What are the Elements Of Humor In Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book?

Sei Shonagon, born 966 and after a fizzled marriage she entered the administration of the Emperor’s consort, Teishi in 993. She was a woman in-holding up in the court of the Japanese Empress Sadako amid the most recent decade of the tenth century in what is currently Kyoto. Her mom had gathered a treasury of poetry and Sei herself won a notoriety in the palace for her commonality with the Chinese classics. She was additionally known for her mind. After Teishi kicked the bucket, Sei left the palace and little is known of whatever is left of her life, despite the fact that she presumably spent the last years of her life in isolation.

The Pillow Book was initially drafted in 996 and a second draft showed up in 1000. Augmentations were made to the last form which took after by 1021 (Suzuki Daisetz To. , 1993). The book is made out of more than 300 segments of fluctuating length, gathered into three classes: records, diary sections and personal reflections. A pillow book is a casual gathering of notes formed when the essayist has resigned to his or her bedchamber. It is imagined that the title could allude to a genuine pillow, a notebook serving as a pillow, or a notebook kept close to a pillow.

A pillow book uncovers individual’s life, and for this situation, Sei depicts the kept yet gluttonous lifestyle of the honorability at the stature of the Heian period in which women of high economic wellbeing had a lot of recreation time to spend perusing and composing, being a tease and tattling (Joe Parker, 2008).

The Pillow Book is a book of perceptions and considerations recorded by a woman in-holding up in the late tenth Century Japanese court. It starts with a graceful valuation for the four seasons and afterward goes ahead to depict parts of court life. Section 14 gives a diverting rundown of particular vexations, entitled “Scornful Things, for example, tedious guests, crying children, snorers, and yelping mutts.

The essayist can’t endure it when partners intrude on her, sniffle, discuss other women before her or leave without shutting the board behind them. She hates individuals who are excessively easygoing in their discussion or put on a show to be more exquisite than they are, and she mocks men who make cumbersome ways out from her bedchamber. Sections 45 through 48 depict the mystery and fervor of covert visits, giving points of interest of the strides, tapping, stirring and fanning (Karen Larson, 2011).

The determination additionally incorporates arrangements of uncommon things, irritating things, humiliating things including being caught when knocking somebody and filthy things, and closures with an idyllic valuation for snowfall. The rundowns, diary passages, and personal reflections all give an impression of the author’s sharp powers of perception, her delight in the blue-blooded lifestyle, and her scholarly personality and mind.

The blue-blooded women of the Heian period in Japan are licensed with making a portion of the best writing in Japanese history, creating poetry, shows, and books all having different structures and styles while investigating the way of Japanese culture and society. A standout amongst the most commended works is the diary of Murasaki Shikibu, which subtle elements the women in her court and legitimate conduct for Japanese distinguished women. One such lady point by point in this piece is Sei Shónagon, one of Shikibu’s scholarly adversaries and one for whom she held little regard.

Shónagon’s most acclaimed work, The Pillow Book, has been generally viewed as an irrelevant, however humorous, delineation of Heian court life (Michael Dirda, 2009). It is anything but difficult to lose the written work’s profundity in the energy of Shónagon’s style, yet one must recollect that such pertinent perceptions of connections and society originate from a basic eye. In spite of the fact that Sei Shónagon’s Pillow Book may give off an impression of being a frivolous presentation of the noble women of the Heian period, nearer examination of the capacity of parody as an artistic fine art proposes that Shónagon’s message is pretty much the same as though not shrewder than Murasaki Shikibu’s diary, notwithstanding their appearing disparities. Shikibu gives a few pages to explaining upon her feeling of the noble women around her.

In spite of the fact that she just portrays what she sees, the portrayals are frequently her given sentiment of these women, and she doesn’t timid far from blistering judgment. Clearly, Shikibu held her contemporary with scorn, which would infer that Shikibu most likely hated Sei Shónagon’s written work also (Rebecca Reid, 2010).

The Pillow Book appears like a happy interpretation of the details of a lady’s life and her connections in the court. Shónagon significantly depicts responses to regular circumstances. For instance, she subtle elements the pointless earnestness with which one sits tight for the reaction to a letter throughout the day just to get a similar note, “finger-checked and smirched” with a message that the beneficiary was inaccessible. Rather than taking a genuine tone, Shónagon hyperbolically elevates the gravity of this insignificant occasion, making a comedic portrayal of the circumstance to highlight its ludicrousness. Her snide, witty style characterizes whatever is left of the work, even as she depicts the relationship amongst herself and her Empress.

