The Nose (Akutagawa)

Plot summary

Zenchi Naigu, a Heian period Buddhist priest, is more concerned with diminishing his overly long, dangling nose than he is with studying and teaching the sūtras.[5] He pretends to ignore his nose in fear it will be mentioned, and studies religious texts in a desperate attempt to find a person with a nose like his. When in private, he constantly checks his nose in a mirror, hoping for even the smallest amount of shrinkage.

One autumn, a disciple reveals he has learned a new technique to shrink noses from a friend, a Chinese doctor who has become a high-ranking priest at the Chōrakuji temple in Kyoto. At first, Naigu feigns disinterest, to appeal to the misconception that he is unconcerned with his nose,[5] but eventually “gives in” to his disciple’s insisting.[5] The disciple first boils the nose, then stomps on it, finally removing the beads of fat the treatment extracts from the nose. To Naigu’s satisfaction, the nose, once dangling past his chin, is now the size of a typical hooked nose.[3]

Naigu, excited but nervous, sets about his weekly routines. He is surprised, however, to find the people he encounters laughing at him far more openly than they had before. Naigu becomes bitter and harsh, to the point where one disciple proclaims: “Naigu will be punished for treating us so harshly instead of teaching us Buddha’s Law”.[5] People continue to laugh at Naigu for his vanity, until one day, Naigu wakes up, and to his relief and rejoicing, his nose has returned to its original length.

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.