I honestly believe it to be one of the most stirring human-interest stories of the day. 'The Caterpillar', Rampo Edogawa.
Tokiko’s husband, ‘Lieutenant Sunaga’, was hailed as the pride of the army and was like a military god, but he lost all four limbs in the war. Her husband’s face was covered in scars, he had lost his hearing and vocal cords and could not speak well, but his internal organs moved, albeit slowly, and he could function as a man. His appearance could be described as ‘caterpillar’, but caterpillar refers to the larval stage and it is almost impossible to determine his sex. The wife’s mind towards her husband, who cannot speak and does not feel a shred of masculinity, becomes neither husband nor man, but only her own pleasure and despair and a disgusting existence. Even the wife of Edogawa Rampo, who wrote this work, criticised it as ‘disgusting’ and it was banned once in 1939 due to wartime censorship.
This story is as fluid as the stroke of a pen and gives no sense of forethought or calculation. This is a strange story, but in modern times such a situation could be an example of a reduced quality of life. The wife stabs her husband in the eye with an edged tool in an act of lust, but this seemingly cruel act by the wife may be seen today as a form of caregiver fatigue, and the emphasis may be on caregiving from the wife’s point of view. Literature and medical ethics are said to go hand in hand. The ‘distance’ of fiction gives it objectivity, and cruelty, which at first sight seems chaotic, is arranged like a kind of law when it takes the form of a novel. So a ‘cruel’ story can make people see it as something of a challenge.
This story could be seen as discriminating against people with limbless conditions, but the third-person perspective maintains ambivalence by focusing on the woman’s introspection, making it seem like a problem in the mind of someone who has no physical problems.
At the beginning of the story, Tokiko’s greatest aversion is to ‘grilled eggplant’, a vegetarian dish that, according to one theory, was created by monks who could not eat meat in order to make it resemble an aigure in terms of texture and taste. At the beginning of this introduction, the texture of Tokiko’s limp bite of this aubergine suggests many things, as a foreshadowing of what is to come about desire. When you eat something you don’t like, a feeling of disgust spreads from your tongue to the rest of your body. Perhaps only Rampo is interested in the pleasures derived from sensation and touch.
The third person perspective focuses mainly on the wife’s introspection, but also on the couple’s prolonged frustration, the resulting conflicts between them, the object of their attachment becoming an attack, and their ambivalence. The wife’s actions were like a modern-day psychology textbook, and their home was like a psychologist’s observation room.
Ⅰ Case1 ：Devotion and sadism
The husband, who had lost all four limbs, had to crawl around or bang his head on the floor to express his will. He expressed his frustration by hitting himself repeatedly, and each time his wife responded politely.
“I’m coming now. You must be hungry.”
“I’ve kept you waiting a long time, haven’t I?
Be patient now for just a moment.
The wife gave her husband a piece of paper and a pencil, and he put his frustration into words.
“Tired of me?”
The one whose husband searches for her until she bangs her head on the floor and writes letters as distorted as her figure,
The wife says, “You’re jealous again, aren’t you?” The wife is then relieved by one of her own kisses, and her husband’s every movement is another source of excitement and lust for her. For the woman, this “organism” was an exciting toy.
“You’re jealous again, aren’t you?”
Tokiko had two faces.
“As for you, however, your continued faithfulness has deprived you of all your former pleasures and desires. For three long years you have sacrificed everything for that poor crippled man, without emitting the faintest breath of complaint. You always contend that this is but the natural duty of a soldiers wife, and so it is. But I sometimes cannot help feeling that it’s a cruel fate for a woman to endure, especially for a woman so very attractive and charming as you, and so young, too. I am quite struck with admiration. I honestly believe it to be one of the most stirring human-interest stories of the day. The question which still remains is: How long will it last? Remember, you still have quite a long
future ahead of you. For your husband’s sake, I pray that you will never change.”
The world thinks that this woman is devoted to her husband because she has renounced her various desires, and even has an ideal for this couple as a beautiful story in today’s world. In this case, the renunciation of ‘greed’ meant that the world was chaste and devoted to the wife, taking care of her husband. However, the reality was ‘slightly’ different. The husband still functioned as a man and the wife treated him like a bloated yellow caterpillar, a deformed sesame flesh and ‘sadism’ was expressed.
Outwardly, Tokiko conformed to the world as a chaste wife. The world around her was familiar to her. This was true as long as she did not travel far. The people around Tokiko already exist with a kind of image of her. There is no reason why Tokiko should bother to reveal her preferences.
One cannot destroy one’s own impression of this familiar world. Desire is not something that lasts forever, and when you go outside, it naturally adapts to the outside world. In the outside world, anyway. She was also ‘honest’. Tokiko would have smiled euphemistically as a chaste woman as soon as she stepped out the front door. There is no lie there. And once home, the wife is disgusted by the ugliness of her husband’s appearance and her lust for his ugliness, by the fact that her heart is not pure love, by feelings that are unreasonable and disordered, and she begins to have fears as well as her passions and pleasures.
