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Gender Roles & Expectations in Ueda Akinari’s “Bewitched” (Part 2)

Updated on December 20, 2012
This story can be found in Volume D of "The Norton Anthology of World Literature" (second edition).
This story can be found in Volume D of "The Norton Anthology of World Literature" (second edition). | Source

The Women


The Japanese women also had their own set of societal expectations. They were expected to be passive and extremely submissive to their husbands (and to men in general). For example, when Taro’s wife asked to hear Toyo-o’s explanation of how he acquired the sword, she described her own behavior as “presumptuous.” After hearing his story, she told him that she would “do whatever I can for you.” This meant that she could go speak to her husband and attempt to convince him to speak to his father on Toyo-o’s behalf. She herself really didn’t have any power or ability to help him. This extreme submission was also seen when Toyo-o’s mother spoke to him about the sword. She warned him that if he displeased his brother that he would no longer have a place to live. This is significant because it demonstrates that his mother had no real authority in her own household. This is quite different from American households where the father and mother usually share authority within their families.


The “Bewitched” story could be used by Japanese parents to teach their children social norms and acceptable behavior for each sex. Manago demonstrates nearly all of the behaviors and traits that are not acceptable for women. When she first meets Toyo-o she pretends to be coy, and reserved which are acceptable behaviors. However, she becomes more and more up front, forceful, and forward during their future confrontations. For example, when Toyo-o visits her house to retrieve his umbrella, she practically demands that he stay and dine with her. She even orders her maid, Maroya, to not let him leave. Upon their second meeting in Tsubaichi, Manago uses “singularly feminine pleadings” to convince Toyo-o and his family that she is not supernatural by giving them explanations for her strange behavior. In doing so, she is being deceitful which is also looked down upon. When they met Tagima no Kibito at the waterfall while they were picnicking, he accuses Manago and Maroya of “bewitching and deceiving human beings.” At their final meeting, Manago gives up all pretenses and even goes so far as to threaten Toyo-o’s life. The result of Manago’s deviant behavior throughout the story is her eventual death. The story also contains several examples of “good” women that demonstrate passivity and submission to male authority. Toyo-o’s mother, sister and sister-in-law all demonstrated these desirable behaviors. Perhaps the strongest lesson that the story teaches is the acceptable and unacceptable behavior for men in the Japanese culture. At the beginning, Taro was an example of how a man should behave and the character traits that he should possess, and Toyo-o was an example of the opposite. However, by the end of the story, Toyo-o conforms to all of the societal roles, expectations, and behavior. It is this conformation that saves his life and allows him to defeat Manago.

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Conclusion


In conclusion, by analyzing Ueda Akinari’s “Bewitched” we can observe a great deal about the roles, expectations, and relationships between men and women within the Japanese culture. The story can also be used to teach Japanese children which behaviors are acceptable for their particular sex and reminds them that there are punishments violating these social norms. The overall moral of the story is that in order to live a long and happy life, they must conform to their societal standards.


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