Your Name Date Bird: The Alter Ego of Kenzaburo Oe According to Freud, whenever a situation threatens our morals, and our reality, and could cause us to behave inappropriately, we will become anxious; one way to handle this anxiety is with some sort of defense mechanism (81)…
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Possibly, Oe had other private losses. For whatever reasons, Oe resorted to inventing an alter ego whereby he could secretly act out a fantasy life and thereby handle the first year of his son’s life. De Bellis defined alter ego as “a psychological term that refers to an artist’s creation of a character similar to himself” (11). Bird, the protagonist from A Private Matter, was Oe’s alter ego simply doing all the sinful and mischievous things that Oe so longed to do as he went about dutifully behaving as a proper husband and father. BACKGROUND INFORMATION Born in Japan in 1935, Kenzaburo Oe spent his youth on the Japanese island of Shikoku (Oe x). His childhood bliss was shattered in 1945, according to Neufeld, Y’Blood, and Jefferson, when the United States called for a surrender of Japan by strategically aiming bombs at 67 Japanese cities (124). When Japan refused to capitulate, Neufeld et al. continued, the United Kingdom and the Republic of China joined the United States and called for Japan’s surrender through the Potsdam Declaration. Japan ignored this as well. On two separate days in 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on two cities in Japan, with deaths reaching 90,000 to 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki within the following two to four months. At least half of the deaths occurred on the specific day of the bombing (124-125). Whether the bombs of World War II physically touched Oe or his family is unknown, but the war must have affected him tremendously. Later in his life, he wrote a book, Hiroshima Notes, in memory of what happened at Hiroshima. Oe also wrote of his childhood pain when he learned the Japanese Emperor had surrender in the war, and when Oe realized the Emperor had a “human voice, no different from any other adult’s” (xi). "The values that had regulated life in the world he knew as a child, however fatally, were blown to smithereens after the war” (xi). According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, at the age of 18, Oe left the island of Shikoku to study at the Tokyo University where he soon started writing. In 1958, he won the first of many awards, the Akutagawa Prize, and he published his first novel, Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kid. In 1963, his wife Yukari delivered his first child, Hikari, who suffered from a brain hernia and permanent mental disabilities (35629). The doctors gave Oe and Yukari two choices: allow the baby to die or perform an operation to remove the herniation. However, the operation would leave them with a child dependent upon them for the rest of his life. They chose the latter and their son was permanently mentally impaired, non-communicate, and apparently, a doomed child until he was six, and they discovered he had the ability to play the piano. The First Year. Veigle wrote that after Hikari’s birth, Oe stayed committed to his wife and child, which was most uncharacteristic of Japanese men. To illustrate the rare commitment Oe had to his child, Veigle quoted Cameron, “At this time scarred survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bathing in rivers because they were forbidden by law to enter public baths" (7). Cameron continued that even the neighbors of Oe mocked him when he took his child in public and criticized him for not hiding his son away as was usually done with children with deformities. Veigle continued that Oe took care of cooking and cleaning so his
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