, Wise Mother ideology is key to explaining what was considered to be the proper role for women in Meiji society. Domesticity was encouraged, women were barred from the political arena, and outside of work such as dealing with textiles, women had very few job prospects. Rapid change in Japans industry meant times were hard financially for many lower class people and it tends to be women in the lower classes of Japanese society that Higuchi focuses on in her stories.

Higuchi herself came from a modest family; her father had been a samurai before the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, but Samurai became only a title in Meiji Japan. With the death of her father and older brothers, Higuchi was left to support what was left of her family. Perhaps Higuchis own hardship gave rise to her empathetic nature toward the lower classes in Meiji Japan, and this empathy can be seen throughout her stories. [Higuchi] shows how varied educational, economic, and social class backgrounds could be, even in a small lower-class neighbourhood. She also shows how these differences lead to innocent children to follow predetermined paths in life (Omori 128). This is, in fact, an analysis of Higuchis Takekurabe, a coming of age story about children growing up on the outskirts of Yoshiwara, Tokyos only licenced prostitution district. However, aspects of this analysis can also, to some extent, be applied to Higuchis Thirteenth Night and Separate Ways. There is a presence of the idea that a person cannot change their fate. In Thirteenth Night, Oseki recalls her childhood with Kosaka Roku, and how she had wanted to marry him. She believed this would happen in her naivety, too young to understand that things get in the way of what [they] want (Danly 251). This sentiment is echoed in her fathers words, It was Osekis misfortune to have been born so beautiful, and to have married above herself (248). In Separate Ways, this idea is also present in the characters of Okyo and Kichizo. Kichizo has no family. Through no fault of his own he was forced to the streets as a child before he was picked up by an old lady to work in an umbrella shop. He believes that he will forever oil umbrellas; that for someone who does not know where he comes from, this is the only path for him. He reflects on these thoughts when he says I was born to wear a plain kimono with workmans sleeves and a short band around my waist (289).

Okyo is a slightly different case. Initially, she is simply a seamstress. Later on in the story, she announces good luck has come riding in a fancy carriage (293). She is of course referring to becoming a mistress and giving up her life of endlessly sewing kimono. Perhaps, this on its own could indicate a break in the chain of characters following pre-determined paths. But then again, put it into context and this is not necessarily so. Hanji, one of the village boys, discussing Okyo, says to Kichizo With a face like hers, you dont think shes about to spend her whole life sewing, do you? (293). Here, Hanji is voicing the expectation that because of her looks, Okyo is actually not destined to always be a seamstress. At the same time, he is casting his opinions on what will become of her, Shell be wearing tasseled coats the next time we see her [] like a kept woman (293). This also demonstrates the objectifying of women in this society. It shows how they are made to be observed, dressed in beautiful clothing and made up to please the man who keeps her, and to show her off as his property. Themes of patriarchal dominance occur from the outset in Thirteenth Night. In this story, what soon becomes evident is Osekis dependence, and her familys dependence, on her husband, Harada Isamu. Isamu is an abstract character and is never actually present himself in the story. Nevertheless, he is undoubtedly central to Osekis family. Why should you have to suffer like this [] Id like to see Isamu once and tell him a thing or two! (247). In modern thinking, perhaps this is not such an outrageous thing for Osekis mother to say. But especially to convey this to a man whose status who is much higher that their own, to a man who provides financially well for their daughter and grandson, and has a positive influence on their sons job, in a time where these are hard to secure, something like this would be unthinkable. Higuchi reinforces this reality by immediately following up with In her wrath, the woman had lost all perspective (247).

Despite being appalled by Isamus actions, Osekis parents would rather sacrifice their daughters happiness, and a large part of their own, than let her leave him. The first significant reason for this is the need for money. If she left him, Inosukes job prospects would dissipate. Furthermore, how is a woman to support herself financially without a husband, and having aged parents? Her father laments: How could he let her change into a work coat, with her sleeves tied up and her hair pulled back, the better to take in washing or to tackle the scrubbing? (247). He knew, and surely Oseki knew, that this was her future without her husband. Furthermore, not only Oseki, but her entire family would be subject to ridicule from their community. Feelings of disapproval and jealousy appear to have already risen when Oseki was to marry into a higher class, and so, she would have to endure much more scorn if she ended up leaving her husband. Leslie Winston has taken an interesting approach to analysing Oseki, She is not the author of desire or affect. Denial of her desire or proactive affect functions to reinforce Oseki as an object upon which the desire or persuasive intention of a subject acts (4). Essentially, Osekis weakness is highlighted by giving her very little individual identity. She is considered an object, forced to act her role accordingly, and moulded into someone as her husband sees fit. Oseki herself says From now on, Ill consider myself Isamus property (Danly, 249). At this point, she no longer sees herself as her own, individual person. Right from the beginning of the story, Osekis lack of individual identity is apparent. Before she is herself, she is Wife of Isamu or Mother of Taro. Oseki expresses this dismay she disliked it when [her parents] deferred to her as the wife of someone important (242). This story also places emphasis on the importance of motherhood as a key role of women in society; Good Wife, Wise Mother. When Osekis father is convincing her to go back to Isamu, he uses Taro as bait. He convinces her that Taro will be her reason to endure the

