In a Grove: Rashomon Effect

The Japanese short story “In a Grove” starts off with the testimonies of a woodcutter, a Buddhist priest, a policeman, and the mother of one of the victims in the case. A man has been murdered on the road to Yamashina; he was found in a clearing with cedar trees, with a single slash of a sword on his breast. Then we are met with the testimonies of the three main protagonists: Tajōmaru, Kanazawa no Takehiro, and his wife Masago. Tajōmaru is a robber who confesses to killing Takehiro and taking advantage of his wife Masago. According to his testimony, he lured the couple into the clearing after gaining their trust as a tour guide, then tied up Takehiro to a cedar tree and violated Masago. Masago then begged for Tajōmaru to either kill himself or Takehiro because she couldn’t handle having her shame seen by two men. Tajōmaru killed Takehiro, then as he turned to Masago to take her as his wife and leave together, Masago was gone. Masago’s testimony tells a different perception of the events that occurred. After being violated by the robber, Masago tried to rush to her husband’s side to help him, but the only response she was met with was Takehiro’s cold gaze towards her, which held loathing and hatred. After recovering from falling unconscious, Masago took Takehiro’s life as she couldn’t bear to let him live after seeing the shame she was put through, planning to follow with her death right after his. Due to her suicide attempts being unsuccessful she was forced to live with her shame. Takehiro’s testimony was made through a medium, in which he tells the reader his perspective of the events. According to Takehiro, he had been attempting to soothe Masago’s pain and humiliation by winking at her as Tajōmaru was talking to her. To his astonishment, Masago then asked Tajōmaru to take her with him anywhere he goes and later demanded that he kill Takehiro. Tajōmaru struck Masago down and asked Takehiro whether he wants to kill her or not, but upon Masago seizing Takehiro’s hesitance as an opportunity and fleeing the clearing, Tajōmaru untied Takehiro and left the scene. Takehiro then, out of despair, used the small sword his wife had dropped to take his own life. The ”Roshomon effect”, in psychology, occurs when a certain event is interpreted drastically differently by different individuals. In this story, the different interpretations that are presented are three of the story’s protagonists Tajōmaru, Kanazawa no Takehiro, and his wife Masago. The event may have been perceived differently by everyone because all three had different goals and priorities in the story. Tajōmaru was only focused on his own pleasure and gains; he was obsessing over Takehiro’s wife so his mind may have subconsciously altered the events that occurred to fit his sick fantasies of having Masago to himself. Masago’s feelings regarding the situation give off the impression that she was more worried about what the other two individuals thought about her than her own wellbeing. This allows for the assumption that she may have been so worried about “losing her virtue” that she convinced herself Takehiro would see/feel about her the same way she herself does. Lastly, regarding Takehiro, he may have had insecurities within himself which could have led him to believe that Masago really did want to run away with Tajōmaru. This would have been enough to drive him to take his own life.

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