Psychological Analysis of Rashomon
Rashomon, by Ryunosaki Akutaguya provides great insight into the psychological discord that the Japanese culture was undergoing in the early part of the twentieth century. Japan was in the throes of a societal transformation, from a traditional, religious-based society, to a newly adopted weternized culture. Japan was rapidly assimilating industrial and scientific techniques and philosophies that were in conflict with, and were replacing traditional ways of life. Akutaguwa illustrates this with his opening two paragraphs where he shows the once proud and majestic Rashomon Gate, a religious monument, abandoned and in ruins. As we enter the story, it is raining, (symbolic of transformation or rebirth) and the author describes the city of Kyoto having undergone a series of calamities; earthquakes, fires and tornadoes which have left Kyoto in a state of decline. This image is put side by side with the Samurai’s servant, whose master, once prosperous, is wealthy no longer. The servant, therefore, has been discharged and is out on the street. Psychologically, the imagery of the first two paragraphs is important. The religious artifacts, once richly decorated with gold and silver, no longer proudly represent old Japan. The gold and silver has “worn off” and the statues, which themselves represent the collectivist mindset and values, are being chopped up and “sold” as firewood. This represents a westernized psychological mindset that everything is for sale, including the Japanese people’s once- idealized values. The Rashomon itself is now a repository for the Kyoto dead, symbolically, those who cannot adapt to the new psychology and values taking over Japan.
The current states of the city and the Rashomon Gate sets the stage for the servant’s internal psychological struggle. We meet the servant, his once fine clothes are now “worn thin” just like the the gold of the icons. Discharged from his master, he is lost in this new world. He has “no particular idea” of what to do. He realizes he faces a hard decision: to try to make an honest living and starve, or to become a theif and survive. Akutagawa very effectively illustrates the servant’s psychological dilemma with the line “He had little choice. His mind, after making the same detour time and again, finally came to the decision to be a thief.” We see the servants continuing struggle as, even after making the decision, he returns to re-examine it “many times.” Logically, the servant knows he must change; he must reject his old beliefs and adopt the new values. Pschologically, however, “he was still unable to muster enough courage to justify the conclusion that he must become a thief.” The word “courage” is particularly descriptive of the mental process the servant is going through. The “courage” to face the change, to do the opposite of what he believes, is very difficult and Akutagawa gives us the distinct impression that even though the servant has made the decision, he cannot follow through with the necessary actions because his old beliefs are just to strong and ingrained. We are, at this point wondering, if he will survive and how he will find the strength to do what needs to be done.
The servant seeks refuge from the storm in the symbol of the remnants of his old beliefs, the ruins of Rashomon Gate. Once inside, he discovers a light, a fire burning on one of the upper floors. Psychologically, this represents even more desecration of his old values as we get a sense that is sacrilegious to light a fire in the Rashomon. Akutagawa sets the rest of the story up very ingeniously as he shows the weakness of the servant who is naïve enough to believe that there are still unknowns and mysteries in the world. “The unknown, the evil terrified him.” The servant still has his beliefs, his wonder and superstitions. He is still a child.
Akutagawa begins the final psychological transformation of the servant...