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the I-novels of naturalist and other writers in the modern age. The classic
dilemma that confronted the individual in the Tokugawa domestic play,
it will be recalled, was between the demands of duty (giri) and the pull
of human emotions (ninjò). In the stylized plots of the period—for
example, the prototypical story of the passion of a merchant, who is already married and has children, for a prostitute—the dilemma was characteristically resolved by double suicide (shinjû). Social pressures after
the war, of course, were much less severe, and double suicide was no
longer common; but the domestic dilemma remained, with giri often
taken to mean the demands of the traditional Japanese family and ninjò
the pull of modern ways.
To understand why this should represent a specially Japanese, rather
than universal, problem, we must note that there are few analogues to
the Japanese family and the enormous importance it has held in Japanese society. It is simply a fact, as outsiders constantly obser ve, that the
Japanese are overwhelmingly group-oriented: they work in groups; they
play in groups; they seem happiest in groups. Such extraordinary feeling
for collective behavior has its origins in the family, and any rejection of,
or failure to conform to, the family raises for the Japanese the most serious questions about his role in society as a whole.
In Ozu’s films, such as the powerful and moving Tokyo Story (Tòkyò
Monogatari, 1953), the clash between the traditional and the modern is
commonly portrayed in generational terms—that is, in the conflict between a traditional parent and an independent-minded modern child. But
the social implications of such a clash are far greater in the Japanese set- Culture in the Present Age 321 ting than they would be in the Western. Whereas the Western child would
most likely think of his parent merely as too conservative or old-fashioned,
the Japanese youth is intensely conscious that the parent represents a traditional and still precisely understood pattern of conduct that continues
to call all Japanese, to one degree or another, to account.
Ozu preferred scripts constructed less in narrative than in chr...
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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