The Question of Universal Suffering and Salvation as Presented in Shusaku Endo’s Deep River

1696 Words 7 Pages
Endo’s Deep River opens up an unsettling encounter with the spiritual vision of India described through the experience of five Japanese travelers from vastly different backgrounds each of whom faces a troubling personal crisis. By exploring the depth of the human need to understand ourselves and our purpose in life, Endo illuminates his appreciation of the workings of grace from a God present in the sufferings of humanity. Endo delves deep into the human condition through his characters that reflect the complex individuals and personalities we are. Endo examines the moral dilemmas facing each character and portrays a clear picture of the river and its deep significance. With the purpose of touring Buddhist temples in India, five …show more content…
Endo’s story creates a spiritual journey that moves us toward religious allegory but achieves its strength through the turbulent waters of the Ganges. Even with the droppings of animals, a odor of burning flesh, its color of milky tea, (Endo 107) and the dust of surrounding villages, the river becomes a fruitful image to the reader.
Endo’s descriptions of Indian customs from the Japanese viewpoint are evident, through the Japanese travelers and also through the way he uses imagery to suggest a merging of the ancient Japanese beliefs (Koshinto) with the Indian beliefs about the Ganges and his own Christian beliefs. Koshinto lies at the core of Japanese sensibility and forms Japanese traditional lifestyle (Mase-Hasegawa 28). Each traveler or character is searching for a greater understanding, not merely of the motivating force behind their behavior, but of a deeper nature. In doing so, they all find themselves in direct confrontation with their own personal desires for spiritual rejuvenation. They embark upon journeys toward greater self-understanding where each is caught up in his own process of individuation. The river is a recurrent site motif with ritual significance, providing an idyllic destination.
Endo gives the River Ganges different metaphorical significances which we understand through the “cases” of the five tourists; it is a balm for haunting memories, a remedy for loneliness, and a cure for feelings of emptiness and worthlessness.
Open Document