Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts


Mary Rose Dillon 

The Loss of the Samurai Tradition in the Modernization of Japan

Individuals in Society Succumb to the Evils of Human Nature in Shirley Jackson’s Works

In 12th century medieval Japan, the importance of the samurai warrior class developed and flourished because they protected the emperor and the daimyo, wealthy land owners, from invaders. During the medieval period, Japan closed itself off from the rest of the world because Japan was under the leadership of the emperor and the traditional feudal system, which was an economic framework of classes based on inheritance. When a fleet of U.S. ships entered Japan's harbor in the 1850s, the U.S. opened Japan up to trading and influenced Japan to change its traditional structure to a more modern structure. Japan's military weakness, economic challenges and unindustrialized economy left Japan unable to resist the industrial power of the U.S. in the 1850s. This caused Japanese leaders to modernize, which resulted in the major loss of the powerful, influential warrior traditions of the samurai. Forced by imperialistic threat and humiliation Japanese leaders felt the samurai class had to be replaced with a modern conscripted army, government, and traditions.

Just like the samurai warriors, characters in Jackson’s work are forced to face humiliation and alienation from their societies because they fail to adhere to societal norms. Shirley Jackson's mystery and horror novels and short stories convey how individuals face the everyday evils of human nature and find themselves alienated from others as a result. Although the characters attempt to find their way through society, because of their blindness to their own flaws, they ultimately succumb to isolation, insanity, or violence. Mary Blackwood ofWe Have Always Lived in the Castlefinds herself alienated in an imaginary world of her own making, detached from reality and unable to see her own warped point of view.When she murders almost her entire family, Mary solidifies herself permanently as an outcast. Ultimately, Mary is left permanently alienated from society at the end of the novel, continuing to live in her isolated house even after it is burned down and her family destroyed.

Major Works Consulted:

Turnbull, Stephen. The Book of the Samurai the Warrior Class of Japan. London, England: Bison, 1982.
Hanel, Rachael.Samurai Fearsome Fighters. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2008.
Jackson, Shirley. .
---. The Haunting of Hill House. New York: Penguin, 2006.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle. New York: Penguin, 2006
Photo Credit:Franklin, Ruth. Shirley Jackson. Digital image. Tumblr. N.p., 8 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.