Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In Rynosuke Akutagawa’s story “Rashmon,” there is a wealth of animal imagery, including a cricket, fox, crow, dog, cat, lizard, monkey, snake, fish, chicken, and bird of prey. What do these animals symbolize in the story?

What is the significance of the “red, festering pimple” on the servant’s cheek in “Rashmon”?

In “Rashmon,” Akutagawa seems to support the notion that survival takes precedence over honor. Do you agree or disagree with this point of view?

In the story “In a Grove,” what crimes were truly committed, what were the motivations for the crimes, and who is/are the primary suspect(s) for each crime?

The individuals who give testimony in “In a Grove” often contradict one another. Compare their accounts, set up a timetable of events, and discuss the inconsistencies.

Why do you think Akutagawa structured “In a Grove” as a series of verbal statements? Why did he select the particular individuals to give testimony?

From their portrayals as characters in “Rashmon” and “In a Grove,” extrapolate Akutagawa’s attitude toward women.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gerow, A. A. “The Self Seen as Other: Akutagawa and Film.” Literature/Film Quarterly 23 (1995): 197-203. Discusses the influence of film on Akutagawa’s fiction. Argues that cinema affects the central conflict between East and West and traditional and modern in his work and that Akutagawa’s use of film suggests the loss of traditional Japanese culture and an effort to create a new national identity.

Hibbett, Howard. “Akutagawa Rynosuke and the Negative Ideal.” In Personality in Japanese History, edited by Albert M. Craig and Donald H. Shively. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. In his essay, Hibbett notes the general conclusion that Akutagawa’s suicide is generally interpreted as that of a martyr to the times, and thus symbolic. As the writer’s development and various works are discussed, their relationship to his mental condition at various periods is well analyzed. Includes a table of contents and an index.

Hiraoka, Toshio. Remarks on Akutagawa’s Works: With American Students’ Opinions. Tokyo: Seirosha, 1990. Analyses of Akutagawa’s works. Includes English translations of some of the fiction.

Keene, Donald. “Akutagawa Rynosuke.” In Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era. Vol. 1. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984. Keene’s comprehensive...

(The entire section is 459 words.)