Description of the Novel The Life of a Sensuous Woman Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1290 Words
Date:  2022-05-09

The Life of a Sensuous Woman is a novel by a Japanese author Ihara Saikaku written in the year 1686. The author writes this narrative concerning a woman's life as a prostitute as a man and changes the gender role. The text can be considered to be scandalous and has a theme of love, sex, gender roles, and feminism.

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The Life of a Sensuous Woman by Saikaku depicts the life route of an aged woman in her romantic involvements. The life route starts from when she was a young and attractive woman and the challenges she met during her attempts to find romance in the process of her aging life. The opening statement of the first story openly gives you an insight of the beauty of the character. The statement notes that a beautiful woman is able to cut down a man's life and that many ages have agreed on this fact. The work by Saikaku strongly set on the artistic description of women, which the author depicts it as the essential element that satisfies a woman's desire for love, eroticism, and vitality Shirane, (2002).

Main Ideas

In the novel 'Life of a Sensuous Woman' Ihara Saikaku illustrates the journey of a woman who because of her voraciously involvement in seeking the pleasure of the Ukiyo lifestyle, finds herself in an inevitable decline in her social status and fulfillment of life. Saikaku employees characters, water imagery and plot to change 'Life of a Sensuous Woman' into a sarcastically critical commentary that portrays the Ukiyo lifestyle. The work of literature creates a superficial, lopsided and a hypocritical society.

The Ukiyo lifestyle is a culture that strives to embrace a life of pleasure seeking at all time. Saikaku explains the flaws of the Ukiyo lifestyle as a way of life that is superficial in nature and forces individuals to live a life that is meaningless and fluffy: the name was given to the lifestyle, The Floating World. Saikaku depicts this way of life as shallow in the physical sense as it focuses majorly on the external appearances: beautiful. In the metaphorical sense, the characters in this literature work never really make innate connections with anyone. This is because the characters are addicted to looking for these pleasures of life. One significant character that Saikaku utilizes to indicate this superficial nature of Ukiyo lifestyle is the aged, putrid woman found on the balcony in the episode of 'A Monk's Wife in a Worldly Temple'. Saikaku expertly utilizes the situational irony with this aged rotted woman to give a moral lessons to the upcoming generation. The author utilizes a satire when the old woman sorrowfully admits that she 'cannot forget about sex' and is going to 'bite right into' the character completely says the opposite of what the audience was expecting her to say. The use of satire allows Saikaku to highlight the extent in which the Ukiyo's ever -seeking pleasure socially conditions people, and in this case, the old woman's sense of self is already gone down the path of pleasure seeking and no longer finds comfort in normalcy.

Conflict of the Life of a Sensuous Woman

The Ukiyo lifestyle is a shallow one as it only emphasis on external beauty, the physical appearance is what matters to the people. The social value and worth that individuals have do not really matter and hence there are not really regarded with importance. This means that the breath-taking beauty of the protagonist is what gave her the social worth she had previously. Once she had started to age and show age-related physical signs of old age, her social value begun to rapidly reduce and she had no control over it Yonemoto (2013).

The people way of thinking suggests that women have little worth immediately their physical and sexual appear disappear. This claim is analogous to the protagonist's realization that after she spent many years following the ever-seeking pleasure life of Ukiyo lifestyle. The protagonist states that the body really does fade away completely and then one is left with nothing at all. Her realization happens at the end of the novel and it is through her that Saikaku prefigures the final results for an individual in his very own society fall victim to the superficiality of Ukiyo lifestyle.

The shallowness of the ever-seeking pleasure Ukiyo lifestyle unquestionably creates discrimination that is gender-based and stereotypes. Inequality id directly depicted by Saikaku through his open statement; a beautiful woman is an ax that can cat a man's life down. All through the literature, the reader is reminded about these incongruities of gender together with the expectations that are placed upon individuals to stick by the status quo of the gender roles.

Such discrimination particularly affects women and majorly has to do with their physical characteristics. A perfect example of such a discrimination of women because of their physical characteristic is through the description of a beautiful woman in the novel. The novel highlights that a beautiful woman should have symmetrical facial characteristics, her ears should not be prominent, she should not be fleshy, her feet should be about seven inches long and she should not have any wrinkles on her body (609-610).

The protagonist though liberates herself from this social expectation that comes from the fact that she is a woman. In the novel, we can see her acts as liberating steps that are geared to follow her own heart and not conforming to these expectations. Even in the society today, women are still frightened with the thought of being judged by others and are more often under pressure of what the society considers as norms. The pressure is what forces them to give in to the expectations directed to them by the friends, families, and society at large. The act of the main character is an encouragement to women to give their desires a chance and not to give in to the societal norms.

The Historical and Cultural Context

Back in the 17th century, women were not allowed to receive an education. This hindrance to education declined them a chance to achieve and pave their ways to success. Women were neglected and were only given instructional guidance that acted as their system of education. The fact that women were not given equal opportunities to education as their male counterparts, they were viewed as inferior and items of frivolous sex whose only contributions were through marriage and siring children.

In these times of history, only women from upper classes could acquire education. The reality of this kind of discrimination was that the education provided to these women of the high class was wasted. They only par-took the education process to amuse themselves

Careful examination of Ihara Saikaku novel Life of a Sensuous Woman, it is clear to understand his powerful literature work was advocating for feminism during a time in history when women were being oppressed. His work meant to shade light on the issues that no one considered to be significant at the time. Saikaku skilfully managed to present ground-breaking ways that women could liberate themselves from the oppression they were facing Marceau (1994).

Author's Bibliography

Ihara Saikuka was a Japanese poet born in 1642 and died in September 9th, 1693. He is best known for his work 'the Floating World' genre of Japanese writing style. He was born as Hirayama Togo, a son of a wealthy merchant in Osaka. His profound skill in poetry was impacted by Matsunaga Teitoku who taught him the haikai poetry and later studied under Nishiyama Soin.


Shirane, H. (Ed.). (2002). Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900. Columbia University Press.

Yonemoto, M. (2013). Tokugawa Japan: An Introductory Essay. The Program for Teaching East Asia.Marceau, L. E. (1994). Women in Saikaku: Good, Bad, or Victims of Circumstance?.

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Description of the Novel The Life of a Sensuous Woman Essay. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from

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