Tayama Katai, Country Teacher

4 April 2015
Critical review of pessimistic 1909 novel about an idealistic Japanese writer-teacher who fails in life, becomes ill, and dies.

Country Teacher, by Tayama Katai, published in 1909, is based on the true story of a school teacher named Kobayashi Shuzo, named Hayashi Seizo in the novel. The protagonist is a young man undergoing the rites of passage as he struggles to fit his ideals into the real world of education, economics, writing caring for his aging parents, and his own severe illness and death. The author contrasts the young man’s essentially miserable life and death with the battle victories Japan celebrates in its war with Russia.
The book’s first words, The ten-mile road was a long one (3) is symbolic of the arduous journey Seizo endures throughout his life and death. Although his life is marked by signs of hope now and again, all those hopes are essentially unrealized. It is as if life sets him up with such hopes in order to knock him down…
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