Writing Assignment #1: Dialogue with the Impoverished
Yamanoue No Okura illustrates poverty and great suffering that farmers experienced during the Nara period. The poem has been formed as dialogue between a poor man and an even poorer man. In the first stanza, a “poor man” describes his night as bitter cold. However this first speaker mentions “rock salt” (line 8), “lees of sake in hot water” (line 9-10) and “hempen quilt” (line 19) that showing he is not a “poor man” who is starving without foods or suffering without quilts. The voice of first speaker is quiet and miserable. He also mentions “ Aside from me alone, no man is worthy” in the poem. Reader can make conjecture that he might be in higher position than normal farmers in Nara period. First speaker concludes his part of poem with the question to even “poorer” man that how can stands out this poverty. In the second part of the poem, poorer man comes in the scene and describes his extremely low standards of living. The tones of the voice are including anger, fury and resentment. He mentions, “ The sun and moon are said to be so bright, but for me do they fail to shine?” (line 50). This quotes shows great unfortunateness that second speakers felt toward his own life. Okura uses descriptive and vivid expressions and terms to convey how farmers suffer through the poverty. On the last line, second speaker concludes his part by saying, “ Is this helplessness all there is of our path through this life? ”. The tone of his voice is discouraged and frustrated. Okura successfully conveys great suffering and emotions of farmers by using unique format. He is able to send out his message efficiently by compare “poor man” and even “poorer man”. As a reader, I can point out the strong anger and sadness of both speakers.
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