Her husband ordered Tokiko to hold newspaper articles and medals from her active years and show them to him. Her husband was content to look at them, but eventually grew tired of it. The only thing the couple could do together was have sex, which left them feeling empty, as if they were in an animal cage. In such a situation, would his wife see through him that he was a horrible woman hiding behind the virtues of chastity? She is under the pressure of being accused by the world she knows. Moreover, her husband is not as dignified as he used to be and is at her mercy. Despite all this, he is immobile and calls her when he is absent for a short time, which ultimately constrains him. The description of Tokiko’s swelling emotions and introspection comes to a halt when Tokiko straddles her husband.
Tokiko’s control and emotions over him, which are weak, become uncontrollable, and Tokiko puts her hand over her husband’s eyes and crushes them with a deadly weapon as he stares at her.
Tokiko writes ‘Yurushite’ (Forgive me) several times on her husband’s chest, but he shows no sign of responding. Gradually unable to bear the pity of her husband’s situation and the consciousness of her own guilt, the wife involuntarily leaves him. When she returns, she finds her husband gone and an illegible note on the bedpost, like a child’s playful scribbling. The wife notices that it says ‘Yulus’, （I forgive you)but the husband crawls away, bends his neck like a sickle and falls into the well to his death.
Bending one’s neck like a sickle is a Japanese figurative expression used when taking up a fighting stance, as the raised head of the snake resembles a sickle. (Old metaphor) Whether her husband’s end was a military death or a sign of his will to die remains a mystery, but the wife imagined the illusion of her husband’s face along with the certainty that he had forgiven her.
Ⅱ Case2 ：The Form and the Life
If I is a psychological study close to the Tokiko, II is more overview. A work of art is not limited to a single interpretation. Incompatible interpretations are mixed together to represent a civilisation. When a work of art becomes a ‘form’ rather than a sound, it becomes deeply connected to the visual. For example, ‘hands’ – Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands – were an important motif in painting because they conveyed expression. The angelic fingers conveying scholastic philosophy in Caravaggio’s St Matthew, and Rembrandt’s St Matthew’s hands have the appearance of workers’ hands, as if to show the sheer force of the angel’s dictation. Life is ‘form’ and ‘form’ is life. The armless ‘Venus de Milo’ achieves this by chance. Even without arms, her presence has fascinated many people. The absence of arms has made the emotions of the “hands” fascinating and imaginative. Novels, on the other hand, are a world without form. There is no ‘sound’ either. They are left to the construction of the reader’s third world, which even the author cannot fully comprehend. Language also represents the human psyche, which is processed in the depths of the human mind as the world of the imagination and the language of God. If language, like plants, has an ecosystem, perhaps nothing disturbs that ecosystem more than language. It tries, sometimes actively and sometimes passively, to become the ‘form’ of an invisible entity which, in terms of the centre of vision, should be in the lower strata. Edogawa Rampo’s The Caterpillar can be described as such a work. It is easy to imagine a dark room, uncomfortably dark without a light, with a limbless ‘husband’ lying at Tokiko’s feet. In the English translation, there is no translation of the words ‘肉毒楽’, for example, thing, flesh, lump of flesh, and these refer to the husband. But it must be remembered that the husband is not the ‘flesh’ that has come to life, but the form of life (universal) that has become a particular form. And the human spirit is very susceptible to the form of circumstances and environment. He has lost his hands, which express his emotions, and he has no ‘feet’, which should be independent.
The reader could easily see into the eyes of the woman, ‘Tokiko’. We enter the couple’s bedroom, which the outside world cannot know. In the darkness of the room, the Caterpillar waits for his wife to light him up, and she was that light. As we enter the room, the reader is gradually manipulated by the couple. Eventually, we become emotionally involved in the psychological portrayal of the woman. There are a number of metaphors for the gaze on the husband’s ‘form’. First the wife Tokiko, then the neighbours, the world, past glories and the husband. The husband in particular was the only human expression of emotion in the ‘gaze’. A house is not only to be looked at, it is lived and made. (Francis Bacon, Essays) That is why the husband grew tired of the past glory of the order. You can’t live every day just to look at it. The nocturnal activities are not only biological, but they also become habitual. Just as Louis XIV sat in a fine chair, a man needs customs that are his role. It is as husband and wife that they must make the movements that become cultural and customary. For the husband who lost all four limbs, that was not his role as a husband, but that of a ‘caterpillar’.
