“Separate Ways” by Higuchi Ichiyo

Realism by Higuchi Ichiyo

Nowadays, when people are involved in technology and science development, some of them remain abounded from these processes. The short story “Separate Ways” by Higuchi Ichiyo represents the destinies of two different people, whose lives may hardly be called happy. The readers do not think about the author’s opinion, as the story is focused completely on the characters. The story is written in the realistic style that will be proven further.

The story is one of realism because it demonstrates the lives of the representatives of the middle class. In order to prove this suggestion, it is worth analyzing the characters. The main characters are Kichizo and Okyo, who live in a small Chinese city. Both of them have no relatives, who could support them. Okyo is a seamstress, who lives near the umbrella factory and sews clothes for the members of the shop. According to the author, “With her quick wit, she was soon friendly with everyone” (910). She had no unusual attributes or outstanding traits, as she was an ordinary stylish woman in early twenties, kind and friendly, and in an old kimono. She sewed clothes and liked people, who were not afraid “to speak their minds” (910). Kichizo is a sixteen years-old orphan, who repaired umbrellas in an umbrella shop. The story is concentrated on his life and thoughts, but the author depicted him as an usual boy. He was a low and hot-tempered boy with the fragile figure, which made other people laugh at him. For instance, Kichizo said about himself “Oiling umbrellas suits me fine. I was born to wear a plain kimono with workman’s sleeves and a short band around my waist. To me, all ‘good luck’ means is squeezing a little money from the change when I am sent to by persimmon juice. If I hit the target someday, shooting arrows through a bamboo pole, that’s about all the good luck I can hope for” (908). The realism of the story is strengthened by the fatalistic views of the characters. Both Kichizo and Okyo realized their poor financial condition, opportunities to succeed and, therefore, were rather pessimistic. Thus, the story represents simple ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, who have no bright characteristic and pathos dreams.

The author avoided some emotional comparisons and suggestions, though he criticized the social conditions of the characters. For example, Okyo is very kind and generous person, who has to leave in an unfavorable environment and do a primitive work. She is a positive character, even if her decisions are not approved in the end of the story. She told to the members of the shop “Bring over your mending anytime, boys. I don’t care what condition it’s in…I’m always sewing anyway, one more stitch is nothing. Come and visit me when you have time. I get lonely living by myself” (910). She does not hope for a better life, though, the work of a mistress can help her. She is creative, but her social condition does not let her gain success. Kichizo is a central character, whose life makes the readers sympathize with him, “I may be a child of a tramp. One of those men who pass by in rags every day could by a kinsman” (909). He does not know anything about his parents and lineage, therefore, he feels lonely and doomed. He even does not hope for love towards him, therefore, he tries not to form tight relationship. Despite his teens, he works as much as three adults do, but all his positive traits do not promote to his growing rich. Hence, due to the criticism of social conditions the story is realistic.

The author achieved objectiveness of the story, which makes “Separate Ways” absolutely realistic. As it was mentioned above, the circumstances and characters are ordinary, therefore, the ending of the story should be ordinary as well. For example, the readers learn about deep characteristics of Kichizo and Okyo only through the description of their actions. The author did not depict the characters’ traits such as kindness, sincerity, and generosity. The opinion of the author that significantly influences reader’s suggestions about the story is almost excepted. Higuchi Ichiyo did not write his comments about the decisions of the characters. He let the readers form their opinions by themselves, citing the actions of Kichizo and Okyo. The evaluation of the story from ethical point of view by the author is absent. In addition, the story does not contain some interesting and crucial events that have global impact on society. Nothing unusual is happening in the story because people do what they are supposed to do. For instance, the destiny of Okyo is predicted by Kichizo in the beginning of the story “But someone like you, from a good family – why, fortune will come to greet you in a carriage. I don’t mean a man’s going to come and take you for his mistress, or something. Don’t get the wrong idea” (908). Okyo, in fact, had a chance of becoming a mistress, and she used it. The determinism and fatalism is also reflected in Kichizo’s destiny. He predicted his further unhappiness and sufferings “Don’t count on it. I am not going to succeed” (908). Consequently, the realism of the story is proven by objective tone and predictability of the ending.

In conclusion, the story may be considered realistic due to some features of the author’s writing style. These features include the representation of the middle class people’s lives, criticism of social conditions, objective tone and typicality of the outcomes. This story is similar to other stories, which may be heard in daily life from ordinary people.

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