Abstracts - Kristin Sivak

University of Toronto
Kristin Sivak

Device or Character?: Sōseki’s Servants and Narrative Construction

From Botchan’s Kiyo to Sorekara’s Kadono, Sōseki’s novels have gifted us with some truly unforgettable maidservants and houseboys to go along with their quirky, extravagant, and neurotic masters. Unforgettable as they are, however, previous scholarship has focused mainly on the many complexities of the main characters of these novels, leaving the functions, actions, and personalities of these minor characters largely unexplored. My analysis aims to take steps to remedy this, discussing, in particular, how the servants in Sōseki’s 1912 novel Higan sugi made serve alternately as conduits between the main characters, as their proxies, and as instruments of narrative movement and complexity. In my paper, I will discuss the ways in which these minor characters allow for the crossing of gender, class, and narrative boundaries, bridge the gaps between inner life and outward action, and throw into sharp relief the major characters with whom our sympathies customarily lie. While minor characters, these characters are nevertheless majorly important to their texts and fictional worlds, and it is thus through them that possibilities for questioning the apparent narrative and thematic structures and norms of the text can be probed and explored, adding layers of meaning and action to the stories otherwise centered on their more privileged masters. My analysis of Higan sugi made, then, focuses primarily on Taguchi’s houseboy and Sunaga’s maidservant, with an eye towards both the specific and overarching functions of this lower class of characters in creating Sōseki’s intricate fictional worlds and the stories which animate them