In a Grove

In a Grove Quotes and Analysis

"Ah, what is the life of a human being—a drop of dew, a flash of lightning?"

The Traveling Priest

At the end of his testimony, the priest says he never would have dreamt a man such as Takehiro could have been killed in the way he was, and compares human life to a drop of dew and a flash of lightning. Presented next to each other, the metaphors encapsulate life's brilliance and delicacy, its mundanity and violence. Dew and lightning, while in their own ways unique, will ultimately occur and disappear again and again. Thus, this passage contributes to the story's thematic preoccupation with death and rebirth.

"Again a rush of blood filled my mouth, but then I sank once and for all into the darkness between lives."


The last words of Takehiro's testimony as well as the final sentence of the story, this passage has multiple significant meanings. On one hand, Takehiro is stating that he has sunk into the spirit realm from which he gives his testimony, a dark and unknown place for his spirit to wait to be reborn in a new life. On the other, the darkness between lives has a subtextual meaning as the blind spot that exists between subjective perspectives. Just as it is impossible to comprehend the unknown that comes before and after life, it is impossible to reconcile the contradictory testimonies delivered in the story. The truth, in both cases, exists in the darkness between what is known.

"Of all the bandits prowling around Kyoto, this Tajōmaru is known as a fellow who likes the women."

The Policeman

Delivered toward the end of his testimony, the policeman uses euphemistic language to warn the magistrate of Tajōmaru's history of raping women. The statement adds dramatic tension to the narrative and gives cause to question the bandit. Ultimately, this passage foreshadows the events of the rape outlined in Tajōmaru's confession, which, in addition to Takehiro's death, is the central event of the story.

"You gentlemen kill with your power, with your money, and sometimes just with your words: you tell them you're doing them a favor. True, no blood flows, the man is still alive, but you've killed him all the same. I don't know whose sin is greater—yours or mine."


During his confession, Tajōmaru addresses the magistrate directly, making an equivalence between the murders of a bandit and the legally sanctioned imprisonments and executions carried out by the police and judicial authority. This passage is significant because it addresses the theme of subjectivity. Tajōmaru argues that, from an objective perspective, both men are guilty of administering death, or punishment equivalent to death. To the bandit, a sin is determined by one's subjective, relative perspective, and in this way the two men are no different.

"I am prepared to die here and now. But you—yes, I want you to die as well. You witnessed my shame. I cannot leave you behind with that knowledge."


During her confession, Masago recounts how she couldn't imagine living on after having been raped. Since Takehiro witnessed the rape, she believes she must kill him as well, in order for the shame to die with them both. This passage speaks to Masago's particular sense of honor, which, after Tajōmaru takes it from her, she attempts to regain through joint suicide.

"For this if for nothing else, I am ready to forgive the bandit his crimes."


During his testimony, Takehiro is surprised multiple times: first by Masago's betrayal, and second by the respect Tajōmaru pays him by offering to kill Masago as punishment for that betrayal. Takehiro's gratitude is so immense that he says Tajōmaru's gesture is enough for him to forgive the bandit for tying him up and for raping his wife.

"Then stealthy footsteps came up to me. I tried to see who it was, but the darkness had closed in all around us. Someone—that someone gently pulled the dagger from my chest with an invisible hand."


Spoken by Takehiro at the end of his testimony, these lines explain how he finally died while simultaneously introducing a new character whose identity is never revealed. Since there is no suggestion of who the new character might be, an analysis of the text as a metafiction could suggest that the invisible hand was the author's own, reaching into the story to bring it to an inconclusive end.