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The Theme of Desperation in Rashomon by Akira Kurosava

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The title of the story Rashōmon is the name of an entryway in Kyōto, the biggest gate of Kyōto, actually. In any case, Kyōto has fallen on harsh occasions, and our protagonist is a recently ownerless samurai who has looked for the gate’s safe house from the heavy downpour. There, he ponders whether he should take up an existence of wrongdoing, which is by all accounts his solitary methods for survival in the present economy given his range of abilities. The gate has turned into an archive for the carcasses. Inside the gate, he finds an old lady who plunders bodies professionally. His conversation with the elderly person encourages him to choose his own fate. The aim of this literary analysis is to highlight how the theme of desperation is represented through the short story’s character, setting and plot sequence. In ‘Rashōmon’, twelfth century Kyōto turns into an image for destruction, decay, and death: The whole city has been tormented by catastrophic events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and fires and by starvation, yet the profound ‘starvation’ is no less significant.So as to endure, individuals have crushed the Buddhist symbols and sold the pieces for kindling. As a result, at that point, it can be seen that in urgent circumstances individuals turn to desperation and surrender ethical quality as well as use and adventure it as they would some other material within reach. Given his need to endure, the servant who took the kimono simply went about as how the people in the city would have acted.

Meanwhile, the theme is represented through the lowly servant. In order to justify his actions he stole the old lady’s kimono. The lowly servant is described has a hypocritical, judgemental and merciless individual. He stripped the old lady of her robe, and when she attempted to grip his lower legs he gave her a kick that sent her rambling onto the carcasses. As stated in the text on page 9, the lowly servant says, “You won’t blame me, then, for taking your clothes. That’s what I have to do to keep from starving to death.” On the other hand, the old lady also represents the theme of desperation. She is depicted as a selfish and deceitful person. She legitimizes her actions of stealing from the dead bodies by claiming that when these individuals were alive, they had their considerable amount of wrong-doings also. Hence, they deserved what they received. This occurs on page 8, when the old lady says. “I know, I know, it may be wrong to pull out dead people’s hair. But these people here deserve what they get.” Both characters had to resort to stealing in order to survive. Their need to survive reflects human’s selfishness during desperate times. The lowly servant, despite the fact that he used to be a samurai needed to swear off his standards by taking from the old lady. The old lady on the other hand, needed to stoop to the degree of taking from dead cadavers as that would be her lone method for survival too. Moreover, these theme can be related to our society, for instance individuals who are in desperation are often willing and able to do things they would otherwise not consider, for example, not abiding by the law or to the extreme circumstance like taking a life, depending on the importance of the purpose.

Furthermore, the theme is presented in the settings of the demolished city of Kyōto and the Rashōmon gate. Set against this general picture of physical and significant destruction is Rashōmon, which speaks to the entire city. With its stripping paint and climate beaten sections, the ruined structure fills in as a sheltered house for wild creatures and culprits and as a store for unclaimed bodies. The main different is that the guests are the crows, which feed on the dead bodies. Extraordinary calamities had fallen upon the city of Kyōto and caused the place to be deserted and filled up with dead bodies. As expressed in the content, “Finally, it became the custom to abandon unclaimed corpses in the upper story of the gate, which made the neighbourhood an eerie place everyone avoided after the sun went down.” More frequent and serious drought, storms, rising sea levels, and tornadoes can legitimately hurt people and animals and obliterate the place they live in. As environmental change worsens, dangerous climate events are increasingly regular or severe.This is one of the significant reasons for destruction of a city or nation.

Moving on, after a progression of ongoing disasters hits the city of Kyōto, a lowly servant sat beneath the Rashōmon, waiting for the rain to end. Having been relinquished his obligations as a servant, he has no place to go. He contemplates becoming a thief to escape his inevitable death. Having no place to go, he rises to the pinnacle of the gate, where he finds an old lady squatted among the carcasses, plucking hairs out of a fresh corpse’s head in the means of making a wig and selling it to earn a living. As noted on page 8, “And I don’t think what I’m doing is wrong either. It’s the same thing: I can’t help it. If I don’t do it, I’ll starve to death. This woman knew what it was to do what you have to do. I think she will understand what I’m doing to her.” He questioned the old lady’s action and decided to resort to thievery after listening to her justifications. This is illustrated when he states, “Then it’s right if I rob you, I’d starve if I didn’t.” The lowly servant stole the old lady’s clothes, kicked her onto the carcasses and escaped into the night. The old lady raised her bare body from the cadavers and crawled to the highest point of the stairway. Desperation is the feeling when you have lost practically all expectation or ability in life and are willing to do nearly anything.

All in all, the theme is the unforseen introduction of the legitimization of survival as a conclusive worth. The servant settled his moral fight by surrendering to any significant quality. He is basically following in the line of the individuals who mistreat others in order to keep themselves alive. The irregularity of the event is that the lady’s interest for taking from the dead, transforms into his justification for taking from her. An extreme world without human qualities. In case the primary worth is survival, by then there will be no moral quality, just the clash of all against all. The servant will make due until he meets someone who will act barbarously against him just like the way he acted towards the old lady.

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The Theme Of Desperation In Rashomon By Akira Kurosava. (2020, October 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 29, 2022, from
“The Theme Of Desperation In Rashomon By Akira Kurosava.” GradesFixer, 31 Oct. 2020,
The Theme Of Desperation In Rashomon By Akira Kurosava. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2022].
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