John Allyn’s The 47 Ronin, is the true, although slightly embellished, tale of 47 masterless samurai bent on avenging their fallen leader, Lord Asano, as well as a fairly accurate portrayal of the culture of Japan during the eighteenth century. Each page of the 47 Ronin is steeped in the aura of Samurai, Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist ethics.
The most prominent of these ethics, is that of the Samurai; the code of Bushido is modeled by seven core virtues: rectitude (gi), courage (yu), benevolence (jin), respect (rei), honesty (makoto), honor (mieyo), and loyalty (chugi). The most obvious example of samurai/bushido ethics occurs in the book’s final pages; having successfully slain Kira, their master’s “archenemy”, the contented ronin are granted with the honor of Seppuku (ritual suicide). Seppuku is the gruesome and excruciatingly painful process of disemboweling oneself, and while most would scoff at this notion, samurai, employing the virtues of Bushido, will happily endure Seppuku to keep their honor intact. As made apparent often throughout the 47 Ronin, “loyalty dwarfs all other moral obligations”. (pg. 59) Upon hearing of Kira surviving Lord Asano’s attack, the Ronins’ “sorrow and hopelessness chang[es] to pure rage”. (pg. 58) Despite this, Oishi (the main protagonist), adhering to the samurai tenet of wisdom (chi), is able
to maintain his composure, and think rationally through the predicament he and the rest of his fellow ronin face.
Allyn also regularly alludes to the ethical and philosophical system of Confucianism. The ethics of Confucianism are what set the events of The 47 Ronin into motion; as a result of his rash action towards Kira, Lord Asano is sentenced to death in reparation for his lack of respect for humanness and altruism, core tenets of Confucianism. Another important virtue of Confucianism is Filial Piety; filial piety is respect for one’s parents and ancestors, and it is an ideal to be held above all...