unhappiness. Oseki herself understands this: Youre right. If I couldnt see Taro, thered be no point in living (249). She does not question this way of thinking any further. Another main element in the story showing male dominance is when Okyo reveals she knows her husband is seeing other woman. Yet, not only does she not condemn this as such, she says it is to be expected. Had she begun to see another man, she would have undoubtedly been ridiculed and possibly abused. But for her husband, it was not seen as such an overly improper action. This reinforces the imbalance between men and women in their society. A man is afforded certain leniencies, even in his marriage, whereas a woman is expected to conduct herself in a much more faithful manner. One of the key elements to this story can perhaps be found in the closing lines of the story. One living on the second floor of Muratas boardinghouse; the other, the wife of the great Harada: each knew his share of sadness in life (253). Higuchi has ended the story on a sharp contrast. Kosaka Roku has ended up a poor man, and Oseki, meeting him on her way home, is shocked to see this. Falling into despair as he lost Oseki to another man, he is no longer able to keep himself together. Yet, here is Oseki, a beautiful woman, married to an important man, wealthy, and with a son, and she too has fallen into despair. This shows how the dynamics of the Meiji period affected all areas of society. Anguish was not reserved only for the poor. Although, the anguish Oseki felt is perhaps best explained by the fact she is a woman. She must adhere to her duties, as a woman, in this patriarchal society. Okyo, the protagonist of Separate Ways, is in many ways, vastly different to Oseki. Yet, as the story is broken down, similar patterns emerge as in Thirteenth Night which highlight the plight of woman in Meiji Japan. Okyo initially comes across as a rather good natured, high spirited woman. She is unmarried, and is only a seamstress, but unlike Oseki, she appears far less troubled by her situation. Even

when she says Ive had so many troubles on my mind, sometimes it feels as if my hearts on fire (289). It does not have any real impact on the reader. Kichizo, the person to whom she says this to, disregards the statement. It isnt until the story nearly draws to an end that we discover the extent to which Okyo is unhappy with her life. Okyo chooses to sacrifice her dignity, and become a mistress, so that she may lead a better life. When Kichizo tries to talk her out of it she snaps: Anything would be better. Im tired of these drab clothes. Id like to wear a crepe kimono too, for a change- even if it is tainted (294). Once again, being with a man has become the weak resolve for the heroine. In Osekis case, she went back to her husband. In Okyos case, she will become a mans mistress. They are both sacrificing pieces of their happiness, dignity, and freedom so that they can have financial security, and for Okyo, so she no longer has to do menial work. Separate Ways does not fail to convey the ever present idea of a womans helplessness. Its not the sort of thing anybody wants to do. But its been decided. You cant change things (295). Okyo is well aware that becoming a mistress is not a dignified action. But in her words, she has voiced her realities. What other options does she have, as a woman, so that she does not have to do such tedious work for the rest of her life? This helplessness results in a shallow happiness for Okyo. She can prosper materialistically at the cost of some of her dignity, but her happiness cannot be completed. Until the last moment, Okyo displays her affections of a sisterly nature towards Kichizo Kichizo! Youre wrong. Im leaving here, but Im not abandoning you (294). Despite what will happen to her, she tries to remain cheerful and strong for his sake. This really makes an impact because it creates a strong contrast. It shows that despite becoming a mistress, she is still the same person inside. She is still a good-natured woman, but against the backdrop of economic turbulence and few opportunities for women, she is being forced into a lifestyle which is not so respectable. Hastings and Nolte also make a note of a key aspect of Japanese

thinking in the Meiji period where marriage and by extension, becoming a mistress is concerned. American women were warned against marrying for money rather than love, something that would make no sense to a Japanese woman (172). This is promoting the idea that marriage for women in Japan was about strategy. Love takes a back seat when stacked against financial need. This is the case for Okyo, and ideas about love where marriage is concerned are also considered in Thirteenth Night. To the young girl Oseki, love together with marriage seems only natural, but it is only when she grows up that her society brings her to see that that is not the case. Kichizo is a believer in how life should be. His view of the world is seemingly nave and simplistic. When trying to convince Okyo not to become a mistress, he tells her Its not as if you cant make a living with your sewing [] when youre good at your work, why give it up for something so stupid? (Danly 293). Whether he is ignorant or it is just the anger speaking is not so clear, but Kichizo seems to firmly believe that everything will be fine for Okyo even if she does not receive the luxuries available as a mistress. Perhaps in a different time, in an ideal society, if things were not so economically unstable, and woman had better job prospects, Okyo could afford to pass on being a mistress. The reality is, the world they live in cannot support that dream. Kichizo either refuses to, or is unable to, see that. Society hangs over Thirteenth Night and Separate Ways. The events that take place and the actions and thoughts of the heroines are dictated by the socio-economic climate they live in. The societies of Meiji Japan (1968-1912) [] provided an oppressive environment for women, full of restrictions which confined them to their proper sphere and fixed roles (Enomoto 252). In the end, Oseki must stay with her husband for the sake of her family and Okyo becomes a mistress so that she may have more luxuries in life. There is no sense of true happiness, instead an idea that financial security comes at a cost, and this means adhering to the gender role that society and the state has created for women.


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