Sample Critical Thinking On Poverty In Two Japanese Modern Literature Texts
Poverty is often associated with prejudice and dehumanizing treatment. Poverty can be defined from the fronts. The most common definition of poverty is the lack of material assets, in regards to the standards set by the society. However, the definition of poverty goes beyond the material lack and includes the deficiency in capabilities of humans, such as respect for society, skills and even physical abilities (Chambers 3). In Modern Japanese Literature, the concept of poverty has been addressed differently by various authors. This discussion will hash out the idea of poverty as portrayed in The Crab Cannery Ship and Soldiers Alive and its impact on the victims; positive and negative.
Poverty is overly detrimental to the living conditions of a person. In the text, The Crab Cannery Ship, authored by Takiji Kobayashi, the plight of the poor is described as they struggle to earn a living. In fact, Kobayashi starts off with a hint of the totalitarian nature of the leadership surrounding Hakko Maru, the factory ship, when he says “Buddy, We’re off to hell” (p. 19). The crew members of the ship include poor students, farmers who have been impoverished and jobless laborers. These poor people are plighted to get out of their unfortunate conditions amidst their bid. The working conditions are so poor that the crew was even reduced to commodities. The author avers that “In the dim interior, fishermen lay about like pigs. The nauseating stench itself was that of a pigsty” (p. 21). The crew ceases to resemble human beings. The author fortifies his sentiments on the pathetic working conditions of the poor when he notes “The entire cabin stank like a toilet. People moving about in their bunks looked like squirming maggots” (p. 26). In essence, the author depicts the situation the poor are subjected to for lacking the material assets. The superintendent of the factory understood that the crew was desperate and thus would not resist any inhumane act committed to them: “They would not wake up even if he stepped on them (p. 32)”. That is the true representation of how the society perceived the poor.
In addition, Kobayashi presents poverty to be akin to lack of power in society. The author describes the crew to be lacking unity and the courage to revolt the oppressive treatment by the superintendent. On the other hand, the superiors of the factory were only interested in the gains they would derive from the hard work of the crew. The importance of human life was trivialized due to the power hierarchy, which was dictated by the material assets one claimed. However, towards the culmination of Kobayashi’s text, he makes a call to action for the poor, who involve the crew members and the working class, in general, to work as a team. He says, “The most important thing of all, brothers, is to join forces and keep our power united” (Kobayashi 89). This statement insinuates the previous tendency to drop out and spy to repel the subjugation of the other crew members of their intention. All the same, the crew stands against the superintendents and sparks a revolution after being dehumanized and oppressed due to their poor conditions of life.
On the contrary, poverty can have a positive impact on the life of a person. In Soldiers Alive, authored by Tatsuzo Ishikawa, poverty is described to be an ideal condition for a prospective soldier. However, poverty in this narration does not necessarily involve the material lacking; rather, it entails the lack of skills, education, and respect in society. The narration revolves around Japanese soldiers who go on a fighting mission in North China. These soldiers are from different social classes in society. For instance, Hirao was a one-time newspaper proofreader, Kondo graduated from the medical school and Kurata emerged as an elementary school teacher. In addition, the three soldiers ailed from urban areas (Ishikawa 32). Given this, they were psychologically affected by the impending deaths and extreme violence involved on the battlefield. “The least inconvenienced appears to be Corporal Kasahara, who takes killing and danger cheerfully in stride” (Ishikawa 33). It is attributed to the poor conditions with which Kasahara was brought up. His father was a peasant farmer, and one can only guess the harshness out of that. Besides, he was not educated, and this relieved of excessive emotional attachment to killing (p. 33). As such, he emerged as an ideal soldier of all his colleagues. From now on, poor rural youths were preferred over the urban elites for the military recruitment.
In conclusion, as much as poverty is presumed to be an unfortunate situation, it also has its positive side. Kobayashi describes the plight of the crew due to poverty, lack of material assets. He maintains that the lack of material assets translated into a lack of power. Hence, the oppression by the superintendent and ends his narration with a call to action for the crew to stand up in unity and oppose the oppressors. On the contrary, Ishikawa portrays poverty as the ideal experience for prospective soldiers due to the trivial emotional attachment one has when he or she is poor. Without doubt, these two modern Japanese literature texts have portrayed the two contradicting perceptions about poverty in a cagey manner.
Chambers, Robert. What is poverty? Concepts and Measure. Sussex, UK: Institute of
Development Studies, December 2006. Print.
Ishikawa, Tatsuzō. Soldiers Alive. Honolulu: University of Hawaiì Press, 2003. Print.
Kobayashi, Takiji. The Crab Cannery Ship. In The History of Capitalist Penetration into
Colonial Territories. 1929, March 30, p. 19-96. Print.
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