Boxcar of Chrysanthemums Analysis

Fumi Ueda

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this complex narrative, the author presents her story as a series of stories, each laid out as a mystery that leads to a further mystery, and finally to a fuller understanding of Rie but not to a solution to the mystery. The first mystery is why the train is so slow and what the odd bundles being loaded at every station are. This leads to the encounter with the Ichiges and to Kurokawa telling the story his father had told him. This, in turn, leads deeper to the author’s recollection of the mysterious duty performed nightly by the interns. Finally, the reader comes to Kashimura’s confession of love; the narrator adds that he died in the war.

In terms of imagery, the reader is first presented with Ichige’s favorite flower, Shiratama, which means “White Jewel.” The reader does not actually see the flower at first but is only told of its mysterious and elusive fragrance. When the author gets off the train at Karuizawa, she sees for the first time the full, white moon in the cloudless sky and associates its transcendent beauty with Rie. Finally, the story closes on a more subdued and earthly note as the narrator associates Rie’s middle-aged face with the modest, white chrysanthemum, an expression of restrained beauty.