Analysis of “The Character of Rain”





Analysis of “The Character of Rain”

Amelle Nothomb provides an account of her experience growing up in Japan with her Belgian parents. She focuses on the influence that the Japanese culture had on her in relation to the societal expectations of her growth in such an environment. The author incorporates her family setting and the quest to integrate the community’s values, as well as beliefs in her upbringing to illustrate the differing approaches between varying societies. In the book, she explores the changes witnessed in parenting and her character’s transformation from a plant, a “tube” and into a baby in a way that offers insight into a child’s perspective of the world. Eating represents conformity to societal and in particular parental wishes to the narrator, most of which she grudgingly obliges.

In the Japanese tradition, a newborn of below 3 years is called okosama, a god. This is also applicable in the novel to show the delicate transition children have to make into adulthood. Amelle details the intrigues that surround her birth and life before attaining three years and it is evident that she is unresponsive to her immediate surroundings. She does not eat or move, causing a lot of worry to her parents as well as doctors. The labeling of her condition as ‘vegetative” implies that small children are innocent since they are born without any preconceived ideas about their existence. Upon passing the three-year threshold, the baby suddenly begins to act normally and this makes her parents to begin mentoring her. Therefore, she embarks on “eating” whatever society feeds her because of the standards inherently set. For example, she is reprimanded for crying because that is considered irritable behavior especially when guests are around.

The development of a close relationship with her nanny is a reflection of humanity’s need to learn from the elderly to fashion one’s character. Details about World War II revealed to her serve to warn her about the dangers of irresponsible behavior and the hostility of the world hence encouraging her to configure to certain values as well as habits. The parents, in particular the father is harsh towards her and although she resents him, she is forced to follow his directives or else face punishment. For instance, he refuses to give her the elephant gift she wished for her birthday. Such a disappointing outcome becomes a learning moment for the narrator that a person cannot always get what he/she wants. It is a reminder that the society has unpredictable moments and even loved ones may fail to fulfill promises. In comparison to her condition before attaining three years, her subsequent introduction to both good and vile acts by people around her is a testament that the society has different mechanisms to govern people that may be in opposition to laws of nature.

Amelle is also stunned to realize that her parents have chosen for her a career as a marine biologist and she has to tag along with this idea. It is an indication of the authority vested in parents by the society upon which offspring’s are meant to obey their commands. Obedience to this doctrine is thus illustrative of the eating mentality since she is forced to feed the crabs as a way of rehearsing for such a role. The plot thus contrasts these expectations to the lack of interest that accompanied her motionless period thus offering insight into the dynamic nature of the real world. The traumatic experiences detailed within the household are accompanied by the narrator’s fulfillment of her obligations hence affirming her unconditional surrender to the external forces that shape her destiny. It is evident that despite being a source of joy during birth, her upbringing is laden with numerous hurdles to toughen her. It is even more startling to her that there are few instances of empathy as one grows up thereby making it mandatory for her to mature quickly and conform to set values. Her main preoccupation becomes following societal expectations by “consuming” the advice and directives offered. In most instances, it is clear that she has minimal say over the actions required of her because parents have already planned for her future. Eating therefore represents the surrender of her right to make decisions to her superiors and the relegation of her views. For example, despite her desire to remain in Japan, her father decides to shift the entire family overseas and she cannot be left behind. The book is filled with such instances of submission in which the narrator has minimal freedom.

Eating also means the acceptance of fear for the narrator aimed at pleasing other people to get ahead in life. Amelle realizes that she is part of a large societal system that makes it mandatory for children to perform chores or behave in certain ways as deemed by her elders. In performing such duties, it is observable that she harbors sorrow when she talks about her childhood since that evokes memories of constant supervision, yelling, and heartache. The integration of various chores in her daily routine stems from fear of upsetting her parents or even nanny thereby illustrating her frustration at pursuing activities that interest her. The plot provides numerous examples of her desires but the tonal variations in it reveal an ambivalence to follow through with them under different circumstances. It is recognition of her helplessness in the face of such societal constraints and a wish of better conditions in which one can exercise his/her will. It shows that children have to please adults because they depend on them too much for their survival. They do not want to destabilize such an arrangement. It is a sign that children have to fit into the physiological environment created by their parents for them since it is believed that the latter are wiser and more experienced in most issues. The narrator is concurring that surrender to the will of parents is vital during upbringing as it represents a child’s guarantee to successful integration within the society. In this context, Amelle offers clarification that despite some directives being unpleasant, obedience is necessary and unquestionable. The narrator thus admits to forgoing her rights during childhood for the sake of conforming to her expected role as a compliant child. “Eating” is thus used figuratively to show her acceptance of the societal norms despite her reservations for some of them since she too had opinions that were never actualized. The plot is insightful into the relationship between Amelle and her parents in both good and happy times as a sign of the roller coaster of emotions that engulf many households during child growth.
























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