"The Drifting Cloud" by Futabatei Shimei is known to be the first modern Japanese novel written about four main characters that each have conflicting views and attitudes toward the changes of Japan in the Meiji era. Because the setting for this novel is set in the Meiji era, there are dramatic changes in economics, politics, social structure as well as gender equality.
Osei is a classic example of women's status at that time and shows us how these women's status changed or improved. The novel is a mirror to see these changes ranging from physical appearances, thoughts and ideals they pursued, rising independence, and importance of education even to women. But at the same time the novel enables the readers to catch the constraints forced upon these females by their parents or society.
The four key changes mentioned above that we, as readers, can observe are evidenced by different factors including the description the author puts in describing each character from their emotions to their appearances as well as conversations that these characters go through. The evidence of women's change in status is especially well established in conversations between the main character Bunzo and his love Osei.
Before going into details about the changes in women's status in the Meiji era, Osei should be observed first as to see where she fits in. Unlike her mother who values traditional "women's stance" where they are subordinates of men chained by marriage, Osei is an individual that is from a well off family with opportunity for education, or to be more specific opportunities to be influenced by western civilization, and values the western civilization higher than the traditional Japanese culture.
To analyze women at this time, we could see that women started to dress differently than of previous generations. Because of western influences, Osei "switched from a Japanese under-robe to an undershirt and adopted a Western style hairdo, strangled herself with a scarf, and donned eyeglasses which ruined her perfect vision." (210) Although a bit extreme, there are definitely transformation from many young female generations in the Meiji era where they changed their outer physical appearances. Although with this description with Osei, this may just be another way for her to feel superior to others.
Another changed thoughts and ideals that women had during these times were of freedom. Osei mentions in her conversation with Bunzo the "freedom between the sexes" (215) that infer that in the Meiji era, there are the gender gap are more neutralized than before and can talk about them being the same. Whereas before these time periods, it was almost impossible for women to be treated as same as men.
In these times, there were also the rise of independence for women. We could see this from the fights that Osei and Omasa (Osei's mother) have regarding marriage. Osei views marriage as unnecessary and something that would chain her freedom where as Omasa wants Osei to find a nice husband that would take care of her. Osei does not like this passive role that is forced upon her and fights with her mother with this issue. When her mother tries to teach her "the proper behavior"(343) to deal with men, she replies that "women in the Meiji period were no longer supposed to act like professional entertainers." (343) The older generation's idea of "the proper way for a young lady to behave" (344) were no longer acceptable to younger generation females and showed much more independence of women in these era.
There is also the importance of education even to women that is different than before. Women were given education to serve their husbands instead of the education for themselves. But now it was regarded less of people if they had no education. This is evident in the way Osei treats her mother Omasa. Whenever she gets frustrated with her mother she says "What can you expect from someone who has no education?" (241), which suggests that now...
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