Kokoro Study Guide

Kokoro (こゝろ), written by the famous Japanese author Natsume Soseki, was published in serial form by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, for which he worked, in 1914. That year, two years had passed since the death of Emperor Meiji, under whose rule Japan saw its first period of intense modernization, and in two years Natsume himself would be dead. In his novel, Natsume deals primarily with the psychological and ethical problems dealt with by the Meiji era intellectuals, who had to reconcile their Confucian dedication to the public with the individualism imported from the West, and the new unabashedly individualistic tide of thought which had emerged even while Meiji was alive. Through the tortured and melancholy character of Sensei, Natsume showed the alienation and guilt that he himself felt personally from his separation from the traditional ethics of Japan, along with his struggle to find a solution.