June 24, 2007
MLA 234?, Prof. David Palumbo-Liu
The Way of Women in Sasameyuki and My Son’s Story
Yukiko Makioka is not immediately read as the protagonist of The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. There is no one protagonist nor one perspective in that story. The point of view primarily resides among the three younger sisters, shifting as time progresses from homey 1938 Osaka to 1941 Tokyo, a destination that increasingly becomes inevitable. It is as if Tokyo cannot be held at bay, and that the slow, dreamy Kansai ideal will slowly wash away. The action follows Yukiko's way through this transition, with Yukiko settling on a compromise settlement of her too-long maidenhood. Yukiko manages to preserve the link with the past while seeing there is no remaining choice but to move on and to move to Tokyo.
Aila would rarely be read as protagonist in My Son's Story by Nadine Gordimer. It is the son's story, but the title (something Nadine Gordimer starts with, when she sets out to write a novel) implies that the perspective is actually that of the father, not the son. The story is told with the son's voice, but following the father's experiences. Nothing happens in My Son's Story that is not either the father's story, or the story of how his life affects the lives of the rest of his family. The narrator curiously leaves out about his own life. Aila figures as a satellite.
In the end, it is Yukiko and Aila who achieve their aims, waiting patiently and not entirely submissively. Yukiko's was to marry well, and continue developing her feminine identity, carrying on the traditions of one the few remaining traditional Japanese families, as well as the traditions of the age-honored cultural ideals. Aila's, we are told, is to become what Sonny wanted. Along the way, she realized this meant she had to substitute for his leaving her own growth. Aila quietly and effectively resists the private and public injustices she suffered all her life....