Rashomon? What is the truth?

When reading the accounts of various characters in the book Ghosts, we stand in their perspectives, immersing ourselves in their situations and displaying sympathies toward what they encountered. Nevertheless, our perception toward the character change dramatically when we receive other people’s accounts. There is only one truth. Who should we believe in? We can assume that one of the people is lying, or perhaps, none of them are not telling the truth.

The plot mentioned above reminded me of a short story “Rashōmon” written by a Japanese litterateur Ryūnosuke Akutagawa which is now adapted into a film Rashomon.

“The film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident.” (excerpted from Wikipedia)

The film depicts the psychological strategy that helps hold one’s self-esteem in place by only talking about the certain things that are beneficial to themselves, and avoiding mentioning the misconducts which might be detrimental to their reputations. Therefore, instead of presenting the whole picture, people opt to merely show fragments of truth, or even create stories to disguise the real situation.

In Ghosts, at the beginning of the play, Pastor Manders tried to help Engstrand because the Pastor was convinced by Engstrand that he was a good and righteous man. His conception toward Engstrand shifted completely when Mrs. Alving told him the stories that she had buried for years. However, his feeling of Engstrand turned back to sympathy after hearing Engstrand’s monologue. Who is telling the truth? What is the truth? It seems that it is something that might never be able to be revealed under the self-protecting strategy everyone is taking advantage of.

It is not about casting doubts on others, but think twice before forming our own judgements. After all, none of us would like to be the second Pastor Manders, a gullible, easily tricked person that believes in whatever people say.

A Trailer of Rashomon for your reference!

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  1. One of the great films of all time, for sure! I’m glad you brought it up. The question of narrative perspective is something we’ll keep closely considering as we go.

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