What critical lenses does the story "Swaddling Clothes" belong to? Give quotes as proof.

An appropriate critical lens for reading the story "Swaddling Clothes" is a post-colonial lens. Although she is an upper-class woman, Toshiko identifies with the plight of the oppressed. She also is a symbol the oppressed in the story, despite being from the upper class, because of her female gender in a patriarchal society.

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The story can best be read through a post-colonial lens. Post-colonial criticism looks at the world through the point-of-view of the oppressed.

While this complex story is told from the point-of-view of an upper class Japanese woman, Toshiko, she has a strong identity with the oppressed and sees life from...

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The story can best be read through a post-colonial lens. Post-colonial criticism looks at the world through the point-of-view of the oppressed.

While this complex story is told from the point-of-view of an upper class Japanese woman, Toshiko, she has a strong identity with the oppressed and sees life from what she imagines is the perspective of the oppressed. Most importantly, her sense of empathy for the nursemaid and her illegitimate baby indicates Toshiko's own oppression within a patriarchal hierarchy.

As the story begins, we learn that the sensitive Toshiko wishes her actor husband were home with her more. She is also shocked at the callous way he tells his friends the story of the nursemaid giving birth on the floor of their young son's room. Notably, the husband controls the narrative: Toshiko never offers a word to correct his version of events, even though she

was dumbfounded to hear her husband discussing the horrifying happening as though it were no more than an amusing incident which they chanced to have witnessed.

In other words, she has no more voice in the story than the nursemaid herself, who the husband likens to an animal, saying:

the girl was yelling like a stuck pig.

The doctor who comes to help also participates in the gendered humiliation of the young Japanese nursemaid servant:

As if to emphasize his scorn for this mother who had given birth to a bastard under such sordid conditions, he had told his assistant to wrap the baby in some loose newspapers, rather than proper swaddling.

Signficantly, Toshiko separates herself from the insensitive version of the story the husband tells and identifies with the baby, despite their gulf in class. Her point of view is subaltern because she tries to empathize with the infant:

Toshiko, whose own life had been spent in solid comfort, poignantly felt the wretchedness of the illegitimate baby.

Thinking about the baby makes her think that her life

was in some way too easy, too painless.

However, as the narrator points out, Toshiko's empathy and interpretation of events is also suspect:

No doubt Toshiko derived a certain satisfaction from her somber thoughts: she tortured herself with them without cease.

Toshiko cannot really know what it is like to be poor and desperate. Nevertheless, she shows an identification with the oppressed when she wants to atone for what the upper class does to the lower.

The end of the story, when a homeless man grasps her wrist and presumably assaults her, shows the complexity of her own situation. She is both upper class in economic status and sub-altern or oppressed by being a woman in a highly patriarchal society. Despite her upper-class status, she takes on the sacrificial role of the sub-altern, whose body is at the disposal of the upper classes. She makes herself the substitute in her own mind for her son, who she fears will someday be assaulted by the poor. She shows, simultaneously, an awareness of the plight of the lower classes and a desire to be a sub-altern sacrificial victim for a class whose plight she cannot fully understand:

She did not feel in the least afraid and made no effort to free herself. In a flash the thought had struck her, Ah, so the twenty years have already gone by! The forest of the Imperial Palace was pitch dark and utterly silent.

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