Desolation, Sex and Worthlessness in Oba Minakao’s “The Three Crabs”: Yuri’s Purposeless Wandering as a Housewife.

“But I really have nothing to talk about” she said. This bold statement is an indicator of the detachment that Yuri feels as a human being due to her own position as a woman in the awkward societal structure. It is for this reason Oba Minako attempts to exhibit second wave feminist ideology by communicating the void existence of the ‘housewife’ and the, rather, dull alienation that comes with this designation. The theme mainly centers on Yuri’s aimless, emotional and physical drifting, which is complimented by desolation and arbitrary sex. All these elements, as a conglomerate, work together to imply that her existence cannot be satisfied by the mere superficiality of sexual desire, although she apathetically welcomes it in order to fruitlessly extinguish her own internal pain. In other words, the theme of desolate and purposeless wandering, which is both a factor and a consequence of afflicted sexualization and oppression, is meant to invoke the tragic nature of the ‘housewife’.

Yuri’s lack of an attentive presence with ‘Pink shirt’, and ambiguity which recedes into mere daydreaming is indicative of her dissociation from the encounter with the man, and her continuing sense of aberration. Before Yuri and ‘Pink shirt’ slept together, she could only think of her old life in Japan and whether she could still have a “pleasant conversation” with someone in Japan. This bout of daydreaming signifies the lack of importance she puts on the casual encounter with the man, and the fact that she uses it as a moment to contemplate her own life, and her own dangerous decisions. In other words, Yuri’s apathy towards the situation, as shown by her daydreaming rather than being in the moment, leads to her further dissociation as a character that is enveloped in pain due to a fruitless existence. The reason for this is due to the fact that she lives in a loveless marriage as exhibited by Takayeshi’s and her own sarcasm in every conversational situation. Once asked if they loved each other, Yuri found it entertaining that Frank believed they did, thus it “must be true”. Thus, this ambiguity of her decisions is boldly exhibited in both cases, and later transcends to her state of daydreaming, which is usually associated with that of carelessness and the actions of one whom lacks direction. Moreover, this insistence on dissociation by Oba is further perpetuated by the fact that the entire sexual act is described in one sentence, immediately after the daydreaming sequence. This further implies the lack of attention put on the meaningless act, which is mean to extinguish the ‘black flames’ of the void within Yuri, but ultimately fails to do so, because of her own contempt towards her role within a superficial society. All in all, Yuri’s dissociation from the ‘present’ and from her own persona plays an important part in her, essentially, mindless coasting as an individual.

This concentration on the ‘wandering’ element is further implied during Yuri’s time at the dinner party where, although she exhibits superficial social connections, emotionally she is ultimately disengaged. For example, Yuri “whispers” in Mr.. Yokota’s ear while giving “Mrs. Yokota a sincere and pleasant smile”, all the while Yokota ignored her on numerous occasions. Although, this might seem as an attempt at social interaction, it becomes obvious that Yuri is desperately trying to represent her own sexuality, by breaking some social conventions, in hopes of finding acceptance. However, she ultimately fails, and most likely promotes her own idea of her ‘worthlessness’ as a woman. This importance of this is that Yuri as a housewife has not outlet to let her repressed emotions and condition flow freely, thus she chooses to flaunt her sexuality freely. For instance, when Yuri prepares herself for the party, she boldly states that she wished she was 26, all the while thinking of an ex­lover. This sexualization and need for attention seems to play a very important role in her drift from moment to moment, all the while she tries to impose on herself some sense of worth through sexuality and beauty. It would not be wrong to say that this is one of the reasons she chose to have an affair with ‘pink shirt, as Yuri suggested that a relationship between a man and woman can occur due to a “single collision”. Thus the construction of social superficiality, and the lack of an emotional bind both transmit the sense that Yuri’s “arrogance” does not come from her ability to understand people as she mentions, but rather her own desperation and lack of purpose, which interplays within her ‘wandering’. Essentially, Yuri wanders the ‘social world’ exhibiting elegance and charm, where on the other hand she judges people on their own physical attributes, such as Sasha’s “grotesque” lips and throat.

Both the aimlessness and disconnection are derived from the sincere desolation that Yuri feels as a woman. This is best exhibited by her contempt for baking a cake just before the dinner party, where she distinctly implies that she wish she could put a curse on the guests. The reason this particular moment is important is because Yuri’s sense of self as a housewife can only be derived from baking a cake, which is one of the only duties expected of such a position, thus she exhibits great hatred towards it. This is a rather bold remark at the loneliness that a housewife must endure, in her attempt to signify her own existence. For example, once Yuri “was stirring the batter [for the cake], she decided that she was definitely not playing bridge that night” implies that she could no longer take her position as a housewife to perform her hostess duties, as signified by the cake, and she would rather wander the streets than join the dinner party. This of course is later exemplified that once she left the dinner party “she couldn’t come up with an idea of where to go”. Moreover, this is complemented by the fact that Takayshi tells Yuri that she is not an adult and “does not know how to put up with things”, which further exacerbates Yuri’s position. Takayshi thus imposes on Yuri the idea that she is useless, and only a child because of her position as a ‘housewife’. This subtle emotional abuse is probably a determining factor in the reason the marriage has remained loveless, as well as why Yuri has such deep emotional and personal issues. Therefore, this is the reason Yuri sought acceptance, position and peace of mind through sexual flaunting and affairs. As soon as Takayeshi began talking, and once she began to mix the batter she realized that she in fact was promoting her desolation and loneliness by advancing the idea of the good ‘housewife’.

The final thematic appearance of desolation, sadness and worthlessness occurs in the anachronism of the beginning, depicted by the gloomy imagery of the beach. These images, which are in fact chronologically misplaced, beset the theme of the story, which only becomes clear only in the end. For instance, “when the fog seemed to be streaming down around” Yuri, implies the inescapable nature of her situation as she is blinded by the fog, and will be forced to metaphorically continue her painful experience. In essence, the ‘morning after’ moment where as shown by the fog she still feels as empty, and as lost the night before. The fog encroaches her very personality, and sense of desperation, not only alluding to the state of her mind but also her soul. One of the crabs that Yuri looks at reminds her of a “human face” as their shells resembled the same color as the never ending ocean. In fact the crabs reminded Yuri of her loneliness, as she was also was forced to wander as the crabs did within the scene of the immensity of the ocean. With all these elements in mind, it would not be too bold to state that the reason Oba chose the title “The Three Crabs” is to allude to the idea that despite the two crabs on the beach, Yuri was in fact the third ‘crab’. Her position at that point, and her own sense of herself was no different from that of a crab­always wandering without direction and purpose. Oba’s use of imagery to begin the story entails the theme of emptiness, loneliness and nothingness even before the reader has a chance to understand Yuri’s character and story, as she wanders the beach, the same way she moves through her own life, and through her own decisions.

Overall, “The Three Crabs” displays a theme which endeavourers to promote the superfluous position of the “housewife” and the dangers women face who keep this role. Primarily, the social alienation of Yuri, as a woman, who strives to find some meaning in the world by having a one­night stand with ‘Pink shirt’, but in the end finds nothing but emptiness on a cold morning on the beach. The tragic elements of desolation and worthlessness exhibited by Yuri prove not be able to be annihilated with sex, which bolsters the cycle where she is forced to aimlessly wonder as a ‘housewife’, as shown by the chronology of the story. It is for this reason that, in Yuri’s case, “there is [truly] nothing to talk about”.



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