The story "In A Grove" seems at first like a conventional mystery. A man named Takehiro has been stabbed in the chest and died. His wife, Masago, has been raped by a career criminal, a robber named Tajomaru. He confesses to having stolen the dead man's bow and arrows and...
The story "In A Grove" seems at first like a conventional mystery. A man named Takehiro has been stabbed in the chest and died. His wife, Masago, has been raped by a career criminal, a robber named Tajomaru. He confesses to having stolen the dead man's bow and arrows and to having stolen Masago's horse.
The police commissioner collects separate accounts of the case from the three main characters (since Takehiro is dead, his account comes through a medium) and others who have a connection to the murdered man: one is a monk who saw the couple on the road, another is Masago's mother, one is the bounty hunter who caught Tajomaru, and one is the man who found Takehiro's dead body.
Beyond the basic facts listed above, the accounts vary. At this point, the story deviates into a modernist tale: we are left with subjective and contradictory accounts, and no detective comes along to put it altogether for us and tell us the truth of what really happened. Because of this, the concept of truth is called into question: we are left to figure out for ourselves what we think happened. Our analysis, however, is likely to be as subjective as any of the accounts we have read, colored by our gender, age, nationality, religious beliefs, education, and other factors.
Modernists rejected an omniscient narrator or a detective who could act as "God" telling us the truth in a definitive way. Life is not like that, they argued. By leaving us with a group of subjective accounts of a crime, each of which reveals much more about the character telling the story than the crime itself, Niihara invites us to explore the idea that objective truth itself might be unknowable—and that we should be suspicious of narratives we read that tell us otherwise.