In a Grove

In a Grove, a classic short story written by Japanese writer, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, tells the tale of a murdered young samurai, from the perspectives of 7 different characters in the story.

The story of a young couple on a journey met by tragedy along the way is pieced together from the accounts of 7 different people, questioned by the High Police Commission regarding the murder – a woodcutter, a policeman, a thief, a monk, the young samurai’s wife, the samurai’s wife’s mother, and the murdered samurai’s spirit, through a medium.

The story, as told by the 7 individuals, is simply about a young couple on a journey who had the bad luck of meeting a thief along the way.  The thief, who was not only interested in acquiring their possessions, also coveted the young samurai’s wife.  Posing as a travelling companion, the thief managed to get the couple to a secluded grove in the forest, where the young samurai ends up being bound, and his wife ends up being raped by the thief.  In the end, the thief manages to leave the grove, the samurai’s wife somehow escapes, and the samurai ends up dead.

Each of the 7 individuals have their own version of who the young couple was, and what really happened in the grove.  A cross-reference of the 7 individuals’ stories show that each of them is lying about something, but what and why?  As each of them give their account of the tragic event, their sense of morality is reflected in their version of the story, as well as their need for self justification.

In the course of reading the story and trying to solve the mystery, the reader’s sense of justice and morality will also be put to the test as he/she chooses whose version he/she will believe, and why.  And like the characters in the book, the reader will probably find himself/herself trying to justify his/her chosen version of what really happed on that fateful day, in the grove.

2 thoughts on “In a Grove

  1. One does not have to “lie” to recall events differently from others. The priest is not a “lier” but shows his human weaknesses through his recollection. He provides a vivid description of the woman but does not describe well the man. The story is also told by what is not said or recalled. Thus we can see into each of the characters and who they are as humans as well as try to determine the details of what factually happened. In the end we know what happened and there is no doubt. A samauri is dead and a robber’s actions led to his death. Whether the robber actually killed the samauri

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