HUM 234 Midterm - David Grauer Dialogue of the Destitute...

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David Grauer March 15, 2007 Dialogue of the Destitute : Realism in Poverty As Yamanoue Okura’s Dialogue of the Destitute describes, poverty rears its head in many forms. Much of the Man’Yoshu’s poems and subsequent classical Japanese poetry relies romanticized, idealized imagery and stories as the main conduit for showing examples of shunning material life on the path to enlightenment. They often tell the stories of simple country folk living in meager circumstances, who, despite or because of those circumstances, have an intimate understanding of and unity with the world. Okura’s poem, however, veers away from that idyllic notion of romantic poverty. Furthermore, it describes an emotionally deprived man alongside the typical peasant man. It gives a strangely realistic depiction of these two types indigence that, unlike those in other poems, lead hopelessly away from enlightenment. Not only do these men lead depressing lives, they fail to recognize moments of oneness that could reprieve them from their torment. Okura describes these unfortunate men using a combination of contrasting imagery and imagery of the immaterial. Instead of leading by example as their idealized counterparts do, the men in Dialogue of the Destitute exemplify an antithesis of the way. As a result, in showing what the way is not, Okura describes the way. The first man described does not lead a life of toil and hardship; his poverty is an emotional one. Okura characterizes this situation using starkly contrasting imagery to show a rift from the oneness of the way. Our initial introduction to this man begins with images of mixed weather: “On nights when rain falls, mixed with wind,
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on nights when snow falls, mixed with rain,…” (ll. 1-4) From the outset, we are confronted not with simply rain, wind or snow, but rather with an amalgam of all three. One might argue that in creating such a slurry, all the images can blend into one. The disjointed rhythm, provided by the spacing pauses between each set of images, stymies such conjugation. Instead, the stop – and – start rhythm adds separation to the images. Not only are they dissimilar, but also they are distanced and, therefore, contrasting – wind against rain, rain against snow. Rather than trying to
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