Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories Characters

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Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories Summary & Study Guide Description

Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.

Daidoji Shinsukeappears in Daidoji Shinsuke: The Early Years

Shinsuke is widely acknowledged as a thinly-veiled persona for author Akutagawa himself. Shinsuke grew up in Honjo, a poor and run-down district in Tokyo, and the boy comes to like the area more than richer areas. A formative event for Shinsuke occurs when he and his father go to a much-frequented bank on a river, and they discover a dead body floating in the water. This upbringing and event can perhaps explain Akutagawa's interest in the macabre, as with the dead bodies in "Rashomon."

Shinsuke was raised on cow's milk rather than his mother's milk, and he carries this fact like a secret shame throughout much of his early childhood. This fact also perpetuates an unbridled, unreasonable hate—towards his parents, towards himself—that Shinsuke acknowledges he bears into his adulthood. Afterwards, Shinsuke learns that Romulus the founder of Rome was raised on wolf's milk instead of mother's milk, and so Shinsuke does not feel so badly about his own upbringing, even carrying it as a point of pride from then on.

Shinsuke was born into a relatively poor family, and thus he feels he was deprived of many possessions and opportunities that other kids had. This increases his hate and loathing. As an outlet for all of his ill feelings, he creates a "Diary without Self-Deceit" to express his true feelings.

Shinsuke values intelligence above all else, and he loses himself in books and intellectual debates. If he judges someone as not smart enough, they are clowns or mere passersby to him and not worthy of his attention.

Yoshihideappears in Hell Screen

Yoshihide is a brilliant but tortured artist, and with these characteristics perhaps a somewhat autobiographical portrait of Akutagawa himself. He is widely acknowledged to be the best painter in the land, and he never fails to abuse this position, deriding other artists' work and otherwise possessive of a great arrogance and lack of concern for others. He has a single daughter and is very possessive of her, to the dismay of the local Lord. He is a contrarian, and where others find the Lord's promotion of his daughter a great honor, Yoshihide wishes only that the Lord demote her.

Yoshihide's "fatal flaw" is that he cannot paint something without first directly viewing the same thing in real life, or a close approximation thereof. When he is tasked to depict Hell in his masterpiece, the Hell Screen, he can realistically depict Hell's flames because he saw a great fire once. However, he is unable to depict a woman burning alive in a carriage, as is called for in the final panel of the screen. Obsessed and holding art in an unreasonably high position, above the value of human life even, Yoshihide consents to watch his own daughter burn alive in a carriage in order to complete his masterwork. Once he completes the work, he cannot go on living and subsequently hangs himself so he might join his daughter in Buddhist Hell. Yoshihide is the consummate "tortured artist."

Naigu Zenchiappears in The Nose

Naigu Zenchi is a Buddhist priest who has low self-esteem over his huge nose, which he obsesses over. He undergoes a treatment to shrink his nose, but discovers that those around him ridicule him even more with a normal nose than with a large nose. To his relief, his huge nose grows back.

E'inappears in Dragon: The Old Potter's Tale

E'in is a Buddhist monk who, like Naigu Zenchi, has a huge nose, earning him the nickname "Storenose," after his title, Keeper of His Majesty's Storehouse. To get back at the town who ridicules him, he plays a trick, posting a sign near Sarusawa Pond stating that a dragon will emerge from the pond on a certain date. To his amazement, his prank comes true.

Kandataappears in Spider Thread

Kandata is a thief and murderer who is suffering in Hell when Lord Buddha decides to give him a chance to escape from Hell, based upon the one good deed Kandata performed in life, refusing to stomp on a spider. Kandata climbs a heavenly spider thread, but when he yells at other sinners trying to climb "his" thread, the thread breaks and he falls back to Hell, failing in a test of his compassion.

Shinoappears in Dr. Ogata Ryosai: Memorandum

Shino is an independent widow with a child, Sato. Shino embraces Christianity at a time when that religion's practice is punished and outlawed. When Sato falls ill, Shino begs the doctor to tend to her daughter, but the doctor refuses based upon her Christianity. Shino must choose between her faith and the possible health and survival of her daughter.

Xaio-erappears in The Story of the Head That Fell Off

Xaio-er is a Chinese warrior who receives a deep neck wound in battle. Believing he is dying, he clings to his horse and runs away from the battle, In a field, he bemoans his fate and promises to reform his wicked ways should he have a second chance at life. He is given that chance but continues to be a trouble-maker, breaking his promise to himself. In a sort of retribution, his head is knocked off by brief violence in a bar fight.

O-Kimiappears in Green Onions

O-Kimi is a pretty but bubble-headed waitress who is full of "artistic ecstasy," to the point she cannot pay her bills and is unconcerned with the real world, especially finances. A sign advertising a fantastic price for Green Onions seems to change her ways, and in the end O-Kimi becomes more responsible.

Hanzaburoappears in Horse Legs

Hanzaburo is an ordinary corporate man who dies of a stroke. In the afterlife, he learns his death was a mistake. Unfortunately, his legs have already rotted at this time from his accidental death, and so he is provided with the only kind of legs available at the moment, horse legs, which Hanzaburo must deal with and keep secret in real life once he is resurrected.

Usaemonappears in Loyalty

Usaemon becomes the "Head Elder" of a minor noble House ruled by Shuri. Shuri has gone mad, but Usaemon is torn between his love for Shuri and his responsibilities for the health and well-being of the house. Knowing he is wrong and succumbing to his baser instincts, Usaemon allows Shuri to visit the aristocratic Castle during a social event, during which Shuri stabs a man to death. For his "loyalty" to Shuri, Usaemon is sentenced to death by strangulation.

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