If her husband’s figure were a sculpture, she might even find it beautiful to look at. But like a sculpture, the lifeless has not gained life, but the lifeless has lost it. Their function as husband and wife, which should have extended to their living space, has become an illusion. It did not even leave room for the ‘fantasy’ of what the house would have been like if the man had still had his limbs. This is because it draws us more into the inner life of the husband whose eyes were crushed. It was not only the wife whose virtue was tested. The husband’s virtue was also tested. This is where the endgame comes in.
Can he maintain his dignity as a husband with a devoted and supportive wife? He did not express his will by banging his head against the wall in a rage. That was the only way. The muffled sound of the water signalled the death of her husband, who had no limbs and could not swim.There seemed to be nothing else but the presence of a living soul in the ‘form’. Yet the husband acted like a man with arms, even though he wrote with his mouth in his mouth. Not just limbs,
Like a person with a heart,
He wrote ‘ユルス’（I forgive you) to his wife.
Ⅲ Case3 : The Eye of the World Egg
The invisible gaze creates the illusion and space of a ‘heroic story’. It is not clear to what extent ‘love’ in Japan at that time had much in common with today. But why do these two people seem to have a sense of love that is not so different from that of today? Perhaps it is because modern ‘free love’ does not guarantee universal happiness or the ability to become a person of character. Love can be a blessing, but it can also be a sin, to the extent that it can drive the other person to death. To begin with, love requires, in Erich Fromm’s words, “discipline”. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that love is ephemeral, especially if we look at classical Japanese literature. For it is also libido and the energy of life.
There was no doubt in my mind that Tokiko had a loving husband. When the loving and sexual desires coexisted, she began to take the initiative and became violent. It is important to note that she was not unconscious, but conscious of herself. Her guilt prevented her from changing her ways and she was afraid of the invisible criticism of the world. After she blinded her husband, she repeatedly wrote ‘ユルシテ’ (forgive me) on his chest with her finger. Rampo has gone from darkness to darkness, pleasure, fear and speed with his wife’s introspection, but from the point where she asks for forgiveness, his wife is calm without falling into darkness. Depending on the reader, it seems as if the wife has reformed and says ‘ユルシテ’, or as if she only says ‘ユルシテ’ because she wants to be forgiven in a self-centred way.
At the same time, Tokiko begins to cry and wants to see people with the normal appearance of the world, leaving her poor husband behind. She cannot bear to be alone and runs away. Many people think of husband and wife and love as separate, but I do not think of them as separate, because love and hate and negative feelings are inevitable in love between human beings. The woman loved her husband, but she was consumed by her own greed. But just because this is not a virtue does not mean that there is no ‘love’. The fact that only memories shine through and there are no shadows to be seen in the present does not mean that the connection is broken.
What are the criteria used to determine the end of a relationship between people? Married couples can get divorced, and even Catholic marriages can be annulled, but where does the past go while the memories of the past live on?
This is also true of our relationship with the dead. The difference is that memories with the dead stop at a certain point in time, and the dead also stop ‘changing’ at a certain point. So the living can love a ‘record’ that has stopped changing. ‘Memories’ change their perspective according to different considerations, become imaginatively and creatively fluid and acquire different interpretations, so that feelings for the dead remain alive. Apart from this, ‘change’ is also extremely difficult when both parties are alive. The person may feel alienated, especially if they can no longer say they love him or her. When this happens, unmarried people usually choose to separate, but when it comes to marriage, the story is different. Current law allows for ‘divorce’, but it is not easy to talk about the bond between people who have reached that point. Even if two people have gone through a trial and decided never to see each other again, there is still a remnant of love somewhere in the corner of their hearts. Going back to the couple in The Caterpillar, I felt how strong their bond was when the woman kept writing ‘ユルシテ’ on her back.
Japanese people have probably played a game at least once in their childhood where friends write letters with their fingers on each other’s backs or palms and try to guess what they are writing. The recipient has difficulty understanding unless it is in simple hiragana or katakana. I wonder if my wife’s words were really understood, especially when she was physically weak. The ability to read also requires confidence. Perhaps the sensation of the whole skin was paralysed by a serious eye injury. Whether the body really received the words fully is precisely what is not to be trusted. Nevertheless, the husband left a final note: ‘ユルス’.
Perhaps his wife’s words were not understood.
It is precisely because I think this that I cannot help but feel the weight of her husband’s soul in his final ‘ユルス’. The weight of the soul is something that cannot be measured by superficial love.
In fact, he may not have been. This seems to be the right answer.
Dialogue is not always possible, even in the normal course of events. It is even possible to receive the other person’s words in the way they want to hear them. Simply being told to “forgive” may be a word the victim does not want to hear, given what she has been through.
Stimulation between men and women is not always orderly. It is not easy to explain how much of it is affection and how much is just stimulation. Between men and women there are times when we can be sure deductively that it is love, and there are times when we can only say inductively that it is because they are men and women. Every man and woman will be both.
The severing of this relationship between them in ‘this world’ became the husband’s suicide. It is not easy to explain the impulse that compelled him to do so.
