The Quest for Ultimate Truth in Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s “In a Grove”

Author: Eugenia Prasol, Nagasaki University, Japan
Published: November 24, 2023

Citation: Prasol, E. (2023). The Quest for Ultimate Truth in Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s “In a Grove”. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 12(2).


The paper focuses on Akutagawa’s story “In a Grove” and examines it through the framework of literary modernism and the concepts of traditional Japanese aesthetics such as traditional images of ghosts and women in tales and fables of old Japan. The paper studies the motif of ultimate truth and the search for it as well as the impossibility to find it as distinctive features of modernism. It analyzes compositional features of the story, examines the origins of the plot and the possible literary influences. The paper deals with the change in the situational and psychological roles of the main characters and addresses the use of the fantastic as a writing technique, proving that said elements underscore the sense of uncertainty in the unknowable world. A unique narrative is created, and it surpasses the modernist strategies, marked by epistemological uncertainty, which is simultaneously the characteristic feature of Japanese literature of the twentieth century, with its ambiguous attitude to truth, reality and fantasy.


Akutagawa, final (ultimate) truth, modernism, unreliable narrator