In A Grove | Study Guide

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

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In A Grove | Symbols


Ryunosuke Akutagawa uses symbols to highlight the mysteries in "In a Grove" and the relationship between its three main characters.

The Rope

The rope that binds Kanazawa no Takehiko in "In a Grove" represents how the story's events forever bind him, Tajomaru, and Masago together by defining their fate. Kanazawa no Takehiko is dead and Tajomaru faces the death penalty for rape and murder. The rope's negative symbolism extends to its very existence.Tajomaru testifies that "I had a rope with me, since I might have to scale a wall at any moment." Tajomaru possessed the rope to help him commit crimes and evade law enforcement.

The Mirrors

Mirrors reflect physical reality to the viewer. In Tajomaru's confession he lures Kanazawa no Takehiko into the grove with the promise of buried mirrors and swords. Tajomaru testifies, "I went on to tell them ... I'd like to sell them at a low price to anyone who would care to have them." Although there were no actual buried mirrors, the imagery implies that the mirrors cannot reflect reality while they are underground. They cannot reflect the truth of what happened in the grove. As a result what actually happened in that small space will forever remain a mystery.

The Bamboo Grove

Bamboo is a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment or inner peace because its hollow interior resembles a state without desire or suffering. A story set in a bamboo grove suggests that the plot should not contain these two elements. However, Tajomaru's sexual desire for Masago causes him to rape her in the bamboo grove. Tajomaru testifies, "I could satisfy my desire for her without taking her husband's life." Masago and Kanazawa no Takehiko undergo physical and mental suffering in the grove as well. Masago considers herself "worthless" during her confession. Kanazawa no Takehiko relates through a Medium that he is "tormented so much" in the afterlife.

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