Young Lust: A Literary Analysis

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Animals are intertwined with the order of the natural world. Like nature, animals can harmful or helpful, fierce like a hurricane, or pleasant like a spring afternoon. However, this is not always the case. Unlike some animals which literature treats with a dichotomous morality, snakes are most often depicted in a negative context. While not antagonistic towards Buddhism like the tengu in”,” snakes are presented savage creatures. Their depictions appear on a spectrum that ranges from lascivious to enraged, but almost always in an unfavorable manner. The negative connotations of the snake align with its usage in the karmic cycle; in the system of cosmic justice, where virtue is rewarded and sin punished, snakes typically manifest as devices of punishment. The first dominant portrayal of snakes is that of lustful beings. Uniquely, snakes can be seen as emanations of both male and female sexuality, vying for the opposite sex, and punishing those who commit sin. In “Young Lust” a young girl is tricked by a snake that appeared as a beautiful young man (155). It can be read that her desire for this man led her to be tricked; thus, her lust was punished. In this instance, the snake is representative of male desire and…show more content…
The postmortem transformation is a culmination of her lust, wrath, and inflicted punishment. Even the snake’s victim is turned into a snake as punishment for his deceit—though his sin is not that of lust, it is nonetheless a personal failure worthy of punishment, at least in the eyes of the karmic system (159). *A similar case of snake transformation appears implicitly in “What the Snake Had in Mind.” In this tale, a woman appears in a dream and explains that she changed into a snake as a result of her intense hatred. Similar to “Red Heat,” the girl’s punishment is only lifted via Buddhist practice

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