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Given the unrequited love that permeates his story, The Wild Geese, the societal strictures under which Japanese women lived, and the considerable social and cultural transformations underway in the Japan of Mori Rintaro’s youth, it is entirely conceivable that the birds in this story do serve as a metaphor for the bonds that prevented Okata and Otama from having the relationship both desired. And the two songbirds given to Otama by Suezo, the usurer (or loan-shark) are possibly more symbolic than even the wild geese that serve an important role in and of themselves. The two linnets are kept in a cage, much as Otama is kept in the apartment Suezo provides her, and her freedom is severely restricted by virtue both of the traditional and highly-subordinate role of women in 19th and early-20th Century Japan and of her demeaning position as a concubine. When the two songbirds are attacked by a snake, the reptile can be considered a metaphor for society’s strictures and for Suezo’s hold on her and her father. While large snakes breaking into one’s home and eating pets is rarely a cause for celebration, there is little doubt that Mori intended his serpent to serve a more demonic role in his story. Certainly, it is no accident that, as the neighborhood boy assisting Okada in extricating the snake from the cage struggles to separate serpent from bird, he remarks, “Even though its dead, the devil won’t let go.” Otama is dying inside, but Suezo and the societal forces that have condemned her to a life of solitude and misery will not let go. The two birds are now separated by virtue of one’s death – a probable metaphor for the coming unsatisfactory resolution of Otama and Okada’s dreams of courtship – and the notion of Original Sin is present with respect to Otama’s previous ill-fated “marriage” to the already married figure of authority, the police officer. That marriage, the dissolution of which marked Otama as damaged property, was the moral equivalent of the ill-considered bite of the apple and consequent dispatch from Eden.
The role of the geese is a little more complicated. That Okada accidentally kills one of the geese with a stone, responding to Ishihara’s challenge, can also be considered a metaphor for the young medical student’s imminent departure for Germany – a transition experienced by the author himself in his earlier days, also for the purpose of medical education and training. Just as the caged songbirds represented Otama’s spiritual and emotional imprisonment, so the geese represented Okada’s relative freedom to leave, but not with the woman of his dreams. When he throws that rock, he is casting a metaphorical stone that will forever diminish him. It is highly probable that Mori intended the animals in his story to serve a literary purpose; he was a deeply thoughtful and highly educated individual living in a very unique period of time. Injecting a snake into his urban environment for the purpose of devouring the songbirds was almost certainly intended as a metaphor for the two lovers who will never be together.
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