Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! Summary

Kenzaburō Ōe


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

While traveling in Europe with a television crew, K picks up a copy of the Complete Works of William Blake because he was inspired by a line from Blake’s poetry that he had read in a novel by Malcolm Lowry. Blake was a nineteenth century British Romantic poet who wrote prophetic poems and lyrics that redefined the major themes of Christianity, and he illustrated his poetry with engravings of mystical creatures. K remembers that he had previously translated a Blake poem, a significant creative act for K. This act reminds K of his demanding relationship with his son Eeyore, whose real name is Hikari.

Eeyore is mentally disabled, and K uses the imaginative world of Blake to mediate between himself and Eeyore’s bizarre antics and behaviors. One day, when K was away from Japan on a trip, Eeyore had become physically violent, attacking his mother with a judo kick that made her fall to the ground. Later, Eeyore grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and made suspicious comments. Eeyore is almost twenty years old and is a powerful physical presence of equal height and weight when compared with his father. He is a child in the body of a fully developed adult. He makes irrational statements, believing that his father is dead when he is only attending a conference or on another trip. K is afraid Eeyore is becoming increasingly unpredictable and that he might need to be institutionalized.

K successfully convinces Eeyore that he is still alive by allowing him to stroke his bare foot, thus giving Eeyore a new definition for “foot.” K had promised to write a book of definitions for everything in the world that would help disabled children like his son, and this promise underlines his desire to pass on his accumulated wisdom to Eeyore.

K was born and raised in a small village on Shikoku, the smallest and most rural of Japan’s four main islands. When he entered Tokyo University, he felt marginalized by the giant city and its sophistication, until one day, when he accidentally discovered some lines from Blake’s prophetic poem The Four Zoas in a book lying open in a library. The poem made K recall the dark valley of his childhood and how imagination is crucial to the process of learning and renewal. K remembers childhood experiences such as swimming underwater inside Carp Cave and nearly drowning before being rescued by his mother. His “rebirth” from near-death reminds K of the epileptic seizures suffered by his son and of Eeyore’s second birth following brain surgery to remove a large growth inside his skull. K continues to look for ways in which he can use Blake’s poetry to re-create the world for his son. K worries that his son lacks imagination and the ability to dream and will not be able to understand the modern world.

Eeyore, in middle school, is taking swimming lessons at a private health club. K thought the physical experience of moving in the water...

(The entire section is 1188 words.)