The Woman in the Dunes
The Search for Self-Achievement: Abe's Woman in the Dunes 11th Grade
In The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe, the protagonist Niki Jumpei leaves his work and family behind in search of a new species of beetle. On his search, Niki finds himself trapped in a hole amongst the sand dunes, and he initially tries to escape. He believes that the villagers living above the sand dunes are his captors, and treats escaping the dunes as a competition against them. After inventing a water trap, however, Niki no longer sees the villagers as his rivals, nor does he exhibit any urgency to leave. Through the motifs of competition and illusion, Abe shows that people ought not to pursue recognition but self-achievement, leading modern readers to question the appreciation-based society they live in.
The motif of competition shows through when Niki, striving for success, competes with his co-workers and ends up only feeling less accomplished. When Niki ventures out into the dunes, he considers that his co-workers will “be instinctively jealous of the lucky man who had been freed from this hole” (80). His desire to stir up strife among his colleagues shows how he wants to be acknowledged by others. Indeed, his original goal is to find a new species of beetle, wanting his “efforts [to] be crowned with success” (10)....
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