A Personal Matter Theme

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A Collective Matter In A Personal Matter (1964), Kenzaburō Ōe, the Nobel Laureate, reexamines the Japanese memorable experience with the atomic age through Bird’s dilemma with his newly-born son. Ōe draws direct, as well as indirect, parallels between Bird’s personal identity-crises and the Japanese national identity-crises. Although the novel’s narration follows Bird, the novel’s protagonist, as he struggles with his past and future, the narrative deals, in fact, with the Japanese question of collective memory as the society emerges from World War II broken and lost. In A Personal Matter, Ōe employs dark imagery to illustrate Bird’s struggle as a vehicle to exemplify the fragmentation within the Japanese collective memory, the displacement…show more content…
The narrator’s unnatural description of Africa can be understood through the nickname given to Africa: the dark continent. While the narrator employs darkness to describe Bird’s apartment, his office at the Cram School, and, most important, the hospital’s rooms and aisles, it is Bird who carries darkness with him—he sees the world through dark lens. In other words, the images the narrator describes only exist, and described through gothic lens, because the narrator employs Bird’s point of view to narrate the events within the book. Indeed, Ōe’s uses a third-point-of-view to narrate the novel, but the narrative is focalized through Bird, the protagonist. In addition, the map(s) of Africa Bird keeps purchasing (in the fourth chapter he implies that he owns more than one map) provide a consistent reminder of Bird’s dreams and desires—as well as it serves to remind Bird himself of his pre-parenthood period. While there are many interpretations that can be concluded about the function of the African map, the map, through its “transportation routes […] unnatural death, raw, and violent,” functions as a bond that bridges between Japan’s atomic/nuclear era—with its “unnatural death”— and Japan’s future as the map was “gazing at Australia”—Australia is an interesting choice since it represented new beginnings to the Europeans in the sixteenth century
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