Recovery versus Reversion: The Implications of Multiple Signifieds in Ooka Shohei’s Fires on the Plain
Much of the scholarship on Ooka Shohei’s Fires on the Plain (Nobi, 1952; trans. 1957) is predicated on the assumption that the protagonist, Pfc. Tamura, is insane. This issue crystalizes when, at the end of the novel, Tamura returns to behavior he had previously rejected, now unconcerned about what people might think of him. The language Ooka uses is subject to slippage which, in turn, creates trace structures of related meaning that problematize this assumption of insanity. As a consequence, the reader is forced to consider what meaning the text might have with a sane narrator, and why the author may have chosen to claim insanity for his protagonist. The answers point to both the expectations of readers in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in World War Two, and a strengthening of the cautionary message implicit in the novel.
Journal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies
East Asian Studies
Link to OA full text
Lofgren, Erik R.. "Recovery versus Reversion: The Implications of Multiple Signifieds in Ooka Shohei’s Fires on the Plain." (2020) : 75-89.