Okada, a medical student at Tokyo University, a young man who lives a life of balance and order. He is a good but not outstanding student and a solid athlete who is a member of the rowing team (an outlet for his inclination toward the martial arts). He appears to do nothing with passion; he is remarkably free from obsession. In his free time, he takes long walks, and he often visits the local bookstores, where he searches for the Chinese romance novels that are the only books he reads for pleasure. His view of Otama, whom he encounters on one of his walks, is colored by his fantasy of the ideal woman. A true woman, Okada believes, is one who is able to concentrate solely on the traditional womanly virtues and who is able to be concerned primarily with her appearance even on the verge of death. Because he has so little contact with Otama, he is able to keep his fantasies about her intact.
Otama, a virtuous and obedient young woman who, through no fault of her own, becomes a fallen woman in the eyes of society. Although her father had turned down various marriage proposals for Otama, he finally accepted a proposal from a policeman who intimidated him. It turned out that the policeman already had a wife and children; he had simply been using Otama as a plaything. Because her prospects for a good marriage have been ruined by that calamity, Otama agrees to become the mistress of the moneylender Suezo, who plays on Otama’s desire to ensure that her father will be well cared for as he grows older. As the...
(The entire section is 638 words.)