I first came to Ryunosuke Akutagawa by way of Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon , which conflates a story of the same name with In a Bamboo Grove The latter work is a remarkable example of Akutagawa's distinctive early style, which added psychological complexity to medieval Heian period folktales. Redolent of Browning's The Ring and the Book , In a Bamboo Grove consists of seven testimonies concerning the death of a samurai who had been travelling with his wife. These accounts, including the dead man's own version via a spirit medium, all contradict one another to varying degrees.
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As in any detective story, we learn the events from the head and tail instead of in linear fashion. The first account is that of the woodcutter who discovered the man's body in the woods. He says the man died of a single sword stroke to the chest, and that the trampled leaves around the body showed there had been a violent struggle.
There were no swords nearby, and not enough room for a horse—only a single piece of rope, a comb and bloodstained bamboo blades. A traveling Buddhist priest delivers the next account. He says that he saw the man, who was accompanied by his wife on horseback, on the road, around noon the day before the murder. The man was carrying a sword, a bow and a black quiver. He has captured a notorious brigand named Tajomaru.
Tajomaru was injured when thrown from his horse, and he was carrying a bow and a black quiver, which he suspects was stolen from the body. Tajomaru was not carrying the dead man's sword, but he believes there is proof enough to convict him of the murder. The next testimony is from an old woman, who identifies herself as the mother of the missing girl. Her daughter is a spirited, fun-loving year-old named Masago, married to Kanazawa no Takehiko—a year-old samurai from Wakasa.
Her daughter, she says, has never been with a man other than Takehiko. She begs the police to find her daughter and her testimony trails off as she drowns her words in tears. Next, Tajomaru confesses to killing Takehiko, but not the girl. He says that he saw them on the road and upon first seeing Masago, decided that he was going to capture her.
He made a plan to lure Takehiko into the woods with the promise of buried treasure. He then gagged him with bamboo leaves, tied him to a cedar root and calmly brought Masago back. When she saw her husband tied up, she pulled a dagger from her bosom and tried to stab Tajomaru, but, being a skilled brigand as he is, he successfully dodged her attack and had his way with her.
Originally, he had no intention of killing the man, he claims, but after the rape, she begged him to either kill her husband or kill himself—she could not live if two men knew her shame. The survivor would be her new husband. Tajomaru, observing proper dueling etiquette, untied Takehiko so they could have a fair swordfight. During the duel, Masago fled, but Tajomaru did not notice. Tajomaru took the man's sword, bow, and quiver, as well as the woman's horse, which was simply grazing quietly.
He says that he sold the sword before the bounty hunter captured him. In a Penitent Confession, Masago gives her account.
According to her, after the rape, Tajomaru fled, and her husband, still tied down, had an indescribable light in his eyes that made her shudder. She no longer wanted to live, but she said she couldn't leave him alive as he was. He agreed, or so she believed—he couldn't actually say anything because his mouth was still stuffed full of leaves—and she plunged her own dagger into his chest. She then unbound Takehiko, and ran off into the forest, whereupon she attempted to commit suicide numerous times, she said, but Kwannon, a bodhisattva goddess, must have kept her alive.
The final account comes from Takehiko through a "Medium. Tajomaru kicked Masago to the ground, and asked Takehiko if he should kill her. Hearing this, Masago shrieked and fled into the forest. Tajomaru then cut Takehiko's bonds and ran away, saying his fate was next. Takehiko grabbed Masago's forgotten dagger and plunged it into his chest. Soon, his spirit leaves his body and retrieves the dagger from his breast, leaving him to sink down into the darkness of space.
It is more akin to "repentance" or "penitence" because of its religious connotations. At a quick glance, it is easy to see that the three stories do not match up. In fact, Tajomaru, Masago, and Takehiko each say that they killed Takehiko with their own hands.
The things we can presume to know are as follows: 1 Takehiko is dead, 2 Tajomaru raped Masago, 3 Tajomaru stole the arrows, quiver, and horse, 4 Masago wishes Takehiko to be dead, 5 Masago and Tajomaru did not leave together. There are many discrepancies between the various accounts and they vary vastly in significance. For the woodcutter, who first discovered the body, mentions a comb that is never brought up again. He also speculates about a "violent struggle" that trampled the leaves, which only occurs as a duel in Tajomaru's story.
No arrows were shot in the duration of the story. Whereas the Buddhist priest says that Masago wore a lilac kimono, Masago says that Takehiko wears this lilac kimono. The woodcutter says that Takehiko wore a blue kimono. Tajomaru says nothing about how Masago's dagger disappeared from the grove, which is key to both Masago and Takehiko's accounts of the murder. Masago also neglects to mention how Takehiko's sword disappeared from the grove, though Tajomaru admits that he dropped it during his escape.
Masago omits any post-rape conversation and says that Takehiko hated Masago and found her disgusting afterward. According to Takehiko, he is only enraged when she asks Tajomaru to kill him, and according to Tajomaru, Takehiko still loves her so much that he duels for her love.
And lastly, Takehiko's account introduces the shadowy character that takes the dagger from his chest just before he dies. In the film version Rashomon , , the woodcutter steals the dagger, but this is slightly inconsistent with his account of the blood being already dried up at the scene.
In Takehiko's account, blood flowed up to his mouth as the dagger was released. In both Takehiko and Masago's accounts, Tajomaru kicks Masago down after the rape. Of course, Tajomaru admits only to the duel that follows the rape because he wants to make a wife of Masago. One may wonder how it could be possible to have such varied accounts of the same incident - an incident in which the very real evidence of a murdered man cannot be accounted for.
What is the main character of Rashomon? It is difficult to put into just two sentences. A priest, a woodcutter and another man are taking refuge from a rainstorm. The result is a trial for a murdered samurai. The story is set in the 8th century: at place Rashomon, in the great gate of the imperial city of Kyoto. Rashomon study guide contains a biography of Ryunosuke Akutagawa, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Rashomon essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa.
Remember me. Forgot your password? Buy Study Guide. The unnamed servant is the main character in the story, Rashomon. Study Guide for Rashomon Rashomon study guide contains a biography of Ryunosuke Akutagawa, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Essays for Rashomon Rashomon essays are academic essays for citation. A Cross Cultural Examination of Rashomon.
Rashomon Summary and Analysis of "In a Grove"
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Analysis Of Ryunosuke Akutagawa 's ' A Bamboo Grove '
It presents three varying accounts of the murder of a samurai, Kanazawa no Takehiro, whose corpse has been found in a bamboo forest near Kyoto. Each section simultaneously clarifies and obfuscates what the reader knows about the murder, eventually creating a complex and contradictory vision of events that brings into question humanity's ability or willingness to perceive and transmit objective truth. The story opens with the account of a woodcutter who has found a man's body in the woods. The woodcutter reports that man died of a single sword stroke to the chest, and that the trampled leaves around the body showed there had been a violent struggle, but otherwise lacked any significant evidence as to what actually happened. There were no weapons nearby, and no horses—only a single piece of rope, a comb and a lot of blood. The next account is delivered by a traveling Buddhist priest.