The Tales of Ueda Akinari

What Makes a Man: Social Constructs in "Bewitched" College

Ueda Akinari’s “Bewitched” (1776) explores the differing manifestations of desire in men and women, especially in the context of a society that reinforces strict gender norms. The extent to which a person must control his or her desire is primarily dependent on his or her gender. While innate, desire has the power to blind people from the things that truly matter in their life, like family and honorable work for men. Thus, in his short story, Akinari seeks to convey that straying from tradition and the acceptable roles set by society to follow attractive whims will only lead to misfortune.

Akinari’s story follows the life of a young man, Toyo-o, who is the black sheep of his family for choosing the undervalued life of a scholar over joining the family fishing business, as is custom. Toyo-o goes on to do something deemed even more irresponsible—falling hard for a beautiful girl, Manago, he only just met at a store. She turns out to be a demon who won’t leave him alone, and destroys everything in her path.

Toyo-o’s inability to control his desire is what brings misfortune and dishonor. Akinari’s characterization of Toyo-o as a naive, immature young man makes him an easy target for temptation. When Manago proposes marriage to...

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