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Unformatted text preview: century Europe, that man and society could be portrayed with scientific
realism through careful observation and clinical recording of the most
minute, mundane aspects of human behavior. The Japanese naturalist
writers have been strongly criticized, however, for at least two major
reasons: first, unlike the European naturalists, they concentrated almost
entirely on the individual and made little attempt to relate him to the
larger concerns of society; and second, by relying heavily on their own
personal experiences to describe life as it really is, they were guilty of
immense egoism. Yet, however much they may be criticized for their
approach and methods, the naturalists certainly addressed with vigor the
theme that has held greatest fascination for modern Japanese novelists:
the innermost psychological and emotional life of the individual.
The Broken Commandment (Hakai) of Shimazaki Tòson (1872–1943),
published in 1906, is generally regarded as the first naturalistic novel in
Japan. Shimazaki, a convert to Christianity, had earlier been a contributor
of romantic poetry to Bungakukai, and his emergence as a pioneer
novelist of the naturalist school suggests that, despite the great differences
between the two movements in the context of their historical development
in Europe, romanticism and naturalism tended to merge in Japan, particularly in their mutually intense, egocentric concern with the individual.
The Broken Commandment tells of Ushimatsu, a member of Japan’s pariah
class of eta, who has vowed to his father that he will never reveal his class
origins. Even after he completes school and becomes a teacher, Ushimatsu maintains the secret in spite of a growing feeling of guilt that he
should speak out and join others who are struggling to achieve social
equality for the eta. In the end, Ushimatsu decides to reveal his identity;
but, rather than join the fight for minority rights in Japan, he accepts the
offer of a job on a ranch in Texas owned by another, expatriate eta. Unlike
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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