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The Woman in the Dunes (Suna no Onna, 1962). Like The Ruined Map, it
commences with the disappearance of a man, in this case a nondescript
schoolteacher who is an amateur entomologist going on a holiday to the
seaside in quest of bugs. The man can be seen both as a pursuer of bugs
(who possess freedom) and as one who yearns for freedom in his fascination with sand, the natural habitat of the bugs he pursues. No other
substance—except water, to which Abe frequently compares it—so clearly
represents both freedom and its potential denial. Forever free itself, as it
constantly shifts and flows, sand can also relentlessly pursue and totally
Missing the last bus home, the man accepts shelter for the night in a
nearby village, only to discover the following day that he is a prisoner.
He has been placed in a house in a deep sand pit to live with a recently
widowed but still young woman. Together they constitute one of a score
of enslaved families in pits facing the sea that must constantly dig sand
to prevent it from inundating the village. Much of The Woman in the
Dunes is a narrative of the man’s schemes and efforts to escape to freedom, but on another level it is the story of how the man, forced into
confinement in the microcosmic world of the sand pit, comes to realize
the futility for most people of regarding life—whether in his kind of captivity or in society beyond it—as anything other than a pit, a place where
freedom is stifled. Some people may think they have round-trip tickets
that enable them to come and go as they please, but they need all the
strength and will they possess to avoid losing the return halves of their
tickets and being forced onto the one-way track that entraps everyone
Got a one-way ticket to the blues, woo, woo. . . .
If you want to sing it, sing it. These days people caught in the clutches of
the one-way ticket never sing it like that. The soles of those who have a oneway ticket are so thin that they scream when they step on a pebble. They have
had their fill of walking. “The Round-Trip Ticket Blue...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13