How does Rosie's mother lead a tragic life in "Seventeen Syllables"?
Rosie's mother leads a tragic life because she was born of a culture in which women have little opportunity to seek their own identities. Trapped in a marriage into which she entered because she had no other option but suicide, she must remain forever submissive to her husband's desires even if it means that she will never be able to pursue her own desires.
Rosie's mother has a passionate interest in writing Japanese poetry. She has a talent for it, and has won recognition for her work, but her husband is resentful of it, and puts a stop to her efforts at every turn. When she is engaged in deep conversation about her work with Mr. Hayano, he rudely makes her leave, and when she is given an award for her writing, he literally destroys it, smashing it with an axe and burning it. Rosie's mother has little choice but to submit uncomplainingly to his abuses.
Rosie's mother had married her husband because she had disgraced herself when she was young by falling in love with a well-to-do young man and having a baby by him out of wedlock. The subtle condemnation of her family was unrelenting, and she married Mr. Hayashi to escape their bitter censure. By marrying Mr. Hayashi, however, she had placed herself under his domination forever.
It is significant that Rosie's mother's name is never mentioned in the story. Her culture prevents her from establishing her own identity, and so her life is doomed to be tragic.