The Doctor’s Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi
How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral? During our interactive oral on Sawako Ariyoshi’s The Doctor’s Wife which depicts the Japanese society in the Tokugawa period in the 18th century, we explored some Japanese cultures such as the social duties of women, female self-sacrifice for male success and expectations of the eldest son. When I first read the The Doctor’s Wife, not only did I not comprehend why the society treated giving birth as the duty of a woman, I was also intrigued by the selfless female sacrifice illustrated in the novel. To most parents, giving birth is supposed to be something voluntary and delightful; but this is not the case in The Doctor’s Wife. I found it strange that it was a duty for Kae to produce a healthy child for the family, not to mention Otsugi made giving birth like a job by thanking her for doing so and asking her to give them a boy next time. Moreover, when I read about the women in the Hanaoka household, I was both impressed and awed by their determination to sacrifice for Umpei’s success. For instance, not only did all the women in the family weave diligently, Kae also volunteered to sacrifice her cotton kimonos for her husband’s experiments despite the poor economic condition. In our discussions, I suggested that the above behaviors were due to their immense love for Umpei and therefore they did not mind sacrificing themselves for the sake of his achievement. After the interactive oral, I have realized that it is rather impossible to understand the above customs if we do not understand the context of this novel. In our sharing, we have discovered that during the Tokugawa period, traditional gender roles in Japan were characterized by a strong sense of patriarchy in society. In other words, men acted as the primary breadwinners while women were the primary caregivers and therefore Kae as the housewife had...
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