Mr. Jack Carter
Running Without Consequence
Can a soul survive without nourishment? Is a human being, taking race, age, and all other physical traits out of the picture, able to go through life without fulfilling their natural desires? Perhaps Matsuo Basho was wondering these thoughts himself when he said,
“My recurring aliment was still a problem, and I thought how a long pilgrimage involves detachment, letting the world go, the fleeting moment, life itself transient, passing away on the roadside maybe, accepting whatever fate holds” (The Narrow Road through the Backcountry, 665)
One of the most complex aspects of the Japanese culture in the seventeenth century was their view on life. Men were known to sit on the top of mountains or in temples for years contemplating the very idea of human existence and how it was meant to play out. Poets like Ihara Saikaku and Basho were masters of depicting humans. The pilgrimages Basho and Saikaku took led them to temples or shrines where they would experience the relationships of previous visitors, their histories, and individual stories. Saikaku is able to take a well-known event, combine it with clear storytelling, and allow a reader to become engaged in the characters and their hardships. Enlightenment like this is what makes these poets so insightful. Their storytelling shows us what it means to give up everything and understand “letting the world go” on a level we can understand and sympathize with.
Ihara Saikaku’s “What the Season’s Brought to the Almanac Maker” presents us with a character who eventually surrenders everything she has ever known. A complicated theme in this story is adultery, which we were faced with in an earlier play, Tartuffe. The sexual tension between Tartuffe and Elmire is close to that of Osan and Moemon. During this time, married men were commonly allowed to have relationships with courtesans and not be crucified. Women, however,...