Rashoman & Other Stories
?The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality,? according to Dante Aleghieri, just how seared Ryunosuke Akutagawa is, however, is anyone?s guess. Rarely does it occur in the course of human events that an author of Akutagawa?s analytical genius is able to live without persecution from without, in Ryunosuke?s case, however, the distress came from within. Almost as an impartial umpire he seems to desire taking society over his shoulder and carrying it back, kicking and screaming, into its more moral past, yet at the same time realizes the selfish hypocrisy of his own aspirations and perhaps it is this own reality that drives him to his eventual end. He sees the best men of his generation mining coal and pulling rickshaws, he sees Western ?civilization? forcing them to work jobs they hate to buy stuff they don?t need, he sees, in short, the destruction of an idealized traditional Japanese culture by a very different west.
Part of Akutagawa undoubtedly wants to view the Westerners influence upon Japan as immoral and corrupt, yet he sees the Janus-faced duplicity of his position, who is he to define morality What right
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