SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.18 (2022)

The Representation of Chaplin
in Midori Osaki’s Texts:

with Special Reference to Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans)

ONO Mitsue

Department of Japanese Literature,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

Midori Osaki, Chaplin, cinema, shadow, love for fictional characters

In the texts of Midori Osaki (1896–1971), the recurrent theme of her admiration for Charles Chaplin or “Charlie” appears across her works such as in novels, essays, poetry and records of dialogues. However, this theme has been largely overlooked in previous studies and has not been explored in depth. This article focuses on the theme by making reference to one of her short stories titled Mokusei (Osmanthus fragrans) (1929) and sheds light on its importance.

In some of Osaki’s essays on films, the word “shadow” appears repeatedly. This word suggests a sort of otherworldly fascination that emerges from a medium such as film, and her strong interest in the characters who appear in films as otherworldly beings different from actual human beings. She says movie watching is more than mere entertainment. When watching a film, she touches and is absorbed into the “world of shadow”, and even her way of thinking is influenced. Osaki finds Chaplin attractive as a “man of shadow” in a film rather than an actual human being. In light of the above, the author discusses what “I” is and what “my” love is in Mokusei.

While “I”, the narrator of Mokusei, feels “loneliness” after declining a marriage proposal from N, a friend from her school days, she says “I am in love” and “I love you” for the first time when she talks about her fondness for Charlie in The Gold Rush, which she saw in the theater.

The narrator is more interested in Charlie as a lonely wanderer than Charlie as a successful man who becomes a millionaire and has a happy ending with his lover in the film. The author points that “I”, the narrator, who finds “loneliness” in him and has sympathy for him, is also a person who may be characterized as a “lonely wanderer”.

After the film, the narrator has an imaginary conversation with Charlie with a vivid image of Charlie in herself. The author, based on the thematic continuity in Osaki’s subsequent texts, concludes that the image represented in this novel is an alter ego of the narrator, borrowed and transformed from Chaplin’s image in the film The Gold Rush, and is an embodied “male model” in her mind.