He-y, Come On Ou-t!

by Shinichi Hoshi

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What is the theme of the story "He-y, Come On Ou-t"?  

The theme of the story "He-y, Come On Ou-t" is that the problems people try to bury away and ignore will inevitably come back to haunt them.

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One theme that is central to this story's message centers around the importance of caring for the earth and its resources.

When people first discover the hole, they are shocked by its depth. A reporter shows up to investigate, and then a scientist tries to discern the depths of the hole. It is utterly spectacular; no one has ever seen anything like it.

Instead of pausing to appreciate the wonder of such a natural phenomenon, the people quickly begin to use it to absorb manmade waste, grotesque by comparison. The hole first receives nuclear waste, often symbolic of the deadly potential of mankind. Later, boxes of classified documents are tossed in. The decaying bodies of animals which have been decimated through human experimentation are next thrown into the hole.

All of this waste has been generated by mankind, which looks for a quick and convenient means of ridding itself of the byproducts of its efforts. Not having to look at their own waste gives them a "peace of mind," and they concentrate on producing "one thing after another." No one wants to think about the "consequences" of all their production, destruction, and disposal.

Eventually, of course, the people of the town must pay for the way they have disrespected nature, as is evidenced when the workman hears that initial call echoed back to the town in the final lines. The hole is symbolic of Earth itself; across the world, humans stuff our trash into the Earth's hills, plains, oceans, and mountains, trying not to think about the eventual reckoning that mankind will have to pay for disrespecting the natural wonder of our planet. Like the workman, all too often we have our eye on the manmade "skyline," which we are continually trying to improve and grow, and we fail to notice the impending disaster our efforts are creating.

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The theme of the story is that you can't just bury your problems and forget about them: they will always return to haunt you.

In this tale, a typhoon and landslide create a deep hole near a village. The villagers contract with a company that collects trash to dump in the hole. Nuclear waste goes down there, and the villagers are told it doesn't matter, because it won't be a problem for thousands of years, and they will be paid well for accepting it. Classified documents go down the hole, as do contaminated animal bodies and unclaimed corpses. The town prospers, and the very air seems cleaner. This society feels it has found the solution to all its messy problems.

However, at the end of the story, the cycle begins again, except that now the beautiful city with its clean blue skies is the new hole that things will begin to drop in.

The story can be read in many ways. It can be interpreted as an ecological commentary that argues it is a mistake to think we can dump or bury our trash and believe it has gone away. We have witnessed this in our own world, as trash dumped at sea has sometimes come back to wash up on tourist beaches.

The story can also be read psychologically. Freud argued that all the unpleasant "stuff" we repress and try to forget comes back to haunt us. He called this "the return of the repressed." To be emotionally healthy, we have to deal with our problems, not just bury them and hope they will disappear.

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The theme of the story is that you will get out what you put in.

In this story, a group of villagers finds a hole that seemingly has no bottom while they are trying to repair a shrine after a typhoon.

They do not know what to make of the hole, and someone finally yells into it.  When there is no response, he picks up a pebble.

"You might bring down a curse on us. Lay off," warned an old man, but the younger one energetically threw the pebble in.

Here is the moment of truth.  They are doomed from this point on.  Whatever goes into the hole is going to come out, but they do not know that yet.  So they continue to throw things in the hole without thinking about the consequences.  They use the hole as a depository for all of their trash—an endless landfall.  Yet what goes in must go out.

Then, as he resumed his former position, from the direction where the voice had come, a small pebble skimmed by him and fell on past.

The man does not notice.  The old man was right.

This story is an example of an ecological cautionary tale.  We can do whatever we want to the environment now, but we do not really know what the long-term effects will be.  We may not see the damage we are doing until much later, but the damage will still be there and it will come back to haunt us.

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