Schopenhauer, ‘about suicide’, (The World as Will and Representation)referred to the Latin punctum saliens (English: the salient point) as ‘the egg of the world’. punctum saliens is difficult to translate, it means a source like a small hole, but it was used by Schopenhauer to refer to the ‘salient point’ of the world. The way it was used in his case was this. In contrast to the development of phenomena such as human desire and human love, there is the act of human reproduction. He makes it the core of the will as the focus of the highest degree of his philosophy. Whatever the historical background, the act of reproduction stands in contrast to the unfolding of phenomena around something as ‘sacred’ as the Lord God, as a ‘little hole-like source’ of human functioning that is not in the least affected by changes in love, will, and so on. That would be an undeniable fact.
There is another philosopher who wrote about the punctum saliens. This was Simone Weil. In the chapter on de-creation in “LA PESANTEUR ET LA GRACE ” she wrote: “That a fictitious divinity has been given to man”.
And that “there are only two moments in life when we are completely naked and pure. The time of birth and the time of death, and she tries to remove the self through a thorough exploration of the inner self.
If we strip away the common ground around Schopenhauer’s and Simone Weil’s punctum saliens, a dark gaze surrounds the phenomenon that can be described as disturbing, loving or disappointing. Human presence or absence, we become anonymous observers. Rampo himself seems to have said: “My character as a dreamer does not feel an itch, no matter how I am treated by the real world” (on the political meaning), and indeed it is true that this story has a particularly subjective perspective and fantasma as a phenomenon when the subject shifts. In contrast to a fantasy, a fantasy parallels the relationship between perception and sensation. Is this caterpillar trying to define the theme of conjugal love beyond the values of the time, rather than a story that is merely a fantasy? But it is still a fantasy story, just as Tokiko continued to have visions of the caterpillar after her husband’s death.
The couple’s task was the source of life and death, the source that creeps between all phenomena, the ‘original sin’ of humanity, no matter how the relationship ends, no matter how life and death separate, no matter how memories are forgotten and embellished,
The eye, the egg of the world, is at the centre of human life.
Ⅳ Case4：Illusions, dialogue and heroic story
Regarding the difference in dialogue between a man and a woman, there is this story in chapter 5 of the Bible’s Song of Solomon.The bride’s love for the groom had cooled and she would not open the door when the groom asked her to. While the groom was eagerly devoting himself to his bride behind the door, the bride finally changed her mind and opened the door, but the groom was already gone. His words made me faint. I sought him, but he did not answer me” (Song of Solomon 5:6).
Just as the “bridegroom” is replaced by the Lord in biblical teaching, relationships bound by love seek a Lordlike connection, cross paths and betray each other. Tokiko and her husband could have had this crossed dialogue. Although the values of ‘love’ in Japan today are different, the fact that beautiful stories and ‘the Lord’ are not unrelated is also relevant to ‘love’ today. Love is the only thing people are willing to swear to, the only thing that makes sense. It is ‘loyalty’. Even if it is not religious, even if it is a contract between families, eternal bonds and loyalty are required. We help each other and live together with the expectation that they are always aware of us, even if they cannot see us. Understanding and respecting each other, recognising each other’s differences, but also inclusion will be required. The pursuit of happiness is needed so that love comes faster than understanding, so that ‘good’ works before it can be called love. But despite the deceitful side that continues to betray us, reason can also be the human soul that still wants to be faithful to us.
‘Caterpillar’, her husband wrote ‘ユルス’ in Japanese katakana, using a writing pad with his mouth, in a limbless state. He was only able to do this because of Japanese katakana. The English translation, ‘I forgive you’, is difficult to write in a limbless state and cannot be fulfilled. What if the husband did not know what his wife had written, but had an understanding within him? What if, as in the case of the Song of Solomon couple, despite their words and efforts, there was a dialogue between them? Or if they listened to their wives’ words, even more so, that ‘dialogue’ is ‘ideal’ in love. It is not always ‘words’ that receive dialogue, but in the end words are needed to express the will and the heart. The husband understood this very well. What is left for the wife is the redemption of her husband’s phantom, the ‘caterpillar’ that appears every ‘spring’.
Human beings and human emotions are hopeless, but there are treasures that can only be discovered by coming into contact with them.
Rampo also plunges me into illusion. He has repeatedly troubled me with the landing place of my tale.
The strange story of the ‘caterpillar’, her husband’s forgiveness, his death as a god of war, in my opinion, of all Rampo’s works.
It is the most famous of his works. For a while, Every time his wife Tokiko sees a caterpillar, she is reminded of him. Although her personality was distorted for a time and her ‘form’ changed, the wife saw only her husband and he lived for her. I even perceived the story as a ‘single-minded’ love.
Earnest? No, no, it is a mysterious story. It is a strange story.