In one of her stories, Shónagon’s Empress keeps on squeezing her to compose a ballad around one of her trips, however Shónagon can’t convey. Rather than being censured for her carelessness, be that as it may, the Empress essentially chuckles. The depiction of this relationship and that of Shikibu to her Queen are amazingly extraordinary while the Queen regarded Shikibu for her worship, the Empress basically discovers comic drama in Shónagon’s powerlessness to satisfy her given undertaking. Without a doubt Shikibu would have hated Shónagon’s thoughtlessness.

Shónagon additionally derisively remarks on associations with men, delineating a few immaterial scenes of men having not exactly attractive conduct (Sei Shónagon, 1955). Take the two after extracts for instance: She clarifies how “one is constantly aggravated” when somebody of intrigue over and over alludes to an old mate furthermore hypothesizes, “the achievement of a partner depends enormously on his strategy for flight.” She plainly concentrates on minor occasions with such force that it is unavoidably bizarre. Be that as it may, this satire is not generally as basic as giving a decent giggle. Or maybe, she purposefully highlights circumstances that she finds trifling and accentuates overcompensations trying to taunt her own general public. This device abstract is known as satire (Rebecca Reid, 2010).

Satire can be characterized as “a scholarly work described by incongruity, mind, and now and then mockery planned to highlight human indecencies frequently in a verifiable push to start change or change. Like parody, satire produces giggling; not at all like comic drama, it is not implied absolutely to engage, but rather to incite an ethical reaction.” Because of the comedic way of satires, their basic reaction to society, governmental issues, and culture is regularly neglected. To comprehend satire, one should likewise know about the way of life from whence the work started. When this information is accomplished, one can see the ranges that the sarcastic creator wishes to look at and bring into question. Sei Shónagon’s satire is subtle than that of different works characterized correspondingly (Karen Larson, 2011).

There is no audience in Sei Shónagon’s Pillow Book, so despite the fact that her suggestions might be less evident; the satire is still generally as innate. Shónagon has an unfathomable ability to make perusers mindful of their own magnified reactions while all the while urging them to chuckle about their absurdities. Reexamine the entry wherein Shónagon exhibits the failure one feels when a letter is returned as undeliverable. It is humorous on the grounds that it is relatable and in light of the fact that it spoofs the circumstance (Rui Zhu, 2010).

Shónagon attracts regard for the respectful social decide that requests that individuals react to letters however which was, deplorable, not watched. Likewise, on the off chance that we take a gander at Shónagon’s record of her association with men, we can see that underneath the humor lies an able perception of how women were unfavorably treated. In the event that a man does always allude to an old mate and over and over leaves each morning in scramble, he indicates little regard to the lady who is right now with him.

It is as though her nearness as a man is not as critical as her part as a darling. What’s more, Shónagon highlights the insufficiency of women who have control on the court. Rethink the relationship amongst Shónagon and her ruler. The Empress is pretty much as worried with paltry matters as she, as all through the story, the sovereign never experiences any issue of outcome all that is portrayed is a story of an improvised trip and a demand for a ballad about it (Joe Parker, 2008).

Nonetheless, we should recollect that Shónagon is Japanese and not English, similar to Pope, and in this manner, she holds fast to an alternate stylish style. Maybe Shónagon maintains a strategic distance from a dialog in an impression of this stylish esteem. Then again, the Japanese additionally endeavored to keep away from reasoning by and large, rather wishing to acknowledge things as they are without researching the multifaceted nature of its presence.

Shónagon remains clear from reasoning, as she does exclude an examination, however I would not go as far to say that she needed to acknowledge things pretty much as they were the investigation in the past passage demonstrates that Shónagon utilized satire as a part of her keeping in touch with evaluating the imperfections of her general public, and her conduct in broad daylight advance concretes her dissatisfaction with those defects (Murasaki Shikibu, 1955).

We have a thought of Shónagon’s character and can in this way utilize the confirm satire in The Pillow Book through Shónagon’s own particular lead in the public eye. On the off chance that Shikibu is right in evaluating Shónagon as vulgar, then Shónagon had effectively opposed the acknowledged part of women’s conduct. Since Shónagon’s depiction of court life is so clearly hyperbolized, this demonstration of rebellion was likely purposeful if nobody would consider her composition important, maybe her activities would have attracted thoughtfulness regarding her message.

