Ok, another school piece, This time we had to read three works and talk about the place tradition has in them. This is what I wrote:
Game of Traditions
Tradition is both noose and sword. Tradition can build kings and plunder peasants. Tradition and how it affects the individual is such an interesting theme because it can have intellectual, spiritual, emotional and sociological effects on the context of a story or an individual in the story.
Tradition, and how it relates to the works we read in class, is viewed as more of a constraint then it is a positive. While I cannot make heads or tails of the Neruda piece just yet, the other two have distinct views on tradition and give the opinion of tradition being said constraint. In Diary of a Mad Man, Lu Xun’s lead character believes the members of his society are conspiring to eat him – an obvious claim of feeling societal pressure to confirm to traditional roles and lose his personal identity. In The Thirteenth Night, Higuchi Ichiyo’s lead character is in an abusive relationship and openly contemplates leaving her husband but, ultimately, stays with him as to not disrupt the benefits her family has sustained from their relationship. Both stories view tradition as a burden.
The area where the two stories diverge is how it effects the narrator. Xun’s piece can be argued to have two narrators. There is the presenter of the journals versus the person who actually wrote them. The person who wrote them hates tradition. He suffered at the hands of it. He urges us to “Save the Children” (Xun) with his final words. The presenter of the journals, the guy who wrote the four paragraph lead in, has an opinion that is a little cloudier. One argument could be for him having the same opinion as the mad man and publishing the story to take up arms against the tradition. The other argument really revolves around how the reader perceives the word appointment. In one of his introductory paragraphs the presenter writes “By now, however, he had long since become sound and fit again; in fact he had already repaired to other parts to await a substantive official appointment.” (Xun). Is “appointment” a euphemism or is he actually up for a job somewhere? Can it be argued that if appointment is a job, then do all of the words the mad man have become irrelevant? Does everyone eventually get eaten? Do we all bow to the pressures of our traditions? The more I read this piece the more I believe that Xun, and not the mad man, is the narrator and his view on tradition is a lot more nihilistic than the mad man’s.
In Ichiyo’s story, a third person narrator stays with Oseki, the daughter in question, and chronicles her events. Oseki has respect for tradition even though she finds her self-worth and emotional stability crumbling under it. She goes to her family and tells them she wants to break from tradition, seek a divorce from her husband, and her family ultimately convinces her not to do that. They posit that she will lose access to her son, her brother will lose his job, they will lose their access to higher society and will all face sociological dishonor. The interesting thing about this is they take her plight very seriously but they ultimately understand this will help her have a life without want or struggle – which is the traditional desire. The conflict is evident in the father’s reaction as Oseki drives away. Ichiyo writes, “Inside her house, her father coughed to clear his voice, and, from the sound of it, he too was crying.” (Ichiyo). Tradition, in their context, is the most logical route.
Lu Xun. “Diary of a Mad Man”. Modern World Literature. Web. 5/7/14
Ichiyo Higuchi. “The Thirteenth Night”. Modern World Literature. Web. 5/7/14