Yoko Ogawa's 'The Diving Pool'

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2020 TASK 2 ESSAY Texts that give insight into the interior worlds of their characters invariably reflect how our identity and understanding of society are shaped by our emotions and motivations, reaching inside of us and exploring the ‘chasms’ that exist within one's self and society. William Shakespeare’s (1599) revenge tragedy, “Hamlet”, represents how Hamlet’s emotional struggle to enact vengeance whilst upholding humanist values causes him to reject his corrupt society and re-evaluate conceptions of fate and mortality dear to him. Yoko Ogawa’s (2008) short story, “The Diving Pool”, demonstrates how protagonist Aya’s ungratified sexual motivations and feelings of displacement cause her to detach from society and embrace a cruel, voyeuristic …show more content…

Hamlet embodies the conflict between medieval notions of blood revenge, and rapidly popularising Renaissance Humanist beliefs which promoted individualism, critical thought and the value of human life. Claudius’ corrupt murder of Hamlet’s father is the catalyst for Hamlet’s vengeful motivations, and his unscrupulousness as a character is reflected in his opening monologue through balanced antithesis, “with one auspicious and one dropping eye, with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage”. Shakespeare carefully constructs this to intensify Hamlet’s antic disposition as he attempts to reconcile his Renaissance humanist thinking with his duty and adherence to the Medieval code. He then reflects how this corruption catalyses his inner struggle to be an avenging son by personifying the Ghost’s instruction for vengeance as his sole intention; “thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain”. However, he also expresses emotional frustration at being unable to reconcile vengeance with his Humanist beliefs by juxtaposing a hyperbolic assertion of man’s glory over animals, “What a piece of work is a man! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals,” to his disillusionment with his own life: “yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”. Ultimately, upon being exposed to the “delicate and tenderprince” Fortinbras, wrought with his “divine ambition”, Hamlet …show more content…

Unlike Hamlet’s eventual emotional fulfilment as a decisive leader, however, The Diving Pool exposes how being unable to resolve emotional displacement with sexual motivations can make people cruel and abusive, and damage their ability to connect with society. Ogawa’s work seeks to break from the image of female purity and subservience idealised by Japanese culture by depicting troubled, sexual and critical female interior worlds. Her protagonist, Aya, subverts the traditional expectation of women as secure within a family-oriented lifestyle by conveying her disillusionment towards ideals of familial connection through simile, “the words “family” and “home”…seem hollow, seem to rattle at my feet like empty cans.” She depicts the character Jun, her obsessive love interest, as a vivid contrast to this sense of displacement, and as a hope for genuine emotional connection: “In Jun’s absence, these Sunday afternoons seemed somber and endless.” The fetishistic, disconcerting motivations behind this attachment, however, are revealed through an overwhelming emphasis on

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