Had she included such a solid disapproved of message in her written work, in any case, the outcomes for the dismissal of social standards may have been ruinous in a general public that counsels all who venture strange. In truth, Shónagon had couple of alternatives. As a lady of the court, she didn’t have much else than the insignificant communications that she delineates in her Pillow Book. Women who were not in a place of force held almost no power by any stretch of the imagination. She lived to serve her Empress and answer her each offering (Rebecca Reid, 2010).

As this was her employment, she could seek after no different business attempt, as did a few women of lesser honorability amid the Heian period. Likewise, amid the Heian period, men saw women’s musings as second rate. This opinion was extended to incorporate even the kind of composing that women were permitted to utilize hiragana, which is the first Japanese letters in order. No man could ever condescend to utilize hiragana. Rather, men composed utilizing Chinese script, which was viewed as more refined. Since women did not compose with Chinese characters, they were consequently slighted as philosophical scholars. So even Shónagon’s written work, her most noteworthy expertise, would never have societal effect or even the likelihood of being lauded outside of the court. Generally, her most noteworthy quality was basically immaterial (Michael Dirda, 2009).

What Shónagon’s inspiration really was is difficult to know for certain, however, her message is still clear. We can derive by her points that she perceived the triviality of the court and expounded on it with such criticism with the expectation that individuals would see their own shallowness and conceivably change. In any case, as Shónagon was most likely mindful, the probability of this occasion, particularly activated by a lady’s perceptions, was suspicious. But then, paying little mind to the response she planned to impel, Shónagon’s message was to transfer the fraud and triviality of the general population of her court. In a somewhat humorous manner, writer showed the silly way of the court women, the Pillow Book gives a more grounded message in light of Shónagon’s knowledge (Karen Larson, 2011).

Not just does Shónagon transfer the shallow way of people around her, however, she knows about this nature also. Be that as it may, she disguises these perceptions utilizing satire. As displayed before, the basic investigation uncovers Shónagon’s real elucidation of the conduct she portrays. In spite of the fact that The Pillow Book may appear to be immaterial at first look, watchful investigation demonstrates how the way of satire gives understanding to Japanese privileged society and its lip services. Notwithstanding, in light of social standards and convictions, Shónagon’s Pillow Book was ignored as just humorous thoughts of court women amid the Heian period.

It seems as though she is essentially confounded by the problem she witnesses, however, her message is clear in any case Shónagon endeavors to delineate court life as well as to do as such in such a path as would reveal insight into the defects of court society. In the event that she had needed to influence change, her position in the public arena would not have permitted it, and along these lines, the most she could do was push the limits of the dividers characterizing her place in the public eye.

It is easy to fall into the trap of review satiric work as just comic, yet doing as such denies the peruser of the profundity it infers. The force of chuckling is equivalent to the force of tears, regardless of its cheerful nature, and in the event that we condescend not to look at humor truly, we chance to lose a wittingly arranged and cogitative evaluate of the world we think we know so well.


Joe Parker. (2008). Dreaming Gender: Kygoku School Japanese Women Poets (Re)Writing the Feminine Subject. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 27, no. 2, 259-289.

Karen Larson. (2011). Serious Humor in Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book. Lake Forest College Publications. Retrieved from http://publications.lakeforest.edu/allcollege_writing_contest/5/

Michael Dirda. (2009). The Pillow Book Review. Retrieved from http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/the-pillow-book

Murasaki Shikibu. (1955). The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu. Anthology of Japanese Literature, ed. Donald Keene, trans. Annie Shepley Omori and Kóchi Doi, 145-155.

Penny Weiss. (2008). Sei Shnagón and the Politics of Form. The Journal of Political Philosophy (Purdue University) 16, no. 1 , 26-47.

Rebecca Reid. (2010). The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Retrieved from http://reviews.rebeccareid.com/the-pillow-book-by-sei-shonagon/

Richard Mallette. (2009). English Literature II: 17th-18th centuries. Lake Forest College.

Rui Zhu. (2010). Topics in Japanese Thought. Lake Forest College.

Sei Shónagon. (1955). The Pillow Book of Sei Shónagon. Anthropology of Japanese Literature, ed. Donald Keene, trans. Arthur Waley, 137-144.

Suzuki Daisetz To. . (1993). Zen and Japanese Culture, 11th Edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


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