Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Parents, Japan, Father, Society, Management, Government, Authority

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/10/30

Father Returns: Character and Society

The play Father Returns by Kikuchi Kan is one of the first forays into modern Japanese Drama. With its European literature influences, western liberal ideas, and criticism of Confucianism, the play creates in-depth characters and a plot line that mirrors the changes in Japanese society at the time. Distancing itself from the traditional, the play has modern elements of realism and humanism, which creates a profound look at the heart of modern Japan. The form and content of the play Father Returns by Kikuchi Kan demonstrates how Japanese society is changing as seen with the interaction of the returning father, the bitter son, the shocked siblings, and the traditional mother.The returning father demonstrates how Japanese society is changing. After many years of not being there as a father, the father steps across the threshold and enters the house. The reaction of the family is very tense. The father upon entry into the house explains himself by saying that he “tour[ed] all over with a troup of twenty to thirty people” (Kan 11). The father then continues on and said that after a “terrible loss. [their] pavilion burned downso [he] came crawling back” (Kan 11). This explanation shows us the old Japanese society. The father represents the authority figure, or in the case of the old Japanese society, the shogun. The shogun does not need to explain himself, he just does things. It is representative of absolute authority and the father’s pathetic explanation is almost as if there was no explanation at all. The father in this case is the shogun, or the absolute authority that needs no explanation. Additionally the father immediately orders Ken by saying “Well then, Ken’ichiro! Will you pass me one of those sake cups? Your Old Man doesn’t get much sake to drink these days.” (Kan 11). This further shows how the father is a representation of shogun. After years of not being there he commands his son as if he still had authority in the house. Upon receiving no response from Ken’ichiro, the father directs his commands toward Shinjiro by asking “how ‘bout you pourme a drink?” (Kan 11). By giving even more commands, the authoritative father solidifies his shogun-like aura. As the father is representative of old Japan, Ken’ichiro is representative of the new Japanese society.
The bitter Ken’ichiro sheds light on how Japanese society is changing. A stark contrast to the father, the son is representative of the new Japan. This new Japan is influenced by western liberal ideas. These liberal ideas criticize Confucianism and complete obedience to absolute authority. The authority in this case is the father. Ken’ichiro is shockingly defiant. Responding to the father’s demands for sake Ken’ichiro says “Leave it! You’re not getting any from us” (Kan 11). This shows that the new Japanaese society does not only criticize authority, but also has the ability to defy authority if it has to. The shogun cannot rule harshly, unjustly, or without a moral code without the people standing up for themselves. Ken’ichiro does not allow the father to mistreat the family with his absence and then return asking for sake. The sake in this case is representative of the efforts and resources of the people. The shogun cannot take from the people without providing them with something in return. In the new Japanese society, the people will not work for their feudal lords without some sort of representation or say. Ken’ichiro further displays his bitterness toward the father by saying “I studied for all I was worth just so I could rip that enemy out” (Kan 12). Kan inserts this specifically in order to display the new Japanese society and how it is changing. The line is used to convey two messages. The first is a message of self-sufficiency and hard work. The new Japanese society is full of liberal western ideals. In the west at the time, you could work hard and move up socio-economic classes. This was different from feudal Japan where working hard only meant your lords became rich off the sweat of your efforts. Not this new Japanese society, and definitely not Ken’ichiro. He worked hard and studied so that he could “builda reputation in society on [his] own” (Kan 12) and cast off any dependency that they on the father in the first place. The second message that this line has is the removal of absolute authority from power. This was true with the changing Japanese society in the past when the shoguns were violently removed from power. Kan masterfully uses the words “rip the enemy out” (Kan 12) in order to mirror the violent removal of the shoguns or on a more symbolic level the changing from absolute totalitarianism to a more democratic society. Unlike the new Japanese society that Ken’ichiro represents, the siblings bring back memories of the old Japan.The shocked siblings showcase how Japanese society is changing. The other siblings are not as active as Ken’ichiro in the play, however this is on purpose. The siblings, much like the father, are representative of the old Japan. The siblings are obedient, forgiving, and forever loyal to the father. Much like the old Japanese society and how they were always obedient to authority and not indignant. Shin says “Mama has come to terms with all that, so why can’t be buck up and do the same?” (Kan 12) suggesting that it is the right thing to do to allow the father back in control of the house. Shin does not resent the mistreatment and is ready to bow down to the authority figure. Otane is even less active than Shin is. But like Shin, Kan uses this to convey a message. Since Otane is a woman, she must not speak much, and must be obedient, subservient, and inferior to the men. That is why she has so few lines in the play. She is playing the part of the traditional Japanese woman whose presence is seen but not heard. This is in contrast to Ken, the new, louder, more defiant Japanese society. Otane is not the only one who represents the old female version of Japanese society; her mother is also.
The traditional mother encapsulates how Japanese society is changing. Much like Otane, the mother is representative of the old Japanese society. She is the forever caring, forever loving, forever obedient mother and wife. When the father stumbles and slumps down, weak from exhaustion the mother says “Oh! Be careful!” (Kan 14). Her concern for him is genuine and even though he almost drove the family to suicide. The family almost killed themselves when the father left and the only reason they did not kill themselves was that the mother “misjudged the depth” (Kan 12). A mother cares for her family above all else, but in this case, she is able to forgive someone who essentially almost killed her family because he is the absolute power and authority. Exactly like the old Japanese society. The mother though does have a small change during the play. Before she was very quiet and did not make any demands, but she, like Japanese society changes a little bit. Although a small gesture, in the end the mother does stand up for her beliefs, even though the beliefs defend the absolute authority. She screams at Ken’ichiro, after the father leaves she yells “Ken!” (Kan 14), demanding that Ken’ichiro retrieves his father. This shows us that the new Japan standing up for their beliefs and are capable of making demands.

Works Cited

Kan, Kikuchi. "Father Returns." The Methuen Drama Anthology of Modern Asian Plays. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2014. Print.

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