College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts in English (MA)
Persecution, Mimetic Desire, Endo, Girard, Institutions, Daisan no Shinjin
English Language and Literature | Japanese Studies
Smitthimedhin, Jirayu, "Persecutor’s Remorse: Mimetic Desire, Institutions, and Shūsaku Endō’s Loving Gaze on Persecutors" (2019). Masters Theses. 583.
Building on Mark Williams’ thesis that Endō’s characters often reconcile with an unconscious Other within themselves, I will argue that Endō’s “weak” characters are trapped by mimetic desire and are drawn toward acts of persecution; their status as persecutors depends on their relationships—whom they wish to imitate or whom they imitated in their past. While Williams and other Endō scholars often focus on the psychology and existential choices facing Endō’s characters, I point out how contextualizing Endō within the postwar Daisan no shinjin writers reveals Endō’s criticism of institutional powers, particularly because institutions can become “centers of desire.” Drawing on Girard’s theory in The Scapegoat, I show how “centers of desire” function in pressuring members of such institutions to conform; Endō’s “weak” characters are coerced into performing acts of persecution, usually in the form of scapegoating. In their desire to belong, Endo’s “weak” characters often forsake their moral sensibilities and allow themselves to commit acts of persecution. However, Endō also capitalizes on the guilt of his “weak” characters, and his narrative structure allows his readers to look upon such characters with a compassionate gaze. Along with Endō’s criticism of “centers of desire” is his solution to collective persecution—a mediator of virtue who can lead such remorseful persecutors away from the institutions which manipulate their desires. My first chapter assesses the relationships found in three of Endō’s novels, The Sea and Poison, Silence, and Kiku’s Prayer, particularly the ways in which these relationships motivate the characters towards persecuting behaviors either because they are traumatized by frustrated desires, or because they subconsciously seek to imitate those around them. My second chapter focuses on Endō’s critique of institutions as “centers of desire” and how they can manipulate characters to perform destructive behavior toward others by coaxing them to participate in scapegoating victims in order to avoid the threat of banishment. These “centers of desire” heighten their role as mediators by tempting the characters with the hope of belonging. My final chapter examines Endō’s compassionate gaze towards persecutors who are drawn to “centers of desire” and how a mediator of virtue can lead them towards repentance. I analyze Endō’s narrative technique in the three novels, especially how Endō builds the narratives around the victims in the story, only to end with a perspectival shift later in the novels. This perspectival shift is followed by an opportunity extended to these persecutors to receive forgiveness by a “mediator of virtue” once they recognize how wretched they are for persecuting the innocent. Thus, the death of victims can reveal the scapegoat mechanism to these persecutors and engender remorse, but a “mediator of virtue” is required to lead them